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Alan Simpson: Of course Aberdeen is exciting – all our cities are

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SITTING as it does on the right shoulder of Scotland, Aberdeen can at times feel a bit isolated from the rest of the country.

But despite the length of time it takes to get there from the central belt, it is well worth a visit as it has a whole lot to offer visitors.

In fact it has so much to offer that the overwhelming feeling of visitors is excitement, according to a new survey.

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It doesn’t say whether they were excited to finally get there or whether they were excited to leave but it’s an accolade worth celebrating nonetheless.

The VisitScotland survey showed that tourists feel a range of emotions when they visit Scotland.

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are most associated with “excitement”, which is the same as the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

The Highlands evoked feelings of “adventure” while visitors to Fife feel “inspired” when they visit.

Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs give visitors a sense of “calm” .

Dundee, bizarrely, is a city that raises feelings of love – a bit like Paris-sur-Tay and the city’s marketing department should exploit that for all it’s worth.

But while we Scots will raise a chuckle at the survey and snort at the very thought of Dundee being a city of love or Aberdeen exciting, it’s important to actually look at what it says about us and what we take for granted.

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Or as Burns wrote in his famous poem To a Louse: “O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!”

Scots have a rather depressing way of looking at ourselves and we seem to have no collective confidence in who we are and where we live.

We seem to enjoy playing up to our own national stereotype of being a downtrodden race who live in a country where it always rains.

It has helped produce some of the funniest people on Earth but we really should listen to what visitors have to say about us and have a lot more confidence in ourselves.

Our cities are amongst the most historic and beautiful on the planet, with pubs and businesses that are several centuries older than the US or Australia in human terms.

It is little wonder that American tourists are agog as they see ruined castles in fields that are several hundred years older than Philadelphia.

Yet, many Scots appear not to notice them and show no real desire to go out and explore what is consistently voted the most beautiful country in the world.

But it’s not just the big ticket sights like Glen Coe or Loch Ness that cause wonderment as virtually all of our towns and villages have quirky pieces of history that other places would exploit to the max.

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As an Aberdonian, the first emotion that hits me when I visit the Granite City is not excitement, but that is something that I perhaps should re-evaluate.

Anyone who has tried to eat a bag of chips in Union Street while seagulls the size of horses dive bomb you, knows this can be as exciting as it comes. The sense of exhilaration after dodging them all and finishing up the bag with none lost to the aerial onslaught is second to none.

There also used to be fairly regular excitement at Pittodrie, home of the local football team, but to be fair that ended around 1987 and it’s been fairly quiet ever since. Aberdeen, of course, is like most other cities at the moment in that the city centre is down on its uppers and badly needs investment.

To be fair to the council, they are looking at ways to attract people back into the centre and help to rejuvenate it.

But many of the proposed schemes are facing local opposition which mean they may not get off the ground.

One scheme that was proposed is a cable car which would take people from the newly developed cruise ship facility into the city centre.

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Unfortunately, part of the journey is over the rather deprived housing estate of Balnagask, which is great if you love grim 1960s urban architecture, but less so if you’re if you’re looking for views.

Every city in Scotland is facing the same problem and some are further ahead than others in plans to re-invent themselves with retail sales now increasingly online.

It will be hard but look what happened when Govan hosted the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival.

Two years later it was named European City of Culture and followed the hugely successful Glasgow’s miles better campaign which changed perceptions of the city for good.

Today innovative things are happening in our cities, such as the redevelopment of Dundee’s waterfront, all of which will make them even more attractive to visitors.

That’s worth getting excited about.


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