He is not renowned for hard work. Obediently watching over one of the chicest boutique hotels in Aberdeen’s well-heeled west end, like a scrupulously-trained, impeccably-mannered doorman, can that really be Oor Wullie?
Well, sort of. There is a genuine explanation. You should know (unless, like everyone’s favourite comic-strip tearaway, you have misbehaved one too many times and have been grounded for the past few weeks) that The Sunday Post’s fun-loving scamp is here, there and everywhere this summer, as Oor Wullie’s Bucket Trail captures the public’s imagination.
There are 200 such sculptures of Scotland’s most famous schoolboy scattered around the country, of which the Chester Hotel-sponsored Scottish Samurai Wullie can now be crossed off the still-to-see list.
It’s not the only foray into the comic universe around this gorgeous 19th-Century building which has undergone a multi-million-pound renovation.
Catching the eye in one of the hotel’s spacious and fashionable Classic suites is a John Byrne drawing of Vincent Diver.
The bequiffed, tattooed, Tutti Frutti guitar-slinger looks like he has been ripped from the pages of 2000AD comic (it’s as if Lou Reed had jammed with Judge Dredd).
Clearly there is much to admire here but there is a wider city begging to be explored and, excitingly, a bounty of larger-scale artwork to discover.
Handily, the hotel sits on a busy bus route, making for a quick five-minute jaunt down Queen’s Road and on to Union Street, the city’s bustling shopping mile, on either the No. 11 or X17.
Former students of a certain age arriving in town looking to relive their youth may feel a little lost at first.
Gone is the city centre student union which was home to dingy bars and hideouts called things like Sivells, Elf or the Dungeon.
Also dispatched to history, is another landmark for generations of undergraduates, the imposing Queen Mother Library, torn down seven years ago to make way for a state-of-the-art replacement.
There will be time for a stroll down the pretty, cobblestoned streets of Old Aberdeen, beloved home to the north-east’s oldest university, later.
But the first thing on the agenda is finding out if Nuart, an annual festival said to bring colour and vibrancy to the Granite City’s walls, nooks and lanes, and endorsed by the aforementioned Mr Byrne, justifies all the fuss.
In a gable end on Willowbank Road, a spoof poster-advert for a seagull action figure preys on every Aberdonian’s fear that a winged menace might swoop down and steal their fish and chips. An eyecatching start to the trail. On the side of Union Plaza, an office block home to Deloitte, Exxon and Barclays, a boy is depicted not so much climbing the corporate ladder as literally scaling its brickwork foot by foot.
On The Green, Glasgow muralist Smug’s maxi-portrait of a tattooed hoodie cradling his poodle somehow captures all the detail you’d expect in a photograph, with spray cans as his only tool.
Nearby, German duo Herakut’s illustration of a red-haired girl surrounded by unicorns on the Market building is attracting a stream of admirers.
And there’s so much more dotted around the city. All the artists featured are genuinely world-class, making Nuart a must-see. Guided tours are available, or just download a route map.
All this walking builds a thirst and, perhaps just a little too conveniently, the Nuart trail dovetails nicely with Aberdeen’s new Craft Beer Kilometre, which boasts some cracking pubs.
At Fierce bar, literally opened by public demand following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the gluten-free pilsner tastes fantastic. It’s on Exchequer Row, in what used to be Henry’s.
If more beer is your thing, a quick trip out of town to Ellon is essential.
A tour of Brewdog’s ecobrewery offers a peek behind the curtain of one of Scotland’s fastest-growing businesses, with a wander around its gigantic warehouse, canning lines and offices.
Follow it up with a fresh, straight-from-the-tap pint of Kingpin.
Back at the Chester Hotel, it’s dinner time and I’ve been primed to expect great things from executive chef Kevin Dalgleish in the two AA-Rosette IX Restaurant, complete with theatre kitchen.
Sampling seafood is surely a no-brainer in the north-east, so I start with smoked salmon, and then opt for Dornoch lamb with morels and Jersey royals. Scotland’s larder at its most fulfilling. Result.
With that I am ready for a fine night’s sleep before tackling the road home.
Need a lift anywhere, Wullie?
Chris Bissett’s sculpture celebrates the legacy of Fraserburgh-born industrialist Thomas Blake Glover, who became known as the Scottish Samurai due to his influence on Japanese society.
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