Rubislaw Quarry was opened in 1740 and is located in the west end of the city of Aberdeen. Up until the quarry closed in 1971, some six million tonnes of granite were excavated from it, giving Aberdeen the name of 'The Granite City'. Also, Waterloo Bridge in London, the terrace of the Houses of Parliament and the Forth Rail Bridge were all constructed with granite from the now defunct quarry. When it closed, Rubislaw Quarry was one of the biggest man-made holes in Europe, and was 150m deep and 120m across, and has since 1971 been filling up with water.
Around 2000, it was estimated that by 2015, the quarry would be completely filled with over two megatonnes of water, with the only possible drainage available being the Denburn, the Geldieburn, the Newlands burn or the Ruthrieston Burn. None of these streams would cope with the water however, as all are tiny and pass through small culverts before they reach the sea.
The final issue is that Rubislaw Quarry was inaccessible and could never be marketed as a tourist attraction, and as (bad) luck would have it, it sits in the smartest area of Aberdeen (Queen’s Road and Rubislaw Den) home to many multi-million pound homes. Worse, because the quarry was built on top of Rubislaw Hill, the water level was actually higher than these homes by 2002 and the residents made it clear that any major engineering work at the quarry, including pumping, would be unacceptable.
This intractable situation was solved by the creation of Dee Gardens, a series of public rockeries and common parklands. Due to the distance to the River Dee, approximately a mile, five separate gardens were planned with the water flowing almost directly to the River Dee through the gardens, linked by a series of culverts. The first of these is Springfield Gardens, and it’s followed by Craigton Gardens, then North Deeside Gardens which features prodigious input from Chinese landscapers and gardeners. The water then flows to the circular Garthdee Gardens (where a ‘water maze’ continues to wow the children that visit), and finally enters the River Dee through a series of waterfalls beside the campus of Robert Gordon’s University at Inchgarth. At Inchgarth, as at Craigton, the gardens revitalised land which had been deemed unsuitable for building and so had remained unused and wild for decades.
As Rubislaw Quarry cannot be plugged, the Dee Gardens are permanent. The public can walk the length of the gardens to the River Dee or enjoy the gardens separately as all have parking. This was seen by the city as the most popular option as Aberdeen (‘Britain in Bloom’ winner on more occasions than any other locality) is well supplied with gardening talent, as well as an appetite for these kind of parks, with water features, interesting flowers, plants and children’s activities. These spectacular series of gardens were completed over three years and their beauty exceeded all public expectation, causing them to be nominated as one of Scotland’s Seven Wonders.