For generations it was Scotland’s northern star of holiday destinations, attracting visitors with its glittering granite buildings, packed sandy beaches, history and rolling countryside.

As crowds flocked to Aberdeenshire for their summer vacations, news of its many temptations spread across the country in countless “wish you were here” postcards and grainy travel films.

Of course, cheaper foreign travel and an oil boom that pushed up hotel prices meant Aberdeen and its surrounding countryside eventually lost some of its lure for tourists.

Now in an attempt to encourage a new age of post-lockdown visitors, tourist chiefs have launched their own “virtual” postcard from the “Silver City With The Golden Sands”, extolling the city and surrounding area’s sights, experiences and attractions.

Tourism body VisitAberdeenshire has unveiled an online “armchair tour” of the North-east intended to tap into what is expected to be a nationwide boom in staycation holidays.

Using the slogan “Aberdeenshire will wait”, the online travelogue includes a programme of activities with virtual art collections, cookery lessons, castle tours and stunning flyover videos of the region’s best golf courses.

The initiative is a modern day version of an innovative 1957 tourism venture that saw Aberdeen Town Council become the first local authority to commission and pay for a film to 
attract visitors.

The 20-minute film, Silver City, narrated by Aberdeenshire-born broadcaster John R Allan, was shown at more than 1,000 cinemas across the UK and worldwide, including Australia and Switzerland.

It showcased packed beaches, the city’s bustling fish market, scenes of children playing in the fishing village of Footdee and shots of scenery and events outside the city, including Braemar Highland Games.

According to Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, as well as being aimed at Scots from beyond the North-east, the new virtual postcard is intended to inspire local people to rediscover the charms that are on their own doorsteps.

“As we move closer towards an easing of restrictions, I can’t stress enough how important locals will be to the recovery of the North-east’s tourism and hospitality sector,” he said.

“Aberdeenshire Will Wait is a reminder to our local community of what is so inherently brilliant about this area, our wild coastlines, incredible scenery and rich heritage.”

Aberdeenshire’s status as a tourist destination took off in the 1920s with a £40,000 development of the city’s beachfront by Aberdeen Town Council.

It was topped by the opening in 1929 of the city’s Beach Ballroom. With its distinctive art deco design, octagonal shape and red-tiled roof, the ballroom became a destination for tourists seeking out entertainment, music and dance, with some of the leading bandleaders of their times making a beeline for the North-east.

From the 1930s onwards, tourists flocked to Aberdeen to either brave the blustery wind to relax on a deckchair on the beach, stroll the promenade, enjoy the funfair, or to explore further afield.

Footage and images from the time show the beach covered with sunseekers and packed playgrounds.

Innovative tourist initiatives, including the 1957 Silver City film, and thousands of postcards sent by friends and families, helped secure Aberdeen’s position as one of the country’s most popular destinations and earned it the nickname, The Silver City With The Golden Sands.

At its peak in the 1950s, dozens of trains pulled into the city’s railway station every hour, each packed with hundreds of tourists.

But, much like now, Aberdeenshire’s tourism sector was eventually stung by a health crisis that saw visitor numbers slump, when, in 1964, a tin of contaminated corned beef sparked a typhoid epidemic that left 500 sick.

Although the hospitality sector thrived thanks to the oil boom, by 2017 Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire annual visitor numbers had slumped below 800,000 for the first time, driven 
by a 67 per cent collapse in business travellers.

Occupancy rates for hotels in Aberdeen crashed to among the worst in the country at a time when rooms in Edinburgh were at a premium.

Earlier this year hopes had been high visitors numbers were set to soar, with the £34.6 million revamp of Aberdeen Art Gallery and the launch of £333m Event Complex Aberdeen, which had been set to attract a string of music events and conferences.

The city was also included in Airbnb’s top 20 trending global travel destinations for 2020, raising hopes the golden age of tourism was on the cusp of a major revival.

Mr Foy added: “We’re leaving a light on for our visitors, encouraging them to take a closer look at our beautiful region from afar. 

“Our interactive site pulls together virtual experiences from around the region, appealing to people’s curiosity and inspiring them to plan a future visit.

“Guest blogs from local experts, social media influencers and recommendations from the VisitAberdeenshire team provides an up to date snapshot of fun and engaging activities to take part in during lockdown.”

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