What a city Aberdeen is! Me and Theo just returned from a weekend in Scotland’s biggest city outside the central belt, and we were in awe of both the history and beauty of this wonderful city. Aberdeen is both a former fishing and farming settlement, and now boasts a world-renowned university, as well as some of the most beautiful castles within 45 minute drive of the centre. Despite its reputation as the ‘grey city’ due to it’s granite architecture, there are so many things to do in Aberdeen and beyond. And it’s also super close to the Cairngorms National Park, which means there are a ton of outdoor-based things to do in Aberdeen. Here’s an introduction to my favourite things to do in Aberdeen.
Things to do in Aberdeen City Centre
A beach you say?! Yes a beach in Scotland! And it’s just outside the city centre, also called the Esplanade! It has a few beachfront shops, cafes and even an art-deco style ballroom. We visited in February so the weather can super windy and cold, but it didn’t stop us heading for a walk along the beach. It was a little too cold for an ice cream and a dip in the sea though! On a day with better weather I imagine a brisk walk or jog along the promenade, all the way from Footdee to the River Don would be beautiful.
The city centre is most well known, but isn’t the original location for Aberdeen and just outside of the hustle and bustle of the high street, you stumble across the weaving, windy streets of Old Aberdeen. There are many buildings here with a long history surrounding the regions past, including political and economical. There are also lots of places to grab coffee, food and brunch. Here you will also find Aberdeen University!
Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Located just off the main high street in the city centre, the Aberdeen Maritime is a must-visit for tourists. The award-winning museum is interesting and educational, providing insight into Aberdeen’s historic relationship with the sea, from the petroleum and oil industry to shipbuilding and beyond. There’s lots to do inside, as well as a collection of maritime artifacts, paintings, and touch-screen computers, make the material come to life.
READ MORE: Ultimate Guide to a Weekend in Aberdeen
Located right in the city centre, this place is an oasis both in the summer months and winter months. The chilled out Seaton Park is the cities calm place, with lots of places to walk, run, wander and relax. There are lots of paths around the park, places to sit with a picnic and grassy expanses to let loose.
One of the most iconic photos you’ll see of Aberdeen is the wonderful seaside village of Footdee, around a ten-fifteen minute walk from the city centre. The charming streets of Footdee, known locally as ‘Fittie’ is a former fishing village with charming cottages and cobbled lanes originally built to rehouse an influx of fishermen to the city. It’s worth a wander around Footdee just to see a different side of the city. And if you’re hungry stop by at Moon Fish Café or Silver Darling!
Brig O’ Balgownie
Aberdeen seems to be famous for bridges and Brig O’ Balgownie seems to be one of the best in the area. The medieval crossing is somewhat legendary in Aberdeen, both due to the fact it dates back to the 13th century, and also because it supposedly lies over a mystical deep pool known as the Black Neuk and it was famously immortalised in Lord Byron’s poem Don Juan. Nowadays, it’s a fierce contender for the title of the ‘oldest bridge in Scotland’.
Things to do just outside Aberdeen
Only 20 minutes from the city is this medieval fortress ruin, which was integral as a defense stronghold in the Jacobite risings and is notable for being the hiding place for the Honors of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, when Oliver Cromwell’s army invaded Scotland in the 1600s. The Dunnottar Castle makes for a striking silhouette atop a rocky headland, and the ruins comprise several buildings including the tower house and the palace. Beware though, it gets very windy here!
We headed over to Slains Castle after we had finished at Brewdog as it’s only 15 minutes away. Old Slains Castle is a ruined castle in Aberdeenshire, which overlooks the North Sea from its cliff-top site 1 kilometre east of Cruden Bay. The core of the castle is a 16th-century tower house, built by the 9th Earl of Erroll and was the inspiration for Dracula! The castle is now abandoned but makes for a great place to explore as the sunsets!
Me and Theo were convinced that Brewdog was an American brand until a friend of ours told us we were in fact wrong and it was a Scottish brewer. Located on a green field site in Ellon, north of Aberdeen, Brewdog’s state-of-the-art eco-brewery is one of the most fun places I’ve ever been, combining food, fun and beer. It is also one of the most technologically advanced in the world, as they constantly challenge people’s preconceptions about what beer is and how it can taste. And Ellon is also home to the DogTap tap room, serving up the freshest beer straight from the brewery. They are now one of the most prominent success stories of the craft beer revolution, so make sure you either head over to Ellon for lunch and a beer, or join them on a 90 minute tour of the brewery and factory. It is a must-visit place and the chicken wings are amazing!
If fairytales were real, all castles would look like Craigievar. We headed out to this wonderful castle on our final day in Aberdeenshire and hired a car to head out in to the shire to explore. This castle is said to be the inspiration behind Disney’s Cinderella Castle and you can certainly see why. The outside is stunning and you can also head on inside in the week to admire an impressive collection of artefacts and art – including Raeburn portraits, armour and weapons – or enjoy a peaceful stroll around the garden and estate. The pink elegant tower of Craigievar Castle is beautiful, and the property is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
If you’re heading to Aberdeen, you’ve got to try some local whisky! And GlenDronac Distillery is one of the best. The distillery is located in Aberdeenshire between Huntly and Portsoy, and has been producing their signature whiskies for more than 200 years. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Allardes (referred to often as Allardice) as the second distillery to apply for a licence to legally produce whisky under the Excise Act of 1823, which passed three years earlier and which allowed for the distilling of Whisky in Scotland.
Fancy being a royal for the day? Also located in the Aberdeenshire region is one of the official residences of the British royal family. Balmoral is a category A listed building, and the property is a working estate with animals and farmland. The castle is open all year round so make sure you check the opening times on their website – I believe the gardens and grounds are open to the public daily from April to July (at which time The Queen arrives to stay at the estate).
*I was invited by Visit Aberdeen to explore this wonderful region but as always all opinions are my own