Arts breeding ground
The north east of Scotland has always been a rich breeding ground for the arts and many major artists, designers, architects and musicians took their first tentative steps in Aberdeen and the shire. The inspiring granite buildings of Aberdeen and landmark architecture throughout the area has provided locals and visitors with a visual feast for hundreds of years.
St Andrew’s Cathedral in King Street was the first commission of Aberdeen’s most famous architect, Archibald Simpson, who designed the chapel to seat 1200. The building contains a spectacular interior, with unique heraldic ceilings and large stained glass windows.
If your forte is military history, The Gordon Highlanders Museum in the city’s Viewfield Road takes you from the Napoleonic wars to the modern day, and you can relive the compelling and dramatic story of the regiment through spectacular and interactive displays. The museum takes you on an eye-opening journey through the history of one of the most famous regiments of the British Army.
Blairs Museum in South Deeside Road – open from April to September, although visitors are welcome by arrangement outwith these dates – was once a school for Roman Catholic boys. It now houses an important collection of Catholic treasures. The most famous items relate to the House of Stuart, notably Bonnie Prince Charlie. Blairs is also home to the Memorial Portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, painted after her execution and saved from the mob during the French revolution.
The north east of Scotland has always been a rich breeding ground for the arts
Churches and castles
St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen is a fortified twin-spired Cathedral with Celtic origins. There has been a church on the site since circa AD 580 when, according to legend, Machar, a companion of St Columba, founded a church there.
St Machar’s is a working church, open every day of the year for visitors, schools and groups. Or how about worshipping at a different altar? A visit to Pittodrie Stadium to see Aberdeen FC will thrust you into the passion and tribalism that is football in Scotland. It was here that Sir Alex Ferguson honed his legendary managerial style that took the Dons to success in the European Cup Winners Cup prior to his move to Manchester United and even greater success and global acclaim.
If exploring the countryside is for you, head out into Aberdeenshire and delve into Scotland’s castle country. Why not visit the striking Crathes Castle and its neighbour Craigievar Castle – both with magnificent painted ceilings – or take in Castle Fraser with its historic furnishings, paintings and fine embroidery?
A must for film buffs is the dramatic clifftop ruins of Dunnottar Castle, just south of Aberdeen, near Stonehaven, where Mel Gibson filmed his version of Hamlet. For Royal fans Balmoral, the Royal Family’s castle on Deeside, on the A93 west of Ballater, is open from late March to late July. And for literary aficionados a visit to Slains Castle, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is a ‘must see’, as is a visit to the Lewis Grassic Gibbon Centre at Arbuthnott from March to October to discover the history behind one of Scotland’s literary heroes whose legacy is A Scots Quair.
A visit to Pittodrie Stadium to see Aberdeen FC will thrust you into the passion and tribalism that is football in Scotland
The entire city and shire is a photographer’s dream with some spectacular scenery with mountain, glen and seascape. The coastal village of Catterline, in particular, is a painter’s mecca. Moving north, Duff House, in Banff, is a treasure house and cultural arts centre operated by a unique partnership of Historic Environment Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council.
Storytellers, musicians and artists are at home here and Duff House organises a regular artistic programme of exhibitions, music and lectures. Duff House was designed by William Adam and built between 1735 and 1740 as the seat of the Earls Fife. There has been an astonishing variety of occupants and visitors to the House since it was built. In the 20th century Duff House was in turn a palm court hotel, a sanatorium and a prisoner of war camp. Opened as a country house gallery after extensive restoration in 1995, Duff House now enjoys five-star visitor attraction status.
Grampian Transport Museum in rural Aberdeenshire at Alford, 25 miles west of Aberdeen, enables you to follow the history of travel and transport in the north east through dramatic displays, working exhibits and DVD presentations. Aberdeen’s magnificent granite Art Gallery in Schoolhill opened in 1885, and in the 1920s further development took place with the addition of the city’s War Memorial and the Cowdray Hall, a unique recital venue, created to encourage “the taste for art and music in the City of Aberdeen”.
Aberdeen Art Gallery is currently going through a major refurbishment and is due to reopen at the end of 2018. Aberdeen Maritime Museum in Provost Ross’s House on the Shiprow was created to tell the story of Aberdeen’s maritime history, including the impact of its newest industry – North Sea oil.
The Tolbooth Museum is one of the oldest buildings in Aberdeen, and includes 17th-century gaols. This museum traces Aberdeen’s civic history, including the history of its crime and punishment. In the present day the north east of Scotland continues to attract musicians, actors, comedians and dancers from all over the world and boasts some landmark venues.
The entire city and shire is a photographer’s dream with some spectacular scenery with mountain, glen and seascape
Theatre in Aberdeen
The Lemon Tree showcases the very best musicians and comedians in the downstairs 550-capacity lounge, and cutting-edge drama and dance in the upstairs 150-seat studio. The Music Hall is Aberdeen’s premier concert hall venue. Located in the heart of the city centre, it plays host to a wide variety of concerts, performances, shows and events from classical concerts to contemporary comedy. After an £8.7 million refurbishment it is set to reopen in late 2018.
His Majesty’s Theatre is the largest theatre in north east Scotland, seating around 1490 people, and was reopened in September 2005 following a major £8 million redevelopment. The redevelopment successfully added a modern aspect to a historic Edwardian building and the new facilities have brought the theatre to life both day and night offering 21st-century theatregoers a truly memorable experience.
Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre is also a major venue for exhibitions, conferences and rock concerts.
Everything you need to know about Aberdeenshire
Where to eat in Aberdeenshire
The best things to do in Aberdeenshire
The best shopping in Aberdeenshire
The best nightlife in Aberdeenshire