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The best things to do in Aberdeenshire

Sights and sounds

Aberdeen days out

Rattray Head Lighthouse

A wealth of sights and sounds are just waiting to be discovered here including a fantastic range of visitor attractions, beaches, gardens, Highland Games, golf courses and festivals. There is truly something for everyone. Aberdeen, with a proud and fascinating history, is a prosperous city, with a historical old town and has one of Scotland’s most striking skylines.

The impressive granite buildings such as Marischal College, His Majesty’s Theatre and St Machar’s Cathedral give the city its distinctive look, whilst historical Old Aberdeen and the fishing village of Footdee possess an unmistakable air of time gone by. Its association with the sea has shaped its destiny, from its citizens’ fishing livelihood to the North Sea oil boom. Unquestionably it has some of the best beaches in Scotland.

Aberdeen beach is renowned the length and breadth of the country for its ‘golden sands’ and Balmedie beach, five miles north of Aberdeen, also has unspoilt miles of sands and high dunes. A largely unknown gem lies south of the city. St Cyrus beach, just to the north of the mouth of the North Esk river, consists of a mile of golden sand backed by cliffs. These cliffs are south facing and this helps to warm the area.

The climate is reflected in the wide range of plants, not common in Scotland, found there. The whole area is a National Nature Reserve for its plants, butterflies and landforms and there are also breeding raptors and fulmars on the cliffs, and lots of songbirds in the bushes at the foot of the cliffs. The city and shire also have a strong association with gardens and gardening.

The work of rose breeders fills fields and hillsides, and their produce lines roads, streets, parks, gardens and estates. Rose gardens can be found at Crathes Castle, Drum Castle and at Hazlehead Park in Aberdeen. For rock gardens visit Leith Hall, Kildrummy or Ballindalloch castles.

Aberdeen, with a proud and fascinating history, is a prosperous city, with a historical old town and has one of Scotland’s most striking skylines

Victorian gardens

Aberdeen days out

Den and the Glen

For Victorian gardens, you’re just as spoilt for choice, so don’t miss Union Terrace Gardens or those at the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum in Viewfield Road. Aberdeen has won a number of Britain in Bloom awards over the years and is famed in particular for the Rose Mound and the David Welch Winter Gardens in Duthie Park, one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe and a top Scottish visitor attraction.

Looking for something for the kids? Try Codona’s Beach Amusement Park in Aberdeen, Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool or The Den and the Glen, at Maryculter, a magical world of make-believe and fun for children (and adults) of all ages, set amidst 28 acres of spectacular scenic beauty on Royal Deeside. Children can see more than 100 of their favourite nursery rhyme and fairytale characters and both adults and children can enjoy exquisite flowers and plants, majestic trees, secret waterfalls, exotic animals and fairytale houses and eat at the self-service restaurant which offers healthy food.

In the summer months Scotland, and the north east in particular, comes alive with the skirl of the pipes as Highland Games season gets into full swing between May and September. Highland Games have their origins in the Scottish clan system and date back over 300 years. Most famous amongst these games is the Braemar Gathering, attended by the Royal Family, but there are many others in the area, notably at Ballater and Aberdeen itself.

Throughout the summer season, 14 Scottish Highland Games take place in Aberdeen and Grampian Highlands. From the Cornhill Highland Games in June to Scotland’s biggest and most prestigious Scottish Highland Games event, the Braemar Gathering in September, you’re sure to find a Highland Games to attend.

In the summer months Scotland, and the north east in particular, comes alive with the skirl of the pipes as Highland Games season gets into full swing

Picturesque golf courses

Aberdeen days out

Aberdeenshire boasts beautiful golf courses

For golfers, the north east of Scotland possesses some of the most testing and picturesque courses throughout the entire home of golf including Royal Deeside, Murcar, Cruden Bay and Ballater and many of the municipal courses in the area such as Hazlehead and the King’s Links are of an extremely high quality and offer excellent value for money.

Family biking days are also increasing in popularity as people get out of their cars to take in the magnificence of the area. With many of the country roads traffic free, this is a great way to explore the countryside around Aberdeenshire.

You may, of course, prefer to use a more conventional mode of transport. The north east of Scotland is great walking country with a wide variety of terrain to be found throughout the region. Perhaps you’d like to take on parts of the Formartine and Buchan Way, explore the heights of the Cairngorms or discover the dramatic coastline?

Discover, too, the finest food and drink of the area, home to an unbelievable wealth and variety of fresh produce that inspires even the most creative of chefs. Aberdeen Angus beef, Cullen skink, butteries, shortbread, malt whisky and first class seafood are just a few of the delicacies that will make a visit memorable. The area is also home to a number of family food businesses with famous products such as Walker’s Shortbread, Mackie’s ice cream and Baxters of Speyside.

For golfers, the north east of Scotland possesses some of the most testing and picturesque courses throughout the entire home of golf

Spirit of Aberdeenshire

Aberdeen days out

Malt Whisky Trail

And, of course, there is Scotland’s most famous export of all – whisky. Aberdeenshire is home to more than half of Scotland’s distilleries and you can sample some of the best malts on the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail. Few regions anywhere can boast so much fine food and drink and there is no better place to tempt your tastebuds than in the landscape which inspired them.

Aberdeen is also a compact city with a well-developed bus system including an excellent park-and-ride scheme. Almost all the places of visitor interest – King’s College, Provost Ross’s House, Maritime Museum, a variety of shopping malls, Provost Skene’s House, the Harbour and Union Street – are within easy walking distance of one another. During the summer months an open top bus tour departing from Marischal College with a hop-on and hop-off service is also available to ensure you don’t miss a thing.


Everything you need to know about Aberdeenshire

Where to eat in Aberdeenshire

Your guide to arts and culture in Aberdeenshire

The best shopping in Aberdeenshire

The best nightlife in Aberdeenshire

Image credits: ©Brian Stewart-Coxon/Skankimages/Adobe Stock; Malt Whisky Trail; Michael Jasmund/Unsplash

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