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How to spend a weekend in Aberdeenshire

By Gordon Walker

You will be surprised how much you can pack into 72 hours in Aberdeenshire. Take some inspiration from our weekend guide.


Day one

Head off on a walking tour of the city centre taking in some of Scotland’s most stunning architecture. Make your way down Union Street stopping at Union Terrace Gardens, a sunken Victorian Garden right in the heart of the city. Also look out for the turreted Town House and the castellated Citadel at the Castlegate.

On Broad Street you will find Marischal College – the world’s second-largest granite building and Aberdeen’s most photographed. Another impressive building to visit is His Majesty’s Theatre. Originally opened in 1906, it has undergone a £7.8 million refurbishment which includes a striking glass extension. Its cafe is also an ideal place to stop for lunch.

Marischal College is the world’s second-largest granite building and Aberdeen’s most photographed

Marischal College is the world’s second-largest granite building and Aberdeen’s most photographed

Aberdeen Art Gallery is one of the city’s most inspiring, welcoming and accessible public buildings, home to one of the best collections of art in the country. The gallery’s collection is recognised by UNESCO and the Scottish Government as nationally and internationally important.

If that’s not enough for one day then hit the shops. In the West End you’ll find designer shops and one-off boutiques. Make your way to the Trinity Centre, Bon Accord Centre and St Nicholas Centre for all the high street stores you would expect to find in Scotland’s third largest city.

The north east of Scotland is famed for its fine food and drink so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of top restaurants to choose from. After your meal head back out to Union Street and its side streets where you’ll find cosy pubs, contemporary bars and a great choice of clubs. Aberdeen has a varied and vibrant nightlife and has something to appeal to everyone.

If that’s not enough for one day then hit the shops – in the West End you’ll find designer shops and one-off boutiques

Day two

Start your day in Old Aberdeen where the University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495. Wander down the charming cobbled High Street where many of the original buildings are open to the public. St Machar’s Cathedral should not be missed and it’s worth making a stop to see the Brig O’ Balgownie before heading back to the city centre. The bridge was built in the 14th century and has picture-postcard views. Next make your way to the Maritime Museum which can be found on Shiprow, just behind Union Street and within view of Aberdeen’s busy working harbour.

The museum tells the story of Aberdeen’s strong connection with the sea. Discover the harbour’s ship building history in the 17th century through its fish market heyday right up to the inception of the present day oil and gas industry. Carry on the maritime theme by having lunch at The Silver Darling. In a unique position overlooking the entrance to the harbour, this is Aberdeen’s most well-known seafood restaurant.

Then take a short stroll round to Footdee or ‘Fittie’. The tiny cottages of this 19th-century fishing village all back onto the sea with their windows and doors facing inwards to protect from storms. Now you’ll find yourself at the beach. Aberdeen has two miles of golden sands less than a mile from Union Street. Don’t be surprised to see surfers braving the North Sea temperatures no matter which season you are visiting. The beach area also has a cinema complex, several bars and restaurants, an extreme sports centre, Codona’s funfair and of course, Pittodrie Stadium, home to Aberdeen Football Club.

For your evening entertainment contact Aberdeen Box Office to get details of the shows, concerts and gigs taking place in venues such as the Music Hall or the Lemon Tree. There is always a wide range of performances and venues to choose from.

The tiny cottages of Footdee or ‘Fittiee’ all back onto the sea with their windows and doors facing inwards to protect from storms

Day three

If you are lucky enough to have a third day then head out and explore Aberdeenshire. Royal Deeside was Queen Victoria’s favourite place to holiday and the Royal Family still return to Balmoral Castle every summer. You’ll soon see why, as Royal Deeside has stunning scenery.

Stop at Crathes Castle just outside Banchory as you head out towards Ballater. The Shire has more than 70 castles so it would be rude not to visit at least one. Crathes is a 16th-century tower house with magnificent gardens and a great tea room.

The exquisite Balmoral Castle

The exquisite Balmoral Castle

Before you arrive in Ballater you should stop at Cambus O’ May, a Victorian suspension bridge. The area was recently voted Scotland’s favourite picnic spot. Ballater itself is a lovely town to wander about in and just a few miles from here is Royal Lochnagar Distillery. Find out how this famous malt whisky is made by doing a distillery tour and, yes, you do get a taster afterwards.

There are several different points along your route back to Aberdeen to get out and have a walk, just look out for signposts or stop at Glen Tanar Estate just outside Aboyne. As well as walking you can enjoy activities such as fishing, mountain biking and horse riding here. Make your way back to Aberdeen for dinner or stop at a pub or restaurant along the way.

Read more about Aberdeenshire

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Image credits: ©Aiaikawa/Jaroslaw Grudzinski/stock.adobe.com; Shutterstock.com; VisitScotland/Kenny Lam; Visit Aberdeenshire

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