The Best Things to Do in Aberdeen
Known today as the oil and gas capital of Europe, Aberdeen is uniquely able to mesh its industry with historic small-town charm. Sometimes called the granite city because many of its historic buildings were made from local granite, the city shines in the sun. Aberdeen is the perfect base to explore Northern Scotland, as it is an easy point of access to the famous North Coast 500 and 144 minutes away from the start of the route.
Dolphin Watching at Torry Battery
With over 30 miles of beach running along the North Sea, spotting dolphins and whales, is easy to do from May through September. There is no better place to dolphin watch than the Torry Battery. The Torry Battery is an artillery battery that sits on the top of a hill overlooking Aberdeen Harbor, and it is a beautiful place with historic ruins to look at breathtaking views of the sea and bottleneck dolphins.
The David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park
Located in Duthie Park, The David Welch Winter Gardens is one of the largest indoor gardens in the UK. The large cacti collection has a “talking” cactus named Spike – the only one in the world! In these gardens, you can explore tropical forests, British gardens, and Japanese gardens all in one place. Don’t skip a leisurely walk through the park during your visit – there are many statues and monuments located throughout the park that are worth the trip alone.
Local sometimes call Aberdeen “Sin City” because many of the nightclubs, pubs and bars are former places of worship. One of my favorites is Old Blackfriars. Complete with pews and stained glass, Old Blackfriars has been serving scotch whiskey and pulling pints for the people of Aberdeen since it opened in 1719. Steeped in history with an extensive drinks list and fantastic food, you are sure to have a fun time here. Try the steak pie!
Stonehaven and Dunnotar Castle
Stonehaven is a small seaside village just outside of Aberdeen, easily accessed by a 15-minute picturesque train ride. Stop at The Bay Fish & Chips for fish and chips that have won more awards than you can count. After lunch, don’t forget to go next door to Aunty Betty’s for some amazing local ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the 2.5-mile coastal path to Dunnotar Castle, which was once the home to the Scottish Crown Jewels during the Jacobite rebellion.
A couple of hours west of Aberdeen is the home Scotland’s most famous resident, Nessie. While a sighting can’t be guaranteed, Loch Ness itself is gorgeous. The vast loch, filled with more water than all other lochs and rivers in England and Scotland combined, is best enjoyed on a loch cruise. Along the way, you’ll see the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a former residence with parts dating back to the 13th century.
Culloden Battle Field
The Battle of Culloden was the final battle between the Jacobites and the English Army with the defeat of the Bonny Prince Charlie in 1745, ending the Jacobite Rising at the Culloden battle filed. The battlefield today is a place of remembrance of those that lost their lives. Now run by the National Trust, an information center has been erected on the land to teach visitors about the historic battle and how it shaped the Scotland you see today. While the battle was brought to the silver screen in Outlander, you will not see Jamie Fraser or Outlander merchandise while on the land.
Whisky Tasting at Glenfiddich
Scotland is known for scotch whisky, which differs from other whiskeys as is it is made from majority malted barley with peat that gives it a smoky taste. What better place to taste scotch in Scotland than in one of the best-known distillers in the world, Glenfiddich. Opened in 1886, the Glenfiddich distillery takes you back in time as soon as you step on the property. The old buildings, cobblestone paths, and the sweet smell of mash are a perfect backdrop for an afternoon tasting of fine single malt. Across the road, you can also visit Balvenie Castle, 13th-century castle ruins that you can explore for a nominal fee.
Aberdeen has a quiet charm that makes you feel like you’re home, even when you’re thousands of miles away. Full of history, adventure, and folklore, there is something to experience for every traveler in Aberdeen.