Banff Harbour, Aberdeenshire

Outdoors

Things to Do in Aberdeenshire Itinerary

Aberdeenshire is a vast and scenic region, featuring many pretty towns, friendly communities, places to explore and fascinating attractions to visit. Located on the east coast of mainland Scotland, you'll find hundreds of coastal gems, marine wildlife, intriguing historic sites (there are over 300 castles here), as well as plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors too.

Or perhaps you'd like to enjoy a relaxing getaway? Slowing down your travels and soaking in all that Aberdeenshire has to offer is a great way to spend your trip in Scotland. It's also a great way to make your holiday that bit more meaningful, but forming connections with the places you visit, savouring the moment, and embracing the relaxation of a trip in Scotland. With so many experiences to be had, and all within easy reach, you won't be lost for things to see, do or visit.

Transport

Car

Days

4

Miles

132

Route

Inverurie, Oldmeldrum, Huntly, Banff

Highlights

Castle Fraser, Tolquhon Castle, Glen Garioch Distillery, Pitmedden Garden, Skyline Trampoline Park

Areas Covered

Aberdeenshire

Day 1

overview

Day 1 - Inverurie

This 4-day itinerary starts off in Inverurie which is just a 35-minute drive north west of Aberdeen city centre. This town boasts plenty of family-friendly and intriguing things to do from hilltop views to ancient history sites.
  • Miles

    31

  • Km

    50

  • Stops

    4

  • Transport

    Car Car Walk

Mither Tap of Bennachie

One of the most popular places to visit in Aberdeenshire, Bennachie is a distinctive hill with several peaks that can be seen for miles around. The summit of Mither Tap boasts incredible views over much of Aberdeenshire and is an ideal spot for a picnic. You can also see a hillfort carved into the hillside in which people once lived, and the farmland they once looked after too. There are a handful of walking trails you can explore in the area and to the summits of the peaks, as well as a diverse range of wildlife to spot.

Castle Fraser

Aberdeenshire is bursting at the seams with castles and stately homes, and is known as Scotland's 'castle country'. Castle Fraser is a real fairy-tale-style castle with expansive grounds, turrets, original brickwork, and secret staircases. Built in the 16th century, this ancient castle has an elaborate Z-plan layout, with other quirky features including trapdoors, a spy hole and a hidden wooden leg. Inside is filled with family portraits, ornaments and mementos, as well as many tales and stories to uncover too. Don't forget to explore the outstanding Great Hall.

East Aquhorthies Stone Circle and The Maiden Stone

Inverurie is also home to some incredible ancient historic sites. Take a wander through some of Scotland's best preserved stone circles including East Aquhorthies - where the stones are believed to have been chosen for their colour. The majority are a rough, pinkish porphyry (deep purple) colour, but there are a few that boast a red jasper, grey granite or red granite colour.

Elsewhere, the Maiden Stone is one of the most beautiful, grand and distinguished pieces of Pictish sculpture in north-east Scotland. This 3m-tall cross-slab of pinkish granite dates back before 700 AD, and features both Pictish symbols and what is believed to be a biblical scene.

Skyline Trampoline Park

If you're looking for somewhere to let the kids run wild and let off some steam, this 30,000 sq. ft trampoline park may do the trick. Skyline is a state-of-the-art indoor trampoline park featuring a variety of activities, including a jump tower and giant airbag, traverse wall, dodgeball, hang tough, stepping stones, battle beams, flip lanes and much more. You can even put your skills to the test on the dodgeball court!

Treat yourself to a luxury spot to stay, or even just a lovely evening meal out, by heading to Thainstone House. This elegant 18th century Palladian mansion is the ideal choice if you want to indulge with your accommodation. Thainstone House also features a leisure club which offers a heated indoor swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room and gym. There is a spa with a wide range of luxury ishga spa and beauty treatments too. A perfect option if you want to relax and slow down your travels in Scotland.

Day 2

overview

Day 2 - Oldmeldrum

Heading just 5 miles north of Inverurie, Oldmeldrum is a small Aberdeenshire town known as the 'Granary of Aberdeen', due to its production of high quality barley, and is home to many hidden gems and great places to explore.
  • Miles

    22

  • Km

    35

  • Stops

    4

  • Transport

    Car Car Walk

Lochter Activity Centre & Fishery

Located just a mile west of Oldmeldrum, kick start your second day at Lochter Activity Centre. Try out a range of exciting activities, including archery, zorbing, segways, and raft building. Or if you'd rather go at a slower pace, you can try your hand at a spot of trout fishing from the onsite lochs. There are three fly-fishing lochs at the centre that are stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout. Also at the centre, you can tuck into delicious, high quality food at the restaurant, serving up only the best locally-sourced Aberdeenshire produce.

Glen Garioch Distillery

Why not take an afternoon to relax and delve into Scotland's world of whisky? Our national drink is a popular tipple around the world, and with so many distilleries in Aberdeenshire alone, why not? Head to Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen Geerie), Scotland's most easterly whisky distillery, and embark on whisky tastings and experiences. Explore the history and character of Glen Garioch and go behind the scenes to learn all about their whiskies, the distillery and more.

Tours will hopefully be back up and running in 2022 but, in the meantime, the giftshop is open and offers a variety of whiskies to buy and take home as a memento.

Tolquhon Castle

Described as one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland, Tolquhon Castle is an impressive ruin located just outside of Oldmeldrum, near Pitmedden. Admire the intricate carvings and fine detailing across the castle, explore inside the ruined walls, and see if you can find the secret compartment above the laird's quarters, where he hid his valuables. As you wander around the extensive castle grounds, look for the initials TL (Thomas Leiper) on the exterior of the main house - it was rare for a medieval architect to sign his work like this in these times.

Pitmedden Garden

If you're looking for a relaxing afternoon wandering through picturesque gardens, look no further. Marvel at the serenity as you explore the 17th-century Pitmedden Garden, boasting a unique charm and plenty to admire. Featuring almost 6 miles of clipped box hedging, colourful parterres, over 200 fruit trees, and the lovely sweet smell of honeysuckle and jasmine, these gardens are a delight to add into your Aberdeenshire itinerary.

If you're feeling peckish, head to Eat on the Green, just a 5 minute drive from the gardens, and located within a former post office. Offering up delicious Scottish cuisine using only the finest local produce, the menu will be sure to tickle your tastebuds. Nearby, visit BrewDog's Lone Wolf Distillery in Ellon who produce delicious concoctions of gin, vodka and rum, and also offer brewery tours and fresh beer to try in their Taproom.

Rest your head for the night (or 4!) at Lodges at Barra Castle. These rustic cottages provide the perfect setting to sit back, relax and unwind after a day exploring. Featuring contemporary design alongside a Scandinavian 'hygge' vibe, you'll feel right at home here. Or why not indulge a little more with a stay at Meldrum House Hotel? Tucked away in the Aberdeenshire countryside, treat yourself to a spot of luxury in this fine 13th century manor house. Golfers are in luck too, with an outstanding golf course ranked in Scotland's top 100, with some of the finest practice facilities right on your doorstep.

Day 3

overview

Day 3 - Huntly

For the third day we're heading north west to another quaint town - Huntly. This historic town is home to some incredible sights and attractions to explore, and has many landmarks situated just outside the town too.
  • Miles

    43

  • Km

    70

  • Stops

    4

  • Transport

    Car Car Walk

Historic Sites

Kick start the day with a trip back in time, discovering some incredible historic and ancient sites. The second highest in Scotland, Tap o' Noth Hill Fort is a very well preserved Iron Age fort and boasts impressive remains, alongside outstanding panoramic views over the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Nearby, Rhynie Pictish Stones feature a display of one Class I and two Class II carved stones. The first is made of pink granite, with carvings of a beast, comb and part of an arch symbol. The two Class II stones were found under the old church. One is whinstone, bearing a beast's head, double-disc, Z-rod, a mirror, and a comb. The other is red granite, with carvings of a double-disc, crescent, V-rod and mirror symbols.

Elsewhere, head to Huntly Castle, a magnificent ruin dating back to the 12th century and is famed for its architectural details and heraldic enrichments. Located just north of the town, the castle boasts a majestic location, and the palace interiors are a real sight to see with heraldic fireplaces and more.

Deveron Project

This unique concept uses the town of Huntly as a venue for a range of art projects that aim to join together artists, communities and places. There are a variety of projects you can see across the town, including The Square Deal which looks to rejuvenate and protect the towns' architecture, White Wood a living monument to peace, the Weeping Willow Tree which marks a historic day, and Flax which explores the past through new growth.

Huntly Nordic & Outdoor Centre

Britain's only dedicated Nordic facility, this unique outdoor centre specialises in cross country skiing and roller skiing, as well as offering mountain bike hire and tubing on the ski slope. Head over to the centre and learn to cross country ski all year round, or try out roller skiing in the summer months. Take part in courses and private tuition on the all-weather terrain and roller ski track, and when the snow comes, hire ski equipment and venture up to the trails in the Clashindarroch forest.

GlenDronach Distillery

Outside the town, pay a visit to one of Scotland's oldest working distilleries, GlenDronach, and learn all about the traditions and history of Scotland's single malt whisky. Using handcrafted techniques that have been traditional for some 200 years, the distillery matures their whiskies in superior sherry casks giving complex tastes and undertones to their malts. Enjoy a range of distillery tours and tasting experiences and make sure you head to the giftshop to explore a wide range of the GlenDronach Highland single malts and official merchandise too. Why not bottle your own distillery-exclusive malt as a special souvenir?

Make sure you stop by Dean's Shortbread which started up in Huntly and, since 1975, has been making their famous 'melt in the mouth' shortbread to a recipe that everyone loves. Visit the giftshop or stop in at the bistro and coffee stop.

Day 4

overview

Day 4 - Banff

The last day of this itinerary takes you to the glorious Banffshire coastline. With golf courses and coastal gems aplenty, you'll have an array of attractions and locations to uncover here, as well as relaxing seaside walks to embrace.
  • Miles

    35

  • Km

    57

  • Stops

    3

  • Transport

    Car Car Walk

Duff House

This regal Georgian mansion, designed by renowned Scottish architect William Adam, is a real sight to see! Situated in Banff on the Moray Firth coastline, this house is bursting with intricate paintings and art collections that are fascinating to browse and learn more about. Aside from the exterior being incredibly majestic and photo-worthy, the interior has many features that have been meticulously restored over the years, with detailed ceilings, historic artefacts and more to admire. Duff House also hosts events and collections throughout the year too, so check out what's on before you visit.

Inverboyndie Beach

Nearby, plan for a few hours at Inverboyndie Beach, just west of Banff. A popular place for walkers, swimmers, surfers and windsurfers, it's great for a family-friendly day out. It's also a calm and quiet area, so it's a good place to spot local wildlife too.

After your visit, head just a 10 minute drive into Portsoy and pick up a tasty ice cream from Portsoy Ice Cream. This award-winning, family-run business offers up a refreshing range of top-quality homemade artisan ice creams and sorbets.

If you're looking for somewhere to stay, Banff Links Caravan Park is nearby the beach. Or enjoy a self-catering break at the Sail Loft Bunkhouse in Portsoy. Accredited a 4-star hostel status, you'll have everything you need at this budget-friendly option, including luxurious beds and bunks, a communal kitchen, dining area and lounge, laundrette, drying room, secure cycle storage and more.

RSPB Troup Head Nature Reserve

If you head 20 minutes east from Banff, you'll find the RSPB Troup Head Nature Reserve, which is home to dramatic high clifftops. That makes it a nesting ground for a variety of birdlife, including a whole gannet colony - the largest on mainland Scotland with kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and more. If you look out to sea, you may be lucky enough to spot resident bottlenose dolphins, minke whales and porpoises playing in the waves.