Read on for everything you didn’t know about Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire, and you’ll soon have all your weekends booked up with day trips packed with fascinating museums, castles and wonderful art, beautiful nature spots and beaches teeming with wildlife, and one of Scotland’s fairest and most dramatic coastlines.

These suggestions are not just for visitors - if you're lucky enough to call this region home, then these ideas are for you too!

Old Aberdeen Heritage Trail

Aberdeen city is best known for its gleaming granite architecture, its busy harbour area, and its expansive beach overlooking the North Sea. It is also a city where the sense of history is palpable. Delve into its fascinating past on this two-hour walking route which encompasses the city’s finest historic gems and districts on the Aberdeen Heritage Trail.

Notable landmarks and places of interest include:

  • Tillydrone Motte, a prehistoric site stretching back at least 2,000 years located in the city’s tranquil Seaton Park.
  • The Cobbled Chanonry, the historic neighbourhood with its cobbled street that surround St Machar’s Cathedral and retains much of its medieval character.
  • The atmospheric Merchant Quarter lies to the south of the Chanonry. Here you’ll find the Old Aberdeen Town House which is now a local history museum and a fragment of the medieval Mercat Cross.
  • Many believe the oldest bridge in Scotland is found in the north of the city. Named the Brig O Balgownie, it dates from the 13th century, features in the epic poem Don Juan by Lord Byron, and is the site of many a supernatural tale.

The Deeside Way

It you’re eager to get out and about in rural Aberdeenshire countryside, this 41-mile trail for walkers and cyclists is a great place to start. Starting from the bustling centre of Aberdeen, it follows the former Deeside Railway line all the way to Ballater in the Cairngorms National Park. Aside from affording stunning scenery of woodland and farmland set against the River Dee and the distant Cairngorm Mountains, the route also encompasses many fine relics of the Victorian era. 

Travel back to the reign of Queen Victoria at these spots along the route: 

  • Duthie Park is one of best-loved parks in Aberdeen thanks to its myriad of Victorian features including its elegant band stand, boating pond and ornate fountains.
  • Queen Victoria was a frequent visitor to the pretty market town of Banchory. She purchased the neighbouring Balmoral Estate in 1848 and helped popularise it, and Royal Deeside more broadly, as a summer holiday destination.
  • Admire the magnificent peaks and cliffs of Lochnagar on the way from Aboyne to Ballater. This Munro, in the Grampian mountain range, was summited by the great Queen herself and is also a favourite of Prince Charles. 

Discover other places you can look forward to exploring on the Victorian Heritage Trail.

Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail 

The Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail has everything you could possibly want from a road trip along one of the country’s finest coastlines: sweeping seascapes from towering clifftops, pristine beaches, picturesque fishing villages and harbours, and more. Spanning 165 miles from St Cyrus to Portsoy, this gently meandering driving route is packed with iconic sights and interesting detours along the way. 

These are just some of the places you can admire and may be able to visit along the way:

  • Enjoy a refreshing walk along the vast sands of Fraserburgh Beach.
  • Cruden Bay is an essential pit-stop for golfers and literature lovers alike. A short distance from the renowned golf club looms the spooky shell of new Slains Castle, the reputed model for Castle Dracula which inspired Bram Stoker who often holidayed here.
  • Take a lovely coastal walk from the pretty seaside town of Banff and head over Inverboyndie Beach to the traditional fishing village of Whitehills.

Outdoor adventures

The countryside and coast of Aberdeenshire is a perfect place to enjoy a range of exhilarating outdoor activities that showcase the natural beauty and wildlife of the region.

  • Head down to the mouth of the River Dee at Torry Battery for the chance to see some of Europe’s largest bottlenose dolphins frolicking among the waves. Or why not hop aboard a cruise and head out to the sea for the opportunity to see everything from bottlenose dolphins to minke whales up close?
  • There are over 30 Munros and Corbetts waiting for experienced hikers to climb. Alongside mighty Lochnagar, the other Munros of the White Mounth and the Corbetts of Conachraig and the wonderfully named Brown Cow Hill are among the other fine peaks waiting to be ticked off your list. 

Incredible wildlife sights

With its pristine coastline, ancient woodlands and great swathes of rolling farmland, Aberdeenshire is haven for all kinds of species, from bottlenose dolphins and red kites to red deer and birds of prey and seabirds. Grab your binoculars and head to these easily accessible spots where you can get up close to creatures great and small.

  • Just north of Aberdeen Harbour is Donmouth Nature Reserve, a natural sanctuary nestled where the River Don flows into the sea and where oystercatchers, redshank, goldeneye, turnstones and the occasional seal can be observed.
  • Puffins are one of the region’s most popular wild inhabitants. Just one of the countless species of seabirds which nest along the jagged coastal cliffs. Head for Troup Head or Fowlsheugh nature reserves to spot them, alongside thousands of kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, and others. You’ll also find the largest UK mainland colony of gannets at Troup Head. Just remember to take extra care when around exposed cliff areas and that parking is limited, so be prepared to head elsewhere if it’s busy.
  • Located just 20 minutes north of Aberdeen you'll find the Ythan Estuary and Newburgh Beach, which is home to a 400-strong colony of grey seals. The area is also popular with wildfowl including eider duck, red-breasted merganser and velvet scoter.
  • Cambus O’May is one of the region’s many enchanting woodlands. Set at the eastern foothills of the great wilderness of the Cairngorms, follow the waymarked footpaths and keep your eyes peeled for sightings of red and roe deer, red squirrels, golden eagles soaring overhead, black grouse and the elusive capercaillie.
  • If it’s marine wildlife you’re keen to see, then head for Torry Battery at the mouth of Aberdeen Harbour or the seaside town of Banff further north for sightings of resident bottlenose dolphin and seals. There have also been summer sightings of whales from Collieston on the east Grampian coast.

The new-look Aberdeen Art Gallery

Following an ambitious 4-year expansion and renovation programme, Aberdeen Art Gallery revealed its stunning contemporary addition to the top of its grand Victorian edifice. This rooftop extension contains an array of new galleries brimming with artworks spanning everything from Glasgow Boy James Guthrie’s impressionist masterpiece To Pasture’s New to an early light installation by Tracey Emin. Among the unearthed treasures to admire is a rare portrait of Queen Victoria dressed in white as a young newlywed – watch Tour Guide Tales to find out more. 

There are 22 exhibition and display galleries in total which feature digital interactives and specially curated playlists which lend each space its own unique experience. Look out for a year-round programme of visiting exhibitions and don’t forget to stop by the rooftop café and terrace for a coffee and bite to eat.

You might have heard already of Aberdeen Art Gallery and architectural gems like the immense granite Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world, but did you know in Aberdeen:

  • An incredibly well-preserved 19th century Aberdeenshire fishing village named Footdee (pronounced Fittie) sits nestled on the eastern edge of Aberdeen Harbour. 
  • Johnston Gardens are a feast for the eyes year-round. Filled with colour and inspired by Japanese horticulture, they have won the prestigious Britain in Bloom award multiple times. Bring your sketchbook.  
  • One of the oldest university campuses in the world belongs to the University of Aberdeen, one of Scotland’s four ancient universities, founded in 1413. The King’s College Chapel (located on the Old Aberdeen Heritage Trail) with its stained-glass windows and intricate masonry ranks among the most beguiling religious buildings in Scotland.

With so many places to visit across Scotland, will you head to one of your favourites or try somewhere new?