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Founded in the 8th century, Aberdeen’s growth as a town can be primarily attributed to its fishing, shipping, and trading industries. During the Middle Ages, most inhabitants were fishers, tanners, or saddlers.
In 1306, the people of Aberdeen aided the Scottish hero Robert the Bruce in defeating the garrison staked out in the Aberdeen castle that supported Edward I for the English throne. The town’s motto “Bon Accord” was supposedly the password used to storm the castle, and is written on the City Coat of Arms that is said to have been a gift from Robert the Bruce himself. In 1336, Edward II burned Aberdeen to the ground but it was soon rebuilt as New Aberdeen.
Throughout the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, Aberdeen expanded despite struggling with epidemics such as the plague. Two universities were established, the Catholic King’s College and the Protestant Marischal College, which eventually merged to become the renowned University of Aberdeen in 1860. As Aberdeen’s port grew, so did the city’s whaling and export industries. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Aberdeen saw the arrival of hospitals, railways, canals, a sewer system, gas street lighting, and harbours.
In 1970, oil was discovered in the North Sea and major oil companies established headquarters in Aberdeen. The city has become known as the Oil Capital of Europe, though as oil deposits dwindle this may change. With a current population of around 200,000, Aberdeen is Scotland’s third most populated city.
Take a flight to Aberdeen for a peaceful weekend in this quaint Scottish town. Perched on the North Sea and sandwiched between the Dee and Don rivers, Aberdeen was once a centre for fishing and ship making, but today is better known for its modern oil industry. With granite buildings that sparkle in the sun, it is called the silver or “Grey City”, depending on the weather.
So book an Aberdeen hotel today, sample whiskies in a traditional pub, tour breathtaking castles, and be immersed in the mystique of Scotland’s Celtic culture.
Make your way to the St. Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen, where headstones line the pathway to this granite 15th century church, complete with a twin towers, eight bells, and a stunning 16th century wood ceiling adorned with 48 shields of clergy and monarchs.
As the legend goes, Machar, a friend of the famous Gaelic Irish missionary St. Columba received a message from God to build a church where the river bends like a bishop’s staff. The River Don seemed to bend like so, and somewhere around 580 AD Machar founded the church.
Take a tour of Scotland’s majestic castles. A 30-minute drive from Aberdeen will take you to the Castle Trail, a route that leads to fourteen castles built between the 13th and 18th centuries.
Some, like the Balvenie Castle are well-kept estates with expansive gardens, ballrooms, gift shops, and cafes. Others, like the Dunnottar Castle that sits on a cliff over the North Sea are haunting ruins of medieval times.
The 18th century Duff House is an impressive Georgian-style home now a part of the National Galleries of Scotland, holding art exhibitions that consist of paintings, tapestries and furniture.
Right in the heart of town is the largest public gallery in Scotland, The Aberdeen Art Gallery. Opened in 1885, the granite columned halls contain French Impressionist and post-Impressionist works from artists such as Monet and Renoir, as well as pieces by the Scottish Colourists of the 1920s and 30s. Also on display is a collection of ceramics, jewellery, textiles, and metalwork. The gallery is open from Tuesday through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. and on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 4:50 p.m.
Opened in 1997, this digitally interactive and educational museum details the maritime history of Scotland’s North Sea. The museum contains exhibits on fishing and shipping and uses a nine-metre high oil platform to illustrate the process of offshore oil drilling.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
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For those who enjoy malls or who like to rife through collectibles, Aberdeen has some great shopping destinations. Main streets to hit are Chapel, Thistle, George, and Union. Packed with fine brand name stores and restaurants are complexes such as Union Square, The Academy Shopping Centre, and The Bon Accord.
Antique lovers will want to head to Colin Wood on Rose Street for their Elizabethan and Victorian maps and prints, or Grandad’s Attic for antique pine furniture.
Check out the Aberdeen Indoor Market on Market Street for a mix of local food and shops. For local farmers’ produce, Scottish whisky, and handcrafted goods, every last Saturday of the month The Aberdeen Country Fair is held on Belmont Street. You can also find your Scottish lineage at the Aberdeen Family History Shop on King Street.
Just a 50-kilometre drive from town is the Bennachie Hill, offering both easy and challenging hiking routes and spectacular views of the countryside from various tops.
Climb to the Oxen Craig summit, a 3.5 to 4.5-hour feat of fairly steep terrain, and take in breathtaking panoramic views.
For a medium 2.5-hour hike climb, try neighbouring Millstone Hill and spot red squirrels, Roe deer, grouse birds, and even osprey.
Those wanting a low-key walk should try the waymarked trails that offer the same wilderness without the intensity. Before heading back, stop by the visitor centre to learn more about the nature and history of Bennachie.
Coordinate your holidays in Aberdeen with this renowned international cultural event, which generally takes place in late July and early August each year.
The Aberdeen International Youth Festival brings together thousands of young performers and performing arts companies from around the world for a two-week artistic exchange. Aberdeen venues and streets are flooded with dance and musical performances ranging from the traditional to the experimental, from ballet and opera to jazz and contemporary.
Located in the heart of Aberdeen is The Caledonian hotel, a four-star hotel with a Victorian style and modern amenities. Overlooking the Union Garden Terrace, each room at the Caledonian’s is equipped with sky television, wireless Internet, a coffeemaker, bathrobes, and a hairdryer. The Caledonian is also ideal for business meetings as it features four large meeting rooms and free on-site parking.
Traditional charm meets great service at the Copthorne Hotel, one of Aberdeen’s premier places to lodge and only a short walk to all major shopping areas. The hotel owns a ballroom, banquet, and a bar. Other standard features include wireless Internet access, 24-hour room service, laundry, and dry cleaning services.
Originally built in 1849, the Aberdeen Douglas hotel is a granite treasure of the city on the outside and stylish and hospitable hotel from within. Just off Union Street, the hotel is steps from the Aberdeen Rail and Bus station. Rooms are comfortable and include a wireless Internet connection, a TV, a hairdryer, and an ironing board and iron. The Aberdeen Douglas also owns the restaurant Molly’s Bistro and Malone’s Irish Pub.
Set amidst 30 acres of beautiful countryside, less than 5 kilometres out of town is the Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Spa, a 19th century mansion with 109 traditionally decorated rooms. All rooms come with wireless Internet service and satellite TV. The hotel also features a heated indoor pool.
From the Aberdeen Airport in Dyce, there are regular buses that will take you to the city centre. One is First Bus # 27 that runs Monday thru Friday and takes about 45 minutes.
Another is Stagecoach Bluebird #10, which runs between Aberdeen and Inverness via the airport. Taxis from the airport are run by Comcab, cost about £15 and take 25 minutes.
To both enjoy the city and the countryside of the region, consider car hire in Aberdeen Traffic drives on the left and seatbelts are mandatory. Make sure to bring a map of Northeast Scotland and respect speed limits, which are usually 48km/h in town and 80km/h on highways.
The A90 highway connects Aberdeen, Dundee, and Edinburgh, while the A96 will get you to Elgin and Inverness.
If your car breaks down, call the Automobile Association (AA) at 0800-887-766.
Aberdeen taxis are the most expensive in Scotland, however there are many public transportation options.
Bus service is run by First and is extensive in town. Weeklong passes can be bought at post offices and daylong ones once aboard.
For long-distance travel, the ScotRail has various routes from cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow into Aberdeen. If coming into town by train, get yourself a Plusbus ticket that serves for travel on local buses.
Download a copy of the Visit Scotland’s Castle Trail guidebook that includes a map, descriptions of each of the 14 castles, along with other suggested sights, restaurants, and hotels.
Cafe Boheme (23 Windmill Brae) is an intimate French restaurant in the centre of town, which offers a welcome break from a day of sightseeing. With its charming French decor and friendly staff, Cafe Boheme serves up a small menu of classic and modern French dishes such as fole gras, crepes, and duck leg confit. Pair lunch or dinner with a fine French wine and sample a cheese plate or creme brulée to finish the evening.
Sip on great regional ales and malt whiskies at Ma Cameron’s Pub, the oldest pub in Aberdeen, centrally located just off of Belmont Street (6-8 Little Belmont Street). With its cosy wood and brick decor and intergenerational crowd, Ma Cameron’s is a laidback place to rest your bones. Pub eats include burgers, steak and ale pie, haggis, and even tikka masala.
Just a short drive from the city, Eat on the Green (Udny Green, Ellon) is an award-winning gourmet restaurant with a view of the sprawling green Scottish countryside. With its rustic exterior and relaxed vibe, this place is perfect for a romantic evening or birthday celebrations. Main dishes include the local Aberdeen angus, baked salmon, fillet of lamb over pesto risotto, and a spice broccoli and almond pancake. Savour an orange and dark chocolate tart for dessert or the banana and toffee shortbread.
For fresh local fish battered and fried and served with chips, head to the Ashvale Fish Restaurant (42 Great Western Road), a 20-minute drive from the city centre. The large portions, mussels, mushy peas, and a dozen kinds of fish to choose from make this joint a local favourite.
For medical attention the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on Foresterhill Road is just a mile from the end of Union Street. The number is 0845 456 6000. Nearby clinics include the Bridge of Don Clinic on Cairnfold Road (01224 825712) and the Airyhall Clinic on Urquhart Road (01224 825712).
If not part of the UK’s National Health Service, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will ensure that medical consultations are free of charge. There are also many pharmacies or chemists located in Aberdeen centre for medication needs.
Dial 999 in case of an emergency. For non-emergency police phone calls, call 0845 600 5 700.
While there are no vaccination requirements for a visit to Aberdeen, diphtheria and tetanus are recommended.
Though Aberdeen has relatively low crime rates, always remain alert. Do not walk alone at night or in poorly lit areas and keep jewellery and electronics out of sight.
Do not leave valuables in parked cars and try not to carry large amounts of cash on your person. Always keep a copy of your travel documents on you and store the originals in a safe place.
The possession and consumption of drugs is illegal and punishable by law, and those under 18 years of age may not purchase or consume alcohol. Prostitution is also illegal.