10 Places to Visit in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
26 June 2019
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire is well known for its granite buildings and sea transports links, but it also has a thriving arts and culture scene in addition to a rich and colourful history. Long sandy beaches lay adjacent to quaint fishing villages, city parks are nestled among some of the oldest buildings and structures in the UK.
The region is home to world famous food, showcased through Michelin Guide restaurants just a short stroll from medieval castles and local ice cream producers like Mackie’s of Scotland putting North-east Scotland on the map as a top foodie destination.
Here are ten of my favourite places to visit in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire:
1. Mackie’s 19.2 Ice Cream Parlour
Marischal Square is a newly built development in New Aberdeen, overlooked by Marischal College, the current headquarters of Aberdeen City Council. In the square, you’ll find ‘Poised’ a beautiful leopard sculpture by Andy Scott, just above Mackie’s 19.2. Mackie’s 19.2 is the first ever ice cream parlour of Mackie’s of Scotland, serving over twenty flavours of ice cream made on the family farm 19.2 miles away from the parlour. They also serve sandwiches, coffees, cakes, waffles and chocolates; perfect for a quick lunch while exploring the city.
2. Old Aberdeen
A stroll through Old Aberdeen, where ancient cobbled roads still run through the heart of the city, is a must if you want a taste of the past. Monks, scholars, traders and travelers settled here in the 14th century where St Machar’s Cathedral stands, and it is at the College Bounds where the beginnings of The University of Aberdeen were founded. Don’t forget to go inside the cathedral itself, the oldest building in Aberdeen is still in use. It has a world-famous heraldic ceiling and exquisite stained glass.
3. Brig O’Balgownie
This beautiful gothic arch spanning 12 metres across the River Don in Old Aberdeen is one of the oldest bridges in Britain. Construction of this historical monument was completed in 1320 at the request of Robert the Bruce. To get here, follow the river path through Seaton Park just next to St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen, or walk up King Street until you get to the Bridge of Don, and then follow the river path through the Donmouth Local Nature Reserve. You can see seals basking on the riverbank here.
4. Moonfish Cafe
On Union Street, turn down Correction Wynd onto the medieval streets of the historic Merchant’s Quarter, and there, in the shadow of the Kirk of St Nicholas, you’ll find the unobtrusive Moonfish Café. This restaurant features in the 2019 Michelin Guide, and their tasting menu with wine pairing is simply extraordinary. Set aside three hours for this dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere and be prepared to be wowed by the innovative dishes created by MasterChef finalist Brian Mcleish.
5. Stonehaven Harbour
First built in 1607, Stonehaven Harbour was the only natural shelter during north-easterly gales on the east coast. Here, you’ll find Stonehaven’s oldest building, The Tolbooth, which has been used as a storehouse, courthouse and prison. Today, the downstairs museum houses a fascinating collection of artifacts and memorabilia, while upstairs you’ll find The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant serving locally caught seafood so incredible it features in the 2019 Michelin Guide.
6. Dunnottar Castle
From Stonehaven Harbour you can take the sign posted 40 minute coastal path to Dunnottar Castle. Perched dramatically on a rocky headland, the ruins of this medieval fortress are well worth exploring. This castle was once home to the Earls Marischal, one of Scotland’s most powerful families, and the whole area is steeped in history and intrigue. It’s also incredibly Instagrammable.
7. Stonehaven Beach
A short 15 minute train ride south along the picturesque Aberdeenshire coastline will bring you to the coastal town of Stonehaven. It’s got a beautiful sandy beach at the southern end of the 1.1 km long waterfront, popular with swimmers and surfers, while the northern end is a treasure trove of colourful beach pebbles. Walk along the promenade and enjoy some locally caught haddock and freshly made chips at The Bay Fish & Chips, ranked one of the world’s best food experiences by The Lonely Planet.
8. 21 Crimes
This 1920s speakeasy is a newly opened bar in the city, and only those with a unique password (which changes every week) are permitted to enter (hint: follow them on social media to find out what it is!). This dark, underground venue, named after the number of offenses that would have you deported to Australia in the 1920s, is located beneath the floorboards of Vovem, Aberdeen’s superior steakhouse. Why not make a night of it and enjoy a perfectly cooked Aberdeen Highland Beef steak with some truffled manchego fries before heading into the basement for a cocktail or two.
Aberdeen’s quirky fishing quarter Footdee, known locally as Fittie, is a leisurely 30 minute stroll from the city centre. En route, stop at the award-winning Aberdeen Maritime Museum and stroll along Aberdeen Beach, watching out for porpoises playing around the ships leaving the harbour mouth. Footdee is an old fishing village which is still a residential area today and is made of small squares of tiny cottages, gardens and brightly painted outhouses, and you can access it from the end of the beach promenade.
10. Nuart and Painted Doors
Nuart Aberdeen is an International Public Art Festival launched in 2017. Throughout the city centre you’ll find vibrant and evocative street art which can be explored using the Nuart map (download it here).