Aberdeenshire and its gems
Aberdeenshire is the region that surrounds Aberdeen, a town covered in the last post here. It has a rich history and hosts a number of ancient sites dating back as far as the Paleolithic age. During the bronze age it was home to the ‘Beaker’ culture who left a number of sites and artifacts for us today. More recently it was a heartland of the Pictish culture who also left us a bewildering array of archaeological ruins for us to study. It has always been fairly densely populated, compared to the Highlands anyway, as such there are a number of Castles from different periods and even the ruins of an ancient Roman fort and garrison in the area. The countryside is stunning, there are so many hills to climb, forests to explore, rivers to fish and not to mention rare phenomena like the northern lights and salmon runs. No matter where you go, Aberdeenshire and Moray are absolutely stunning, it is so hard to go wrong with so much natural beauty everywhere. Getting here is easy, just follow this post.
Here is a rundown of some must-see sights within a short drive of Aberdeen.
Newburgh Beach is a beautiful nature reserve some twenty minutes drive north of Aberdeen. It is part of the Ythan river estuary and hosts a large colony of seals, along with eider ducks and oyster catchers. It is a great place for a picnic or just to grab a few pictures and mellow out by the sea. Just to the north are the Forvie Sands, a large expanse of sand dunes, perfect for rolling around, having some fun exploring or just appreciating the beauty. Look out for dolphins too! Getting there involves taking a bus from the Aberdeen bus station. Just ask at the information desk which service is running on the day as the route is served by an hourly bus from the Stagecoach company.
Find out more here.
Balmedie Beach is a huge expanse of rare ‘Links’ ecosystem and sand dunes, approximately half an hours drive from Aberdeen northwards. The beach is a favourite for day trips out of the city and in summer it is where the locals come to hang out, picnic, go for a swim or mess around on the dunes. It is rugged and beautiful and there are several WWII era bunkers hidden amongst the towering dunes. Getting there involves taking the Stagecoach north out of the city from the main terminus at the train station. Ask at the counter which bus to take to Balmedie and walk down from the village to the beach.
See more here.
Dunnotar is an incredibly picturesque castle, set upon a small peninsula atop a crumbling escarpment of cliffs. It dates to the 15th-16th century though the area was fortified in the middle ages. It really is a must-see, the view from the mainland is incredible, as is the beach and surrounding cliffs. Get there by taking either a bus or a train from Aberdeen central station to Stonehaven, itself a nice little fishing village and then walk along the coast on the delineated path, all the way to the castle approximately 45 minutes away by foot. You may explore the ruins by paying a fee at the entrance of the castle, it is around 10GBP for entry.
For more info click here.
Glen Tanar is one of the most beautiful valleys in the area, covering a vast swath of land on the fringes of the Cairngorm national park. From heather moorland to the idyllic banks of the river Dee, the Glen Tanar estate has a lot to offer. There is a tourist centre at the entrance of the estate, where you can pick up a map before heading off into the wilderness. Scottish nature at its best, check out the Estate’s website for a list of activities and the best way to get there.
Book a fishing trip here.
Cruden Bay Golf Course is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the North-East, set in the tiny fishing village of Cruden Bay. With an expansive view of the sea, with ‘Links’ all around, the fee of 110GBP is not cheap but well worth it. It truly deserves its reputation as the 69th best course in the world stemming from an American publication and 29th in a British one. It is claimed to be the most fun course in the British Isles. The village is lovely so do linger, or visit the ruins of Slain’s Castle, not far up the coast. Bram Stoker stayed here while writing Dracula and is said to have been partially inspired by the local scenery. Pretty dramatic, that it is, Vampire infested, it is not. The bus number 63 leaves from Peterhead regularly and services Cruden Bay. Peterhead can be reached from Aberdeen by Stagecoach bus leaving from the Central station.
Reserve a tee-time by clicking here.
The Braemar Gathering is one of the finest examples of the tradition of the Highland Games, which is a multi-discipline competition in traditional Scottish cultural activities. Athletes compete in insane hill-climb runs, tossing huge trees called cabers as far as possible and Highland dancing amongst many others. It is all set in the quaint setting of Braemar, in the Cairngorms National park, with loads to do for non-competitors with a fun carnival atmosphere. If you want a closer look at Scottish culture, this is a good place. It is on once a year only though so you will need to plan carefully. Braemar is pretty much the focal point of the local UNESCO dark sky spot so hang around, you may catch the Aurora Borealis or at the very least a beautiful starry sky.
For the latest information click here.
Crathes Castle, near Banchory is a required stop as it features a fantastic museum and gardens all set amidst one of the most beautiful estates in the area. It dates from the 16th century when it was built by the Burnett family, who kept it in their hands for almost 500 years. Recently the worlds oldest lunar calendar was found on the grounds, pre-dating Mesopotamian examples by 5000 years at 10000 years old. Thats history for your dollar right there. Getting there is easy by taking a number 201, 202 or 203 bus from Aberdeen station to Banchory and getting a taxi or walking from there. Renting a bicycle at Banchory is a good idea too. There is a rental shop right at the entrance of the town on the North Deeside Road.
To find out more about the castle and arrange a visit to the museum click here.
Also near Banchory are the ‘Earns of Feugh’ or the Falls of Feugh, an absolutely gorgeous scenic stop where in season one can observe salmon struggling to make their way up and empathise with them while you sit comfortably eating ice cream from the epic Mackies ice cream shop in Banchory. In autumn the colours are spectacular and I advise you to get off the road, down next to the water and chill on a nice rock while listening to the rushing water. The Water of Feugh is the biggest tributary of the Dee River so depending on season there can be a lot of water however, even in summer temperatures barely reach 14 degrees celsius. Swimming in the whitewater is extremely dangerous and I recommend you follow the river down to a quiet spot, perhaps even as far as the Dee if you want to experience Scottish spring water shock therapy. Afterwards hike up the Scolty hill, a nearby vantage point with a cool tower above with fantastic views of the whole area. To get there go to Banchory as directed above, then cross the Dee bridge following the brown heritage signs for the falls.
I hope you enjoy a trip to the shire and keep your eye on this page for the next update, about the Speyside and its many beauties. If you need any more info on Aberdeenshire, make sure to check out:
Featured image by Mike Gibson via Flickr