City of Granite Roses
Aberdeen, Scotland’s third largest city and Europe’s offshore oil capital, is the regional capital of the Grampian Highlands in the north east of Scotland. Widely known as the ‘Granite City’, the austerity of the grey stone is softened by year round floral displays in the public parks and gardens, the Duthie Park Winter Gardens being the largest in Europe.
Aberdeen is a prosperous and confident city, clasped between the two famous salmon rivers, the Don and the Dee, and is renowned for its rich cultural heritage as well as a host of modern attractions. St Machar’s Cathedral, founded in the 6th century, and one of the oldest granite buildings in the city, can be found in Old Aberdeen. This once independent burgh and tranquil district with cobbled streets and lamp-lit academic houses surrounding the cathedral, is also home to Aberdeen’s first university, King’s College.
Much of historic Aberdeen remains, although most of it’s imposing city centre dates only from the 19th century, with the building of Union Street, its main thoroughfare. This die-straight street is bordered by beautiful granite buildings, the most impressive being the Music Hall, and skirts the churchyard of St Nicholas, Aberdeen’s ‘mither kirk’ and Scotland’s largest parish church.
Union Street terminates in the Castlegate, a medieval square, it’s centrepiece being the 17th century Mercat Cross with its white marble unicorn (the emblem of the kingdom of Scotland), gargoyles and medallion heads of the Stuart monarchs, making it one of the most beautiful market crosses in Scotland. Standing just off Union Street is Marischal College, part of the ancient University of Aberdeen and the second largest granite building in the world. Its neo-Gothic facade is an extraordinary fretwork of pinnacles and gilt flags, unusually elaborate for a granite building.
Aberdeen is fortunate in having excellent museums displaying its rich cultural heritage, and an impressive art gallery with a fine collection of European paintings and also Scottish contemporary works. Provost Skene’s House is the oldest ‘town house’ in this compact city, and the city’s long and fascinating relationship with the sea is recalled in the Maritime Museum. The city has a number of lively theatres, offers a succession of festivals and games, and confidently promotes itself as Scotland’s largest holiday resort, with 2 miles of clean sandy beach, and a leisure centre.
The city has plenty to hold the visitor’s attraction, though right on Aberdeen’s doorstep is a vast tapestry of attractions. West of Aberdeen, in a magical world of heather moorland, rolling hills and densely wooded valleys, lies a staggering number of castles and ancient strongholds, the most famous being Balmoral, the summer home of the Royal Family.
Images of Balmoral Castle, Crathie Church, and the Braemar Highland Gathering are known world over, and you can follow in the footsteps of the Royal family past and present by taking the Victorian Heritage Trail. It was Queen Victoria who wrote ‘the scenery all around is the finest almost I have seen anywhere’ we are certainly in the finest part of the Highlands. You can walk forever, and the wildness, the solitariness of everything is so delightful, so refreshing’. This regal area has an abundance of stone circles and castles to discover, including Castle Fraser, Drum Castle, Crathes Castle, Braemar Castle and Craigievar Castle, and other fine castles and great houses which are part of Scotland’s Castle Trail. Their fairy tale spires, rugged ruins, and gardens are set against the backdrop of the commanding Grampian Mountains.
To the south of Aberdeen, beyond the delightful fishing port-turned-seaside-resort of Stonehaven, are the ruins of Dunnottar Castle, standing on a steep rocky outcrop. The stretch of road is an exhilarating run along cliff tops. The dramatic coastal scenery can be further enjoyed travelling north following the Coastal Trail. Hugging the coastline, you’ll find gusty, spectacular seascapes, rich seabird and marine life, and the enduring fascination of working harbours, fish markets, and museums dedicated to maritime history. The bustling harbours of Peterhead and Fraserburgh in the north eastern corner of Aberdeenshire, were Europe’s busiest fishing harbours, and now berth the North Sea oil supply vessels.
Following the coast westwards, along miles of red sandstone cliffs that spill down to fine sandy beaches, is the former Pictish province of Moray. This province extends south into the Cairngorm Mountains offering some of the grandest landscapes in Scotland. At the heart of Moray flows the River Spey, Scotland’s fastest flowing river, famed among salmon anglers.
The unpolluted waters are also favoured by the producers of malt whisky, for half of all Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are to be found in the surrounding glens. There are seven malt whisky distilleries in and around Spey Valley which are part of Scotland’s Whisky Trail. The Glenlivet Distillery, the first distillery to be licensed in Scotland, as well as Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Glen Grant and others all have excellent visitor centres and offer a ‘wee dram’ at the end of their tours.
The North East has attracted discerning tourists who enjoy pure air, timeless mountain and coastal scenery, a sense of freedom and tranquillity. As Scotland’s Castle and Whisky country, it is an area well worth discovering, or for the malt whisky tipplers, should that be sampling!
Flybe scheduled flights, operated by Loganair Ltd, link Aberdeen with Orkney and Shetland. For full flight details see Flight Information.
Useful InformationAberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board
27 Albyn Place
Tel: +44 (0) 1224 288828
Fax: +44 (0) 1224 581367
Email: [email protected]
For Aberdeen Airport Information click here