Aberdeen local, Fraser Gill, gives the rundown on the best things to see in Aberdeen…if you love the great outdoors.
Aberdeen is known for a lot of things, such as being the oil capital of Europe and having a great football team (in the 80s, I may add), but not so much for the stunning range of spectacles it has to offer.
There is a wide variety of places to see in Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland, from the castle ruins enriched with royal history to the tall Munros in the mountainous countryside. It’s almost impossible to whittle it down for fear of missing things out.
However, to help you choose, I’ve put together the top six attractions that I think you should check out when in Aberdeen. And, all these places and things to see in Aberdeen are only in the great outdoors. Get ready for a breath of fresh air.
For our first attraction, we are heading to one of the best places to see near Aberdeen. We’ll journey south of Aberdeen, near Stonehaven, to the jaw-dropping castle ruins of Dunnottar.
Standing high above the North Sea, Dunnottar castle is a real spectacle and one of Aberdeenshire’s most cherished viewpoints. The Medieval Castle is enriched with history, being attacked by Vikings, visited by Mary Queen of Scots, and the Scottish crown jewels were even hidden within the castle.
Dunnottar’s influence isn’t lost in the past either, with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy filming parts of the movie Frankenstein at the castle. In addition, it has even been said to have inspired Disney’s Brave. Now that will go down well with the kids (or adults) in the family!
The castle is easily accessible with a car park nearby. It is just a short walk inland and down some steps then you have arrived! Prepare for a photographer’s paradise and a wonderful day out.
Donated by Miss Duthie in the 1880s, our next attraction Duthie Park is situated just south of Aberdeen city centre. The looping circuit within the 44-acre park makes it a great spot for runners, cyclists, and dog walkers.
Duthie Park is well equipped to keep everyone in the family entertained, which is why it is loved by the locals and visitors. The park is home to one of Europe’s largest indoor gardens, the ‘David Welsh Gardens’. The gardens are a floral paradise bolstering rare and exotic plants, the largest collection of cacti in Britain, and even a talking cactus! This explains why the gardens are the third most visited in Scotland.
The park has recently undergone extensive restoration, which has brought back to life the Victorian features, namely the bandstand, fountains, and statues.
To keep the kids entertained, Duthie Park has an astroturf and 2 play areas. The play areas aren’t just any play areas, and they were voted the best play space in Scotland in 2013 by the Nancy Ovens Trust, exciting stuff!
Next on our list of things to see in Aberdeen is something a little more adventurous. Lochnagar is one of Scotland’s taller Munros and can be found near Ballater within the Balmoral estate.
This is a personal favourite of mine, the round trip is around 11 miles/17.5km and will take roughly 6-7 hours, but it’s 100% worth it!
The journey starts from the Balmoral Estate visitor centre car park where you then walk inland, from there following the path up the Munro, keep an eye out for some awesome wildlife as it’s a breeding ground for golden eagles. The hike is one of the best things to do near Aberdeen if you love wildlife.
The true summit of Lochnagar is ‘Cac Carn Beag’ (Gaelic) which provides some astonishing views over Deeside and the Cairngorms.
The sights don’t stop there!
Coming down the Munro will give you the chance to look over the epic Loch Muick. The loch is the region’s most famous and probably deserves a place on this list itself. You will also pass ‘Glas-allt Shiel’, a hunting lodge made for queen Victoria in 1868, another piece of royal history hidden away in Aberdeenshire.
Slains Castle (Bullers of Buchan)
Forgive me for putting another castle on the list, but with Aberdeenshire having the most castles per acre in the whole of the British isles (263 in total), it was too tempting. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Stood up on the edge of the rocky cliffs near Cruden Bay is the spooky ruin of Slains Castle. Slains Castle has an eerie feel to it, so I’m not surprised that it’s said Bram Stoker conceived the idea for Count Dracula after visiting the site. Its presence doesn’t stop there; for all the ‘Crown’ fans out there, it was used as the Castle of Mey in season one of the show. Slains Castle is one of the most atmospheric places to see near Aberdeen.
The castle ruins are free to investigate and explore to get a feel for what it would be like to be in Dracula’s mansion. I highly recommend continuing your walk to see the Bullers of Buchan; the walk will provide some beautiful views of the rocky scenery and the North Sea.
It is worth noting that the castle is located near cliff edges, so please be careful and keep away from the edge!
The distinct shape of Bennachie, coupled with it being surrounded by relatively flat ground, makes it easily one of Aberdeenshire’s most recognisable landmarks.
There is a range of trails varying from gentle routes through the woodland to more challenging treks through the open country. As cliche as it sounds, there is something for everyone.
The Beachie visitors centre is the perfect place to start your journey. It also gives you a chance to learn about the history and wide variety of wildlife the hill boasts. You are guaranteed to see some red squirrels when exploring!
The true summit Oxen Craig is 528m tall. However, the most popular summit carved out of granite stone is Mither Tap (518m). To give you a polite idea of the shape of the Mither tap, Benachie derives from the Gaelic term ‘Beinn na Ciche’, which means ‘Hill of the Breast’.
To climb up and down Mithers tap starting from the visitors centre I would give yourself around 2 hours, plus as long as you want to admire the view at the top.
Aberdeen City Beach
The list wouldn’t be complete without including one of the North East’s famous beaches. I’ve picked Aberdeen city beach as it’s the whole package for an action-packed day out.
I should mention there are plenty of beaches worth a visit within Aberdeenshire. Some of my favourites are Stonehaven Beach, Balmedie Beach, and the hidden gem Hackley Bay.
Aberdeen City Beach is located just a stone’s throw away from the city centre. The beach is perfect for going on scenic walks, picnics, and water sports! And with the esplanade measuring around 3 miles makes it a go-to spot for runners and dog walkers.
But we are not done there.
Lined up on the beachfront are a number of cafes, restaurants, and even a funfair. A short walk from the beachfront will land you at the cinema, and you can find out what’s showing HERE. Not to mention, the mighty Pittodrie (Aberdeen’s football stadium) is as close to the sea as football stadiums get. Whether you are a beach or football lover, visiting Aberdeen City Beach is one of the best things to do around Aberdeen.
There we have it. I have tried my best to pack all that Aberdeen’s great outdoors has to offer into this action-packed list of things to see in Aberdeen.
There is something for everyone, whether you fancy getting a feel for being trapped in Dracula’s mansion or having a casual chat with the talking cactus at Duthie Park. Aberdeen has loads to offer, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
By Fraser Gill
Fraser Gill is a UK freelance writer specialising in content related to travel, lifestyle, health, and fitness. He is a Business Graduate currently based in Aberdeen, with a genuine love for writing and wanting to provide value for his readers.
You can contact Fraser directly at: email@example.com