Aberdeen, with its miles of sandy beaches, was once one of Scotland’s largest seaside resorts. The harbor is the heart of the city. Founded in the early 12th century, Aberdeen quickly grew into a major port because of its access to the Continent. It had a flourishing trade in wool, fish, and the scholars from its two universities. St. Nachar’s Cathedral, with its arresting twin towers, dates from 1520.
Aberdeen is a combination of two Pictish-Gaelic words: aber and devana, meaning the meeting of two waters. First the Romans came and bothered the locals. After Aberdeen had become an important trading port, it was raided by the Vikings. Aberdeen absorbed them all.
The third largest city in Scotland, Aberdeen is 120 miles NE of Edinburgh on the banks of the rivers Dee and Don, right in the middle of the NE coast. Union Street is the city’s main thoroughfare. The oldest area is Castlegate—it’s at the eastern end of town where the castle once stood.
Captured by Robert the Bruce from the English, the castle’s secret password during times of intrigue was “Bon Accord.” Today that is Aberdeen’s motto. When Aberdeen supported Robert the Bruce, the king set up a fund that financially supports the city for museums, galleries, artifacts and art to this day.
Aberdeen is a fine place to have a kilt hand-made in the time-honored tradition. You can also see foreign films at the top-rated Belmont Theatre. For shows, plays, musicals, dance, opera, and mimes, head to His Majesty’s Theatre. If you’re looking for a large classical concert, the Music Hall is for you.
For spirits of both sorts slip into Blackfriar’s Pub. Located in the city center, it dates from the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. There’s a selection of cask beer, it’s family-friendly, and in its own words, it serves up, “Centuries of history for the price of a pint.” Another unique bar is Slains Castle. It occupies a former church and takes its name from the famous ruins up the coast near Cruden Bay.
Aberdeen has some of the most beautiful gardens in Britain. As a matter of fact, the city was once banned from entering floral competitions because it won too often! Due to the granite hills surrounding Aberdeen, much of the building material is granite and various shades of gray. It makes a striking cityscape, although somewhat foreboding, but it is softened by year-long floral displays.
Aberdeen’s harbor is a lovely sight from the village of Footdee at the southern end of the city’s 2-mile beach. The city boasts 45 parks, and if a cold breeze comes up, tuck yourself into the warmth of the winter gardens in Guthrie Park, one of Europe’s largest, covered gardens. The Aberdeen Art Gallery on Schoolhill has an outstanding collection of 18th – 20th paintings, and the Maritime Museum charts the nautical world from ship-building to shipwrecks.
Since medieval times, the area of Aberdeenshire, and its neighbor, Moray, have been the richest and most fertile are of the Highlands. It is famed for Angus beef, fine castles and the prosperous port of Aberdeen.
Its location makes side trips a breeze. Royal Deeside is an easy trip to the west, Dunottar Castle is just to the south, sandy beaches spread along the north, and whisky country is just to the northwest. What could be better!