Recently finding out about some Scottish blood I have while working on genealogy has made me increasingly interested in my ancestors’ homeland. In researching one of the towns of my ancestral origin, I discovered that there are some great attractions in Aberdeen (in the area of Aberdeenshire), Scotland, and the more I researched, the more it made me want to travel there!
Aberdeen in northeast Scotland borders the North Sea and one of its natural attributes is the Dee River. In the native tongue of different Celtic groups, “aber” meant river, so the name Aberdeen signifies the city was located at the river Dee. Aberdeen is a bustling modern city whose restaurants and shopping districts make it desirable to tourists of all walks of life, but to find the quiet country life you’d expect in bucolic Scotland, you’ll have to think outside the box.
Trek outside of town and explore Aberdeenshire until you discover the distinctive Castle Fraser. A bit more modern than other castles, it’s a 16th and 17th century monument to Scotland’s nobility. The interior will make even the most stoic visitor’s mouth drop; it isn’t all gild and lace as many castles are, but it’s enough to make you wish you lived a few centuries ago! Old paintings and furniture have been carefully set up to give a feel of the past, and Castle Fraser even boasts its own hidden rooms!
If your mind is still trying to contemplate the beauty of this lovely castle, perhaps another castle tour is what you’re craving. Try visiting Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire for another historical treat. Craigievar is a tall and slender castle with narrow turrets, and its appearance gives it an ominous and mysterious air. Built in the 1620s, there are more rooms and artifacts here than it seems could be fit inside the narrow space!
If you’re interested in life on the North Sea, trek back into town for the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. You can find ships, interpretive displays, and lots of fascinating imagery here that you might not expect. The building incorporates medieval-style architecture, resembling a Gothic cathedral facade in many ways. Also on the property you’ll find the Provost’s house, dating from the Elizabethan age of the 1590s. The museum has been held in high standing by many sources. For an extra special treat, note that the harbor can be seen from an observation point. Admission is free.
For an even more close up glimpse of Aberdeen and the sea, take a walk around Aberdeen Harbor. Those with reservations might plan to come here looking for a ferry that takes tourists to the islands of Orkney and Shetland. Although the district surrounding the waterfront is modern, some things (such as fish markets) have little changed since the Victorian era.
Castlegate is Aberdeen’s old residential area, a chance to escape modern surroundings and step back in time. Visit St. Andrew’s Chapel for a reverent glimpse of Episcopal worship in the 19th century. The church was begun in 1816. Stop in and see the interior arches that are simple yet beautiful. King’s College is one of the oldest if not the oldest buildings in Castlegate, founded in 1495. The college chapel was constructed in the first year of the 16th century and the estate can still be seen in all its old glory today. Walking through Castlegate is a good way to go if you want to be close to modern comforts but still be distanced from the bustle of the downtown.
Do you wish to experience the jaw-dropping exhilaration of the Grand Canyon without having to return to the United States? The Bullers of Buchan will satisfy your daredevil longing. Stand at the edge of the gorge and look down over the plunge of about 200 feet – if you dare. The gigantic rock fingers far below jut into the sea, making a fantastic view you won’t see anywhere else. Standing here and watching the waves crash against the ancient rocks can be either terrifying or relaxing, depending on your like or dislike of heights!
There’s much more to see and do in Aberdeen, but then again, the entire country of Scotland is a fabulous tourist destination; don’t be afraid to look around. Good luck, and Slainte mhor agad! (Scottish Gaelic for “Great health to you!”)