EXPLORING ABERDEENSHIRE WITH VISIT SCOTLAND
Scotland, whilst on my doorstep (admittedly, a far away doorstep in terms of the UK) is somewhere that I really haven't spent much time exploring. Not out of not-wanting but I've always favoured destinations further away to get my travel fix. That said, the weather is looking up now that summer's making a guest appearance and I'm making it my mission to explore more of my own beautiful nation. If I could spend every day exploring each nook and cranny of the UK, I would - we're so spoilt and yet many of us, so oblivious as to what's right in front of our eyes.
So when I was approached by the lovely Visit Scotland & Visit Aberdeenshire teams to see a part of Scotland I'd never been to before, namely Aberdeenshire, I thought it would be the perfect starting point to get exploring. This post was in collaboration with them and I hope that it will make you consider exploring more of the UK, and in particular, Scotland should you get the chance to this year.
G E T T I N G T H E R E
Our transportation method of choice to reach Aberdeen was by train. Admittedly, it takes a long time (approximately 7 hours or so) but I'm one of the unusual breeds that really love a long journey. To sit in one place for longer than a couple of hours is actually so rare to me so I really relished the opportunity to effectively spend a working day on the train. We zoomed up the country in style, thanks to Virgin Trains First Class which I'd really recommend (if you book far enough in advance, tickets aren't that costly). We had working wifi, a lunch service and more bottles of water than we really needed so I set up the "office" in my seat and battled an out of control inbox. The seven hours completely flew by (I secretly wished it was a little bit longer in truth) and before we knew it we were arriving into Aberdeen station around 6pm. It's also a rather scenic route that the train takes, so if you like to have a slice of scenery with your travel, then the train is a great option.
As I said above, I'd always recommend booking way in advance if you can with your train tickets and if you're not keen on flying then this is the route for you.
Browse Virgin Trains website and book here: www.virgintrains.co.uk
E A T A T : M O O N F I S H C A F E
Truly a gem of a restaurant in Aberdeen city centre, I can't recommend a visit to Moonfish Cafe enough. In London, we're spoilt for choice when it comes to great restaurants so we expect the same wherever we go. That's obviously not always the case, so when you find somewhere that's really special in the area you're always super pleased with yourselves for finding it. Moonfish Cafe is one of those places.
Located on a little medieval street within the Merchant Quarter, Moonfish Cafe was genuinely one of the most delicious meals I'd had this year so far. A modern British menu with dishes made from local, seasonal produce and a great cocktail list too! We arrived early after being quite ravenous from a long day of travelling and left a packed out restaurant, feeling full to the brim and completely happy. Goes without saying, if you're visiting Aberdeen, you must book a reservation here - it's not a huge restaurant so will inevitably get filled up quickly!
E X P L O R I N G A B E R D E E N
I'll be honest, the centre of Aberdeen isn't somewhere we chose to spend a lot of time. A high street is a high street no matter where you go. There were however other parts to Aberdeen that were worth the visit. The first being Aberdeen Beach, which we visited on our first full day in Aberdeen. A little on the fresh and windy side, we didn't stick around long but were told in summer, the beach is heaving.
O L D A B E R D E E N
Another part to visit is Old Aberdeen which is situated north of the city centre and easily reachable by the bus.
Cobbled streets, St Machar's Cathedral and The Powis Gates all make sure you're transported back in time. It's also the home of the Old Aberdeen Campus, part of University of Aberdeen so expect to see plenty of students during term time (or none at all when it's not). If you make a visit, be sure to pop into the library (which you can do as a non-student for free) and go to the top. A must for architecture lovers.
F O O T D E E
Known by the locals as “Fittie” (and pronounced that way too), Footdee is an old fishing village at the east end of the harbour. Footdee was built in order to re-house Aberdeen’s local fishing community back in the 19th century and walking around the area today, you still feel that same community vibe. The houses are colourful, artistically painted and some are full to the brim with novelty gnomes and other “props” - it’s nothing like you’ll see anywhere else, so a must for your trip - even if only for a walk through.
L U N C H A T F O O D S T O R Y C A F E
Our last destination in Aberdeen before we left for the coast was Foodstory Cafe for a light lunch. Mismatched inside with a counter-order system, Foodstory Cafe is a hugely popular vegetarian restaurant with the most delicious food. The lentil Dahl was a total winner in my eyes and each salad is prepared fresh on the day. Your best seats are by the windows - chances are you’ll have to wait a while (there’s no reservations) but table turnover is fairly quick so it’s not too bad. Don’t leave without grabbing a chocolate brownie too - essential road trip fodder, of course.
C R A I G I E V A R C A S T L E
One of the most magical castles my eyes have laid sight upon is Craigievar Castle. If you follow me on instagram you will no doubt have seen a fair few posts of it already! It looks straight out of a Disney film (it's even been said it was the inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella's Castle!) with it’s candy floss pink exterior and magical turrets, we spent far too long just in the grounds just taking the castle in. You can also go inside for a small charge - it houses a personal art collection which is worth a look. Completed in the 17th century, it's one of the best preserved castles in Scotland and well worth a visit whilst you're in the area.
For opening times and extra details, visit here.
T H E B E A C H A P A R T M E N T
If you’re visiting Aberdeenshire and want a base for exploring the area, then you HAVE to stay at The Beach Apartment! One of our favourite parts to the trip was discovering this cosy, beautiful apartment (which we’d rather have liked to have back home in London truth be told). First of all, it’s situated above Aunty Betty's - the most amazing sweet & ice cream shop (and yes, we did go down for ice cream at 10pm on a Saturday night in our pyjamas) and secondly, it’s just a really homely nest that has everything you need for a whole week of just holing up and never leaving. The decor might not be to everyone’s taste but we loved it - from the blush pink linen to the fluffy sofa throws that we curled up in whilst we watched the tv at night. It was a place to get some real relaxation done in. I wish I'd been staying for a week - there was nothing I loved more than sitting on the sofa gazing out the window at the sea, especially in stormy weather. I really recommend a stay here and I guarantee you will not want to leave.
S T O N E H A V E N
A short but pleasant 30 minute drive out of Aberdeen will find you in the harbour town of Stonehaven. As we did this trip over a weekend (and crammed an awful lot in), we didn’t have a lot of free time to roam freely but chose Stonehaven as our base for the final day. After fitting in a lot on the Saturday, we had an early supper at The Ship Inn - a no fuss kind of pub which suited us both perfectly (order the fish & chips!) before we went on home to retreat on the sofa. Website here.
D U N N O T T A R C A S T L E
Our final destination on our trip was Dunnottar Castle, a short drive away from the apartment and Stonehaven. The “fort on the shelving slope” is a ruined medieval fortress situated on the north east coast, surrounded by very steep and very scary cliffs that drop straight down to the North Sea. As we had to leave in good time to drive back to Aberdeen for our train, we didn’t have enough time to go inside the castle but admiring it from afar was good enough in our books. For anyone that wants to be transported in a Game of Thrones set, Dunnottar is the place for you.
This post was made in collaboration with Visit Scotland however as always, all words are my own. Thank you to Visit Scotland and everyone involved for a really wonderful trip.