Fun Things to Do in Aberdeenshire
From getting into nature to sampling the best of Scottish cuisine, Aberdeenshire is a vast region brimming with things to do.
At 6,000 sq km, Aberdeenshire is Scotland’s fourth largest region. Mostly untouched by tourism, the county is bursting with things to see and do. Whether you’re into outdoor adventures, discovering history, embracing Scottish culture, or trying out local food, Aberdeenshire has it all.
Don’t know where to begin? Lucky for you, here at Plum Guide we’re experts in travel and accommodation. We’ve put together a guide to the best things to do in Aberdeenshire.
Have an adventure in Cairngorms National Park
Lovers of the outdoors won’t want to miss a trip to the Cairngorms. At 4,528 sq km, it’s Britain’s largest National Park, and one of the best places to visit in Scotland. Whether you’re a keen hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or prefer to relax by the shores of a loch, there’s something for everyone.
Getting active? If you’re a keen walker or cyclist, there are numerous routes that range from easy to challenging. Fancy a bit more of a challenge? Take on a Munro - Scottish mountains that are at least 914m high. Not for the faint hearted.
With clean rivers and sparkling lochs, there’s also no better place for water sports than the Cairngorms. Whether it’s fishing, sailing, windsurfing, paddlesports, rafting or swimming, you can do it all here. You’ll find water sports centres accessible from towns and villages around the Park. Prefer snow sports? Forget skiing in Switzerland or Austria - the Cairngorms National Park is where it’s at. The Park is home to three ski centres - CairnGorm Mountain, Glenshee and The Lecht.
The Park is home to some of the most unique animals and plants in Britain. Holding one quarter of Scotland’s native forest, spot the likes of red squirrels, osprey, red deer, golden eagles and the elusive capercaillie. All that’s missing is the Attenborough voiceover.
After all this outdoor activity, why not relax in the splendour of our home The Legacy of Tartan, set in the tranquil surroundings of the National Park. This fairytale castle has its own Victorian walled garden and as the name suggests, plenty of tartan.
Explore ancient castles
With more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, it’s no surprise that Aberdeenshire is known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’. There are over 260 castles, stately homes and ruins spread round the region. For obvious reasons, we’re not going to name all of them.
Each castle offers something different, whether it’s the famous Balmoral Castle, the 17th century Gothic Braemar Castle, or the pink fairytale Craigievar Castle. Most of the castles are open to visitors during certain months only, so it’s worth checking before you visit.
Naturally, a few of these have made the cut and passed our expert’s vigorous test. One of our favourites is A Hillside Fable. This stunning castle has panoramic views of wild natural beauty. Relax like a royal in traditional four poster beds and find solitude in the private chapel.
For hardcore castle fans (is that a thing?), we recommend taking the Castle Trail which takes you round 19 of the most famous and dramatic castles. Check out this six day itinerary by Visit Scotland.
Have a city break in Aberdeen
One of the best things to do in Aberdeenshire is to visit the county’s capital itself. As Scotland’s third largest city, there is a wealth of things to do in Aberdeen.
Take a stroll back in time at Old Aberdeen, the city’s old quarter. It’s packed with imposing buildings (notice the granite in the architecture), artisan coffee shops and the University of Aberdeen’s magnificent campus. For more history, one thing you shouldn’t miss is a wander down to Footdee (known locally as ‘fittie’) at the east end of the harbour. This former fishing village is dripping with 19th century charm, cobbled lanes and chocolate box cottages. Make sure you stop for fresh seafood.
Speaking of the sea, if you’re looking for something unique to do, how does dolphin spotting sound? Head down to the harbour and hop aboard a cruise to get up close and personal with these creatures. While Scotland might not seem like a seaside destination, Aberdeen Beach has actually received the Resort Seaside Award. There are plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy, from sports to shopping.
Culture vultures will be in their element here, as the city is home to plenty of theatres and galleries. To catch a show, some of the best theatres in town are His Majesty’s Theatre, Tivoli and Music Hall. Or you could even catch an independent film at the Belmont Filmhouse. You won’t run out museums to visit either. There’s the Maritime Museum which is great for all ages, as well as Aberdeen Art Gallery where you can find Monet and Renoir.
Indulge in foodie experiences
While Edinburgh might be known for its culinary offerings – food certainly features very regularly on our Edinburgh 3 day itinerary – in Aberdeenshire, you'll find some of the freshest Scottish fare around. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a gourmand (or just enjoy stuffing your face - we don’t judge), a food tour of the county should be high on your list of things to do in Aberdeenshire.
Being located on the coast can only mean one thing - the seafood in Aberdeenshire is second to none. Fraserburgh is Europe’s largest shellfish seaport and Peterhead is the largest whitefish seaport. Aberdeenshire also has well-stocked rivers with some of the best salmon and trout in the world.
Naturally, with such heritage and wealth of stock available, Aberdeenshire is home to eight restaurants that are featured in the Michelin Guide, from The Silver Darling in Aberdeen to The Fife Arms in Braemar.
Interested in learning where your food comes from? Surrounded by endless countryside, Aberdeenshire is filled with farms producing fresh ingredients. Meet the world-famous Highland cows at the Aberdeenshire Highland Beef Experience. Taste some local produce at a farm shop, such as the one at Finzean Estate.
If you’re more interested in alcohol (did we mention we read minds here?), then there is plenty to drink in. Learn the secrets of Scotland’s ancient art of whisky production at the many distilleries around the region. More of a gin fan? Make sure to visit one of the distilleries for a tour. If you prefer to skip the spirits and kick back with a craft beer, you can’t miss a visit to BrewDog’s company headquarters.