The north east of Scotland is famous for many things: majestic castles, vibrant wildlife, top-notch whisky, and much more. If you want to discover Aberdeen and the surrounding country for yourself, take a look at our special holiday itineraries for ideas and inspiration.
Having been fully refurbished in 2013, the Chester Hotel is a fresh-faced luxury destination which has a whole host of fantastic facilities at its fingertips. There are 50 guest rooms and two suites in the hotel, all of which were designed by Aberdeen interior designers ‘Ambience’. Also, beauty buffs won’t want to miss out on the IX Beauty parlour. Their tanning, nail care, body treatments and skin care are ideal for anyone who wants a bit of pampering during their stay.
A twenty-five minute bus ride away from the hotel is the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, one of the city’s top tourist attractions. It is the only place in the UK to have displays on the North Sea oil and gas industry, which is so crucial to Aberdeen’s economy. There are also exhibits on shipbuilding, fishing and port history, as well as a stunning view of the harbour.
Another brilliant museum, the Gordon Highlanders Museum, is another twenty minute bus ride away. This is Aberdeen’s only five-star attraction, making it a cut above the competition. It tells the story of one of Scotland’s leading regiments, once named as the “finest regiment in the world” by Winston Churchill. There are artefacts from all over the world, and information on the many and varied conflicts the regiment has fought in.
Before returning to your hotel, why not grab dinner at the trendy Fusion Bar and Bistro? Easily accessible by bus, the bistro offers a relaxed, contemporary atmosphere as well as carefully prepared modern dishes, such as salt hake fillet and BBQ pig cheek. The menu changes monthly, to make sure that ingredients are as fresh and local as possible.
If you want a taste of rugged medieval splendour, take a trip to Dunnottar Castle, which was used as a location in the 1990 film of Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson. It is part of a dramatic landscape of sheer cliffs and churning seas, with many sea birds living among the rocks. You can explore the ruins of the castle on its clifftop, and enjoy panoramic views of the North Sea.
The fishing town of Stonehaven is a five minute drive from the castle, and is an excellent starting off point to discover the local wildlife. There are boat trips from the harbour which let you see the Scottish bird life up close and personal, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills.
Stonehaven is also home to The Carron, which was first used as a restaurant in 1937. The Art Deco design is down to Jack Morrison, a Stonehaven businessman. The atmosphere in the restaurant is really special, thanks to the five hundred light bulbs and thousands of glinting glass tiles. The chef believes in using local produce, and so spends a lot of time visiting local suppliers.
After your meal, you can retire to Bayview Bed and Breakfast, which is only five minutes’ walk away from the restaurant. Each room is individually designed, and has an incredible view of the beach. After a good night’s sleep, you can indulge in a full Scottish breakfast using organic, fair trade produce, or a lighter continental option.
Royal Deeside is home to one of the most famous castles in the UK, the royal family’s own holiday home, Balmoral. During the summer, visitors can come to Balmoral to explore its gardens, and learn about its history from special exhibitions. The Pipers Hall Café is also provided for visitors, as is the castle gift shop. The audio tour of the grounds and exhibitions is an ideal way of learning about the story of Balmoral, and will reveal details about the lives of Queen Victoira, Prince Albert and others.
Ten minutes by car, or thirty minutes by bus from Balmoral is Braemar Lodge Hotel, which is a characterful country house hotel with an award-winning chef. All the meat prepared in the restaurant kitchens is Scottish in origin, and cooked to perfection. There is also a cosy whisky bar, adorned with sporting trophies and warmed by a log fire. The rooms are furnished with old-fashioned furniture and inviting tartan fabrics.
After lunch at the hotel, you need only take a fifteen minute walk to reach another excellent attraction. Braemar Castle, built in 1628, has a fascinating history which you can discover for yourself during the summer months. It was built as a hunting lodge and was involved in the Jacobite rebellions of the 17th and 18th centuries.
For fans of Scotland’s national drink, Craigellachie Hotel is an ideal base of operations. Glenfiddich Distillery is only ten minutes’ bus ride away, and Strathisla Distillery is just 20 minutes away by car. The hotel itself is home to the Quaich bar, which has over 900 whiskies lining its walls. The Copper Dog pub restaurant is a perfect choice for lunch or dinner, with all its food originating from within a fifty mile radius of the hotel. The rooms are light and airy, with tasteful soft furnishings and views of the countryside.
Glenfiddich Distillery is a single malt drinker’s dream. You can discover the tuns in which the whisky is made and the warehouses where it is aged. Of course, the best part of the tour is the tasting. Strathisla Distillery also offers exclusive tours, which reveal all the secrets of great whisky and allow you to sample the finest single malts.
The coast of Banffshire is well-known as an excellent place to spot dolphins. There are several companies which offer boat trips across the sea in the hopes of spotting a pod of dolphins or porpoises. There is also a huge variety of bird life to see, including fulmars, shags and puffins.
If tend to get a bit seasick, the Macduff aquarium may be a better bet. You can meet hundreds of fish native to the Moray Firth, and learn about their habitat. The aquarium is home to a living kelp reef, which is the only one of its kind in the UK. You can watch divers hand feed the fish on a regular basis.
Duff House is another tourist attraction which makes Banffshire a brilliant place for a family holiday. It was designed by the famed architect, William Adam, and was the subject of a five year court case in the 18th century. There are a number of exquisite paintings to learn about, as well as special exhibitions throughout the year.
Banff Springs Hotel is only a short bus ride from Duff House, and combines modernity and Scottish identity into a stylish weekend getaway. The rooms have comfortable, contemporary furniture and stunning views, while the restaurant is a wonderful example of fine dining at its best.