Aberdeen

For other places with the same name, see Aberdeen (disambiguation).
Marischal College on Broad Street, formerly part of the University of Aberdeen but now the headquarters of Aberdeen City Council

Aberdeen is the third-largest city in Scotland, United Kingdom, with a population of over 220,000. It is a harbour city located on Scotland's north-east coast, approximately 120 miles (190 km) north of Edinburgh and 400 miles (650 km) north of London, where the Rivers Dee and Don meet the North Sea. It is an important sea port, regional centre, and the hub of the North Sea oil industry.

Although remote by UK standards, this is no backwater; Aberdeen is a prosperous and cosmopolitan city (partly due to North Sea oil) and is characterised by its grand and ornate architecture. Most buildings are constructed out of granite quarried in and around the city, and as a result, Aberdeen is often referred to as The Granite City. It is also known for its many outstanding parks, gardens and floral displays throughout the city, as well as its long, sandy beach. Aberdeen also boasts the title of Oil Capital of Europe and has been voted in several polls as the happiest place in Britain, with a 2006 poll citing access to large areas of greenery and community spirit. It has won the Britain in Bloom competition 10 times.

Aberdeen does not attract as many tourists as other Scottish destinations such as Edinburgh or St Andrews, and can feel more authentic. It is a great place to stop for a couple of days on a tour of Scotland, and especially good as a base for exploring the wider region to take advantage of the castles, golf, whisky distilleries, scenery, mountains (including skiing and snowboarding), coast and other attractions in Aberdeenshire and Royal Deeside. Alternatively, Aberdeen's remoteness yet comforts and cosmopolitan nature makes it an interesting destination for a short city break if you really want to get away from the stress.

Understand

Busy day outside the Town House (i.e. city hall) on Union Street

Aberdeen is a city of 220,000 people - smaller than Glasgow and Edinburgh, but larger than other Scottish cities. By UK and even Scottish standards it is remote and often the subject of "far away" jokes (the nearest city is much smaller Dundee 70 miles away). Despite this, Aberdeen is surprisingly easy to reach and is a modern and prosperous city. British visitors are often surprised to find a such a vibrant city so far north. Partly due to oil wealth and its status as the only large regional centre, it has the facilities of a much larger city. Together, all this gives Aberdeen an air of self-sufficiency found in few places in Britain today.

Aberdeen is one of the most prosperous places in Scotland, due primarily to the North Sea oil industry, and has low unemployment (just over 2% in February 2012), leading to a low crime rate compared to other UK cities. Immigration due to the oil industry and the universities gives the city a cosmopolitan air that often surprises visitors, and when out and about in the city languages are heard from all over the world.

There has been a big fall in oil prices since September 2014 - Brent Crude was around $125 per barrel in 2012 and is around $35 in early 2016. This is depressing the Aberdeen economy, and there have been several announcements of job cuts in oil industries. This may not be very noticeable to a visitor, but shops and restaurants are quieter and some hotel prices have been cut.

Orientation

Aberdeen has a seemingly-random mediaeval layout common for cities in Britain. The city-centre is divided by the mile-long Union Street which runs north-east/south-west (named after the 1800 "union" between Great Britain and Ireland). At the north-east end is the main square - the Castlegate - while leading off Union Street are important roads such as (east to west) Broad Street, Shiprow, Market Street, St. Nicholas Square, and Union Terrace. The Tourist Information Centre is located on Union Street, at the corner with the Shiprow. Running parallel to Union Street are Guild Street (where the railway and bus stations are located) and Upperkirkgate, which leads into Schoolhill. East of the Castlegate, roads lead to the beach and the sea, while at the other end of Union Street, roads lead to the West End (where many millionnaires live). Unusually, the harbour is in the city centre and is rapidly reached from the Shiprow, Market Street, Guild Street and Marischal Street. The River Dee does not flow through the city centre but a little to the south. The River Don flows through the north of the city, about two miles (3.2 km) north of the city centre.

Background

Crocuses at Victoria Park

While the location has been inhabited for over 8000 years, a city did not develop until the middle-ages. The modern city was formed by two settlements which grew together - Old Aberdeen close to the mouth of the River Don (home to the University since 1495), and New Aberdeen, about two miles south where a stream, the Denburn, met the River Dee (the Denburn is long built-over by a road and railway but its route is crossed by bridge on Union Street).

Much of the city's prosperity came from the sea and its harbour - until the mid-20th century fishing and mercantile trading were mainstays of the economy, along with granite quarrying and carving, local agriculture and manufacturing (e.g. paper and cloth). Then, these industries declined while Aberdeen's location made it perfect as the main base for North Sea oil. Today, most people work for one of the many oil-related companies or know someone who does, and these jobs are well-paid. Many work offshore on the North Sea platforms and commute for shifts of two weeks or so by helicopter, which are conspicuous in the city's skies. However, a section of the population did not benefit from North Sea oil and still experiences poverty and deprivation. Aberdeen has two universities with a total of 30,000 students: the University of Aberdeen, which was founded in 1495 and is one of the oldest in the world; and Robert Gordon University (RGU).

Granite buildings at Schoolhill, Aberdeen. Domed building in foreground was constructed in 1901 as the Aberdeen Academy school; today it houses the Academy Shopping Centre, with Jack Wills clothing store under the dome.

During the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, growing prosperity led to grand civil engineering projects, including Union Street (much of which is actually bridge) and the construction of many large and ornate buildings. Grand architecture is one of the city's distinctive features, particularly Neoclassical, Gothic Revival and Scottish Baronial styles. The mediaeval buildings had been made of wood, and following several disastrous fires, the city's leaders resolved to rebuild only in stone. The local stone they had, quarried in the city and throughout Aberdeenshire, was granite, which was used to make nearly all pre-1960s buildings and gives the city the name "The Granite City". On a sunny day the granite sparkles in the sunshine, although on "dreich" (grey and cloudy) days the grey granite buildings can give the city a much more gloomy atmosphere.

As technology improved, granite could be worked more cheaply, allowing later buildings to have ever more ornately-carved stonework such as at Marischal College (pronounced like "Marshall"). Granite began to be exported by sea, particularly to London where many buildings are constructed of Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire granite (e.g. the fountains at Trafalgar Square). However, highly-carved granite was still expensive and demonstrated the owner's success and status, with side and rear walls left in cheaper, unworked stone as in Bath. Many of these buildings (particularly in the city centre) are now in need of restoration and have an air of faded grandeur. Buildings are no longer constructed in granite but it is still used extensively as a facing material and granite chippings are heavily used in the concrete of modern buildings.

After the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1960s, the city grew from an elegant but declining backwater dependent on fishing, to a thriving centre of the energy industry. Today, in addition to the growing population, large numbers commute to Aberdeen from exurbs and outlying towns, with heavy traffic at rush hour. Despite this, some areas of the city retain the feel of a village. Perhaps the best examples of this are the line of suburbs stretching towards Royal Deeside, including Cults and Peterculter (pronounced Petercooter).

Read

Johnston Gardens

Aberdeen in poetry

Mica glittered from the white stone.
Town of the pure crystal,
I learnt Latin in your sparkling cage,
I loved your brilliant streets.

Places that have been good to us we love.
The rest we are resigned to.
The fishermen hung shining in their yellow
among university bells.
(1-8)

— excerpt from Aberdeen by Iain Crichton Smith.


The sea birds cry wild things above, in
the tender and the stainless sky.
Oh! that's a city to learn love in,
where sea-birds cry.
(5-8)

— excerpt from Aberdeen by Rachel Annand Taylor.

Two daily local newspapers serve Aberdeen: the tabloid Evening Express and the more serious Press & Journal (often referred to by Aberdonians as the "P&J", it also publishes editions specific to other areas in the North of Scotland). There is an urban legend that the Press & Journal once ran the headline, "Aberdeen Man Lost at Sea". It was April 1912 and the story referred to the sinking of the Titanic. Whether this is true or not, reading these can give an interesting angle on developments and life in the city and surrounding towns. You can buy them at any newsagent, supermarket, convenience store, street news-stand, and other places throughout the city.

Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland also feature in fiction. Lewis Grassic Gibbon's trio of novels tell the story of a young woman, Chris Guthrie, growing up and living in the north-east of Scotland. The first, Sunset Song (1932) tells her story of growing up in a rural area just south of Aberdeen, at a time of change in society and the rural way of life. Sunset Song is regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century and many Aberdonians have studied it in school. The other works of the trilogy are Cloud Howe (1933) and Grey Granite (1934), which feature her life continuing in a north-east city that may or may not be Aberdeen.

Numerous crime novels by Scottish author Stuart MacBride are set in Aberdeen. His best-selling thrillers featuring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae portray a fictional darker side of the city and its environs, but make frequent reference to real-life city locations. These include Cold Granite (2005), Dying Light (2006), Blind Eye (2009) Shatter the Bones (2011), Close to the Bone (2013) and The Missing and the Dead (2015). These novels often feature prominently in bookstore displays in the city. Iain Banks' 2012 novel Stonemouth (adapted by the BBC into a 2015 drama serial) follows a man returning to a small seaport town north of Aberdeen after leaving due to a sexual scandal. Its name is adapted from Stonehaven, a town a few miles south of Aberdeen, and many scenes of the TV show were filmed in Macduff on the north coast of Aberdeenshire.

In addition, there is an anthology of poems about Aberdeen called Silver: An Aberdeen Anthology (2009) edited by Alan Spence and Hazel Hutchison. Also insightful is historian Ian R. Smith's reflections on his hometown and life there, after having moved away, published as Aberdeen: Beyond the Granite (2010). If you are interested in books about Aberdeen or by local writers, call into Waterstone's bookstore (Union Street/Trinity Shopping Centre) or WH Smith (in the St. Nicholas Centre). Each store has a local interest section with a surprising range of relevant books about Aberdeen and life in the city. Also, the city's public Central Library on Rosemount Viaduct has a local section just inside the doorway and is free for all to browse. Most insightful about the city's architecture are Aberdeen: The Illustrated Architectural Guide by W. A. Brogden (4th edition, 2012) and The Granite Mile: The Story of Aberdeen's Union Street (2010) by Diane Morgan, among others. There are a wide range of books published about the city's history, architecture, local life, and other topics.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 6 7 9 11 13 16 18 18 16 12 9 7
Nightly lows (°C) 0 0 2 3 5 8 10 10 8 6 2 1
Precipitation (mm) 75 54 61 59 55 56 59 62 73 84 84 79

See the 5 day forecast for Aberdeen at BBC Weather

Despite the northerly latitude (the same as Riga, Gothenburg, Juneau, Alaska and slightly further than Moscow), because of its coastal location Aberdeen's climate is relatively mild although a few degrees colder than much of the rest of Britain. Contrary to expectations, sunny days are frequent and it does not rain often but when it does it tends to be heavy. Aberdeen weather is highly changeable, with a sunny day possibly changing rapidly to cloudy or even rain (and vice versa). At other times, weather may remain constant for days and the changes are often unpredictable so dress in layers. It gets surprisingly warm in the sun (especially if the wind is light) so be prepared to remove layers as well. An umbrella isn't usually helpful because rain is often accompanied by strong winds which will turn your umbrella into an impromptu sail or else just turn it inside-out. All year round, a sea mist called the Haar not infrequently appears during the evening or night but usually dissipates in the morning. Air pollution is low compared to the rest of the UK.

Super Puma helicopter in sky over Aberdeen, transporting workers to/from North Sea oil rigs

In summer, days are long: at midsummer (21 June) dawn is around 3am and dusk around 11pm, while nautical twilight lasts the entire night. There are many sunny days and while often warm, the temperature rarely exceeds 25C (77F). There are also cooler summer days. These sunny yet cool days increase in Spring and Autumn.

Conversely, winter days are short with sunrise in late-December not till after 8.30am and sunset around 3.30pm. Days are equally often sunny and cloudy, but strong, biting winds off the North Sea are common and it can feel bitterly cold even in the sun. Snow is not frequent and there is lying snow only a couple of weeks in most years, but if you'll be in Aberdeen for any significant time in winter, take your snow boots or be prepared to buy some.

When to go

Southern end of esplanade at Aberdeen Beach, at high tide. Building shown is Harbour Control Tower, while Footdee lies at end of the path

The best time is during the summer months. Days are long (reaching 18 hours at the summer solstice) and most days are warm and sunny. The granite sparkles in the sun and is at its most impressive against the (surprisingly frequent) blue skies which last late into the evening. Most of the festivals occur in summer and it's also the best time to visit attractions in the surrounding region. Alternatively, late spring and early autumn are also good times to visit. Autumn in Aberdeen can be pretty, particularly in the many parks and green spaces, but be prepared for cooler weather and possibly chilly winds. In odd-numbered years (e.g. 2013) avoid early September, when the giant Offshore Europe oil convention takes place and every hotel room in the region is booked up months in advance, with hotels charging extortionate rates. Unless you're interested in skiing or snowboarding in the mountains, winter months are best avoided. These tend to be dark, cold and windy, while the grey granite can appear depressing on the many overcast days and there is less happening of interest to visitors.

Talk

Scottish English is the everyday language. Unlike the highlands and islands, Scottish Gaelic (pronounced "gallic" not "gae-lic") is not widely spoken and is rarely heard. You will also hear other languages spoken on the street by many Aberdonians who have come from other places, with Polish, Russian, Mandarin and numerous other European languages heard often. However, the local dialect is called Doric, now spoken primarily by middle-aged and older people and those from lower social classes. Doric can be more confusing at first than other Scottish dialects. This includes for native English speakers - while Scots accents are frequently heard on TV and radio around the UK and other places, Aberdeen accents are not.

Gallowgate, looking toward Broad Street and corner of Marischal College

Oil in Aberdeen

Although Aberdeen is the UK's oil city, and the most significant oil city in Europe, no oil is actually drilled on land here, nor is oil from the North Sea brought ashore in Aberdeen. Instead, Aberdeen is the North Sea oil industry's supply and engineering base. This is the city where oil rig crews, engineers, oil services companies and businesses, and other services are based. Crews live here or in the region and take a helicopter from Aberdeen to the North Sea platforms, supply ships dock at the harbor, and major oil services companies are based here. There is a huge ecosystem of oil companies, ranging from small operations to multinationals, that provide services of all sorts for the oil industry on a contract basis. Oil comes ashore via pipelines at Sullom Voe on Shetland (where it is loaded onto tankers), and at Grangemouth in Fife where there is also a refinery.

With time you quickly pick up what people mean, which is often clear from the context anyway. In fact, most people speak in a standard Scots accent similar to that elsewhere which is easy for most visitors to understand. However, you are likely to hear Doric spoken by some while out and about, particularly if you travel by taxi or bus. Few young people speak it today, or may speak it only with close family or other Aberdonians and switch to standard Scots English when around others.

Here are a few commonly used words and phrases:

If you politely suggest you don't understand, almost all Doric speakers will be able to switch to more standard English to converse with you, particularly if you are from outside the UK.

Get in

Although Aberdeen is remote by UK standards, do not be put off as with modern air and rail transport links it is remarkably easy and fast to get to. Journeys by bus or car to the city can be long so many travellers coming from outside Scotland arrive by plane (a flight of an hour or so from London) or by train.

By plane

Aberdeen International Airport, main passenger terminal, showing bus stop where buses arrive and depart for the city centre

Aberdeen International Airport (IATA: ABZ) is at Dyce, 7 miles (11 km) from the city centre. Airlines fly to/from European cities as well as UK destinations. It is operated by BAA (the same company which runs London Heathrow, Stansted and Glasgow Airports) but operations are smoother than at Heathrow. Many Aberdonians rely heavily on the airport when travelling outside Scotland and it is also one of the world's largest heliports, serving the offshore rigs in the North Sea. Helicopters are everywhere at the airport (and in the skies over Aberdeen) and can be seen from the terminal building windows.

Destinations

Major hub destinations (several times a day) include London-Heathrow (with British Airways), Paris-CDG (with Air France), Amsterdam (with KLM) and Frankfurt (with Lufthansa). There are also international flights from Dublin (with Aer Lingus), Copenhagen (with SAS), Bergen, Groningen, Stavanger, Oslo, Gdansk in Poland and Baku in Azerbaijan (another oil city). UK destinations include London City (with Flybe), London-Gatwick (with easyJet), London-Luton (easyJet), Belfast, Birmingham, Norwich, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, East Midlands, Exeter and Southampton, as well as Stornoway (on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles), Wick (in the far north of Scotland), Orkney and Shetland (all these are mostly operated by BMI Regional, Eastern Airways or Flybe). Other routes cater to the oil industry, including Scatsta on Shetland. Occasional longer distance holiday and charter flights also operate on a seasonal basis.

Getting to/from the Airport

To travel between the airport and city centre, the bus is the quickest and most convenient option. The 727 bus route (branded "JET") operates distinctive blue buses which run every 20 minutes on weekdays during the day and every 30 minutes at evenings and weekends. These buses arrive and depart from the bus station at Union Square on Guild Street and also call at Broad Street. In June 2015, a single ticket costs £2.90 and a return (good for 28 days) costs £4.80 (you can also get a "day return" ticket for £3.60 but it's only valid for that day). Dyce has a railway station, but it is the wrong side of the runway from the terminal and inconvenient to get between station and airport terminal, although there is a bus link (number 80, operated by Stagecoach Bluebird). Unless you are going to another destination on the railway line, the 727 bus is the best choice. Info and timetables are available at the bus company's website:

Getting to/from the airport by taxi is also popular (there can be large queues at the airport if a flight was busy). Taxi is a good option if you need to get to or from somewhere other than the city centre, or if you have a lot of luggage. Allow approximately £20 for a one-way trip between the airport and city centre. If you need to arrive at the airport early in the morning, do not count on finding a taxi in the street; book your taxi with the taxi company the night before. Hire cars are also readily available from major international companies at the airport.

By train

Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.

Sign at Aberdeen Station

Aberdeen Railway Station is located in the city centre on Guild Street, one block from Union Street. It is part of the Union Square development, which also includes the Bus Station. Aberdeen is the busiest railway station north of Glasgow and Edinburgh, with inter-city, regional and sleeper train services provided to and from all parts of Great Britain - you can get to Aberdeen quite easily by train from most places. The section of railway from Montrose and Stonehaven to Aberdeen is one of the most scenic in Britain, as spectacular cliffs soar below into the North Sea. This view is especially impressive at sunrise.

When arriving by train, do not throw your ticket away as subway-style ticket barriers are used. If you are travelling with luggage, board the train early at your departure station as luggage racks fill up very quickly, especially on inter-city services. A useful left-luggage facility can be accessed from the plaza outside. Ticket machines on the concourse and in the travel centre allow you to collect any tickets purchased on the internet (you need the payment card plus the confirmation number, but can use any train company's machine as they are all part of the same system).

Plaza outside Aberdeen Railway Station, early morning

Train companies serving Aberdeen are:

Station Facilities

There is a Travel Centre with ticket office and information (e.g. timetables), open M-F 06:15-21:30, Sa 06:15-19:15 and Sunday 09:00-21:30. There are also automatic ticket machines in the concourse, which can be accessed at any time: Tickets purchased in advance (e.g. on the Internet) can also be collected from any of these machines (you'll need your payment card and booking reference). The first-class lounge is inside the Travel Centre. Luggage trolleys are provided without charge and a left-luggage facility is available from the front plaza. A waiting room is on the main concourse, as is a WH Smith store selling books, magazines and snacks. There is also a café. There are toilet facilities (30p charge applies), in addition to those in Union Square (free to all).

Many other shopping and eating facilities are located in the Union Square complex which can be accessed directly through the concourse and is integrated with the station. These include the Boots pharmacy, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Marks & Spencer Simply Food and many other shops and restaurants. Facilities at Union Square open late into the evening and also include ATM machines, through-access to the city's bus station, and a hotel.

Parking, Taxis and Buses

Medium-term parking is available in the adjoining College Street Car Park (access only from College Street) and a small number of free spaces inside the station which offer disabled parking and taxi ranks. Taxis are available from a stand within the station concourse, and are popular with travellers carrying luggage. Regional and national bus services (including buses to Aberdeen International Airport) depart from Aberdeen Bus Station, which is located on the other side of the adjoining Union Square complex. It is possible to walk directly from the concourse, through Union Square and to the bus station without entering the open air. This option is useful in winter and periods of bad weather.

By bus/coach

Sign at Aberdeen Bus Station, Union Square, seen from Guild Street

Aberdeen Bus Station is at Union Square, on Guild Street, just next to the railway station. Bus station users can make use of all facilities at Union Square and the railway station, such as the left-luggage facility (see above).

Route 727 buses to/from the airport operate from here. Regional buses operated by Stagecoach Bluebird also arrive and depart for towns and villages all over Aberdeenshire, including stops in Royal Deeside. Inter-city bus/coach services run direct to most cities in Scotland, operated by Scottish CityLink and Megabus (the latter at low fares, though they are part of the same company). They connect to major destinations but not as many as by train and are significantly slower and less comfortable. However, they are usually cheaper than train travel. If travelling to/from Glasgow (3.5 hours away) or Edinburgh (3 hours away), the CityLink Gold luxury service provides a very comfortable journey several times each day. However, there is no direct bus/coach service to/from Edinburgh other than the CityLink Gold, and on Megabus or regular CityLink services a change must be made at Dundee bus station or Perth park-and-ride (these locations can be unappealing at night).

If coming to/from London or Manchester, day and overnight coach services (one of each per day) are also available to/from London (operated by National Express ) and calling at intermediate destinations such as Milton Keynes (day coach only), Carlisle and Glasgow. These seated coaches take 12 hours from London Victoria Coach Station and are by far the least comfortable way to arrive from the south of the UK, but fares are economical. Recently a sleeper bus has begun to from Aberdeen operate to/from London, operated by Megabus Gold . It provides a bed and makes for a surprisingly pleasant journey (certainly better than seated), yet tickets are still cheap compared to the train. These sleeper buses have toilets, Wi-Fi and power sockets by each bunk bed to allow mobile devices to be charged.

By sea

Aberdeen Harbour seen from a ship around 2008, showing Regent Quay (foreground) and Trinity Quay (left). Harbour Clock also shown (i.e. clock tower of the Harbour Board offices)

Aberdeen Harbour is located in the city centre, and can be plainly seen from many streets including Market Street, Guild Street and the Shiprow - in fact many first-time visitors emerge from the station onto Guild Street and are surprised to find large ships docked at the end of the street. It is the only working port in a city centre in the UK.

In the distant past, passenger ships sailed nightly between Aberdeen and Edinburgh and London. However, these declined and faded away as rail travel became faster (to find out more, visit the Aberdeen Maritime Museum on Shiprow). Today, the only passenger services to/from Aberdeen are the nightly ferries to and from the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland). These carry cars and foot passengers, and are operated by NorthLink. The two vessels (Hjaltland and Hrossey - named after the old Norse words for "Shetland" and "Orkney" respectively) arrive from Lerwick, Shetland and Kirkwall, Orkney at the ferry terminal at Aberdeen Harbour. They sail overnight from the Northern Isles and from Aberdeen, departing at 5pm or 7pm and arriving late at night (if sailing from Aberdeen to Kirkwall) or the following morning (if sailing to Lerwick or to Aberdeen). Kirkwall is served only three or four nights a week while Lerwick and Aberdeen are served daily. The Northlink ferry terminal is just off Market Street, opposite the entrance to the Union Square car park. A range of cabins or seats (cabins cost more) and catering facilities are available on board.

By car

The Bridge of Dee carries the A90 road into the city from the south across the River Dee. It was built in 1527, rebuilt 1718, and widened in 1841

There are several main roads into the city. Aberdeen is indicated on direction signs on all these roads, and when you reach the boundary of the city, direction signs also direct you to the city centre. The speed limit on the following roads is either 60 mph (100 km/h) if there is a single-carriageway or country road, or 70 mph (110 km/h) if a dual-carriageway. However, there are lower limits in places along certain parts of the route. Other smaller routes also lead into the city but are usually slower, less direct, or require driving through suburban streets to reach the city-centre. If you have a satellite navigation system, all routes will be included as part of the UK.

If you do not want to take your own car, it is easily possible to rent a car in Aberdeen from well known companies such as Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, as well as local companies such as Logan Car Hire . These are based at the airport and throughout the city, for example Enterprise has a branch at Skene Square, a short walk from the city centre.

Main roads into (and out of) the city

A90 south of Aberdeen, looking toward the city just ahead

If driving from the south (e.g. Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee) or north (e.g. Peterhead, northern Aberdeenshire), Aberdeen lies halfway along the A90 dual-carriageway road between Edinburgh, Dundee and Peterhead. Allow approximately three hours from Edinburgh (130 miles/210 km) and perhaps 3 and a half hours from Glasgow (150 miles/240 km), assuming no traffic.

If coming from the north-west (e.g. Inverness, Moray, etc.) the A96 leads in via the airport at Dyce. Allow approximately three or four hours from Inverness. Much of the route is single-carriageway and there can be heavy traffic coming into the city at the Haudagain Roundabout at rush hour, as this is a key commuter route.

If coming from the south-west (e.g. Royal Deeside, the Cairngorm mountains, etc.), the A93 leads in. Bear in mind that in winter parts of this route are often closed due to snow. If coming from the west (e.g. western parts of Aberdeenshire such as Alford, Huntly and other towns and villages, the A944 provides the best route.

Driving conditions

Main roads leading into the city are high-quality and well-maintained by the Scottish Government. In contrast, Aberdeen's city streets (which are maintained by the city council) have a few potholes, dropped manhole covers and cracked/damaged surfaces. Many of these were caused during the harsh winter of 2010/11, many but not all of which have now been repaired, but this took several years due to budget constraints. Speed limits lower than 60 mph are often in force along main roads outside the city (especially country roads) because Aberdeenshire has some of the most dangerous roads in Scotland. To improve safety at accident blackspots, speed limits are enforced by many automated speed cameras as well as police patrol cars. The Dundee to Aberdeen section of the A90 has a particularly large number of these.

Although all city streets are lit at night, most main roads leading into the city (including the A90 and A96) are not lit except at major intersections. Be prepared to use main beam (i.e. high beam) headlights. Added to this, be aware that country roads in Aberdeenshire are among the most dangerous in the UK, due to frequent bends and chicanes, narrow carriageways, and excessive speed by many drivers. While this makes many of them great fun to drive if your car handles well, you should drive cautiously if you are not familiar with a rural road and especially if your car's steering wheel is on the left. Local drivers (usually in powerful German cars bought with oil money) often drive aggressively or overtake thoughtlessly, and this is partly responsible for the high accident rate. Do not be intimidated or goaded into going too fast and remain at a speed you are comfortable with as otherwise your trip may end with being airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

In winter, roads are often affected by snow and fog (with much heavier snow the further inland). Most major city streets and main roads to/from the city (e.g. A90) are gritted but local roads are not, leading to very slippery conditions and increased risk of accidents. This is compounded by the fact that few Scottish cars are fitted with snow tyres or snow chains in winter (although these are available in Aberdeen). On mountain routes (e.g. A93), roads are often closed due to snow by "snow gates" which are shut by police and close off the road. However, all except coastal roads can be closed by heavy snow when weather is poor. Avoid car travel in poor winter weather unless you are experienced with driving in these conditions.

Get around

The Castlegate is the city's main public square. It's located at the east end of Union Street.
High Street in Old Aberdeen, at the heart of the University of Aberdeen's King's College campus, seen in the 1980s. The scene today, aside from the cars, is unchanged.

On foot

Walking is an excellent way to get around Aberdeen, particularly around central areas, as the city centre is relatively compact. Walking is also by far the best way to appreciate the grand architecture of the city. However, the city is not that small (e.g. Union Street is one mile long) so for journeys outside of the city centre, wheeled transport may be useful.

Pedestrian Maps

Aberdeen has a mediaeval layout like many cities in the UK, so for the first-time visitor, a map is helpful. There are quite a few of these located on signs around the city centre, mainly in points of interest (e.g. the Castlegate). However, it is very useful to have a map of the city to carry with you. You can buy maps from the Tourist Information Centre on the corner of Union Street and Shiprow, city bookstores, or you can order one online such as at amazon.co.uk. If you won't be leaving the city centre, you can also print one out from the internet before you arrive. Alternatively, a smartphone's map feature can be very useful as the city is covered in detail by services such as Google Maps. Aberdeen walking directions can be planned online with the walkit.com walking route planner.

By bus

His Majesty's Theatre, seen from Union Terrace Gardens

Most city bus routes are operated by First Aberdeen , a division of global transport company FirstGroup who have their international HQ next to the bus station on King Street. FirstGroup is an Aberdeen company; it developed out of the Aberdeen city bus corporation after it was privatised in the 1980s, and grew massively following numerous mergers and takeovers (they run many UK bus and train services, including ScotRail until 2014, and own the Greyhound bus network in the United States). Some city buses are also run by Stagecoach Bluebird , who operate routes such as numbers 5, 9U, 59, as well as the 727 airport bus. However, apart from these routes, most Stagecoach Bluebird buses are running between the bus station at Union Square and towns and villages in Aberdeenshire or further afield in the region. While these regional buses do pick up and stop at city bus stops, they are a less useful option for within-city transport.

Today there are around 22 city bus routes run by First Aberdeen and 3 by Stagecoach Bluebird and most operate on a hub-and-spoke system, i.e. a route starts in a suburb or on the outskirts, comes in through the city centre, and then goes out to another suburb. Services begin around 5AM and end close to midnight with a few night services at weekends. The First network uses a colour-coded system with main routes having a colour (e.g. 3 is purple, 20 is indigo, 1&2 are red) while less important routes have no colour. The map is in the style of the London Underground which helps to find your way around. Information on routes is available on First Aberdeen's website , but for face-to-face info, bus maps, timetables and bus passes, call into the First Travel Centre on Union Street, between Market Street and the Shiprow. It is open 9-5 every day except Sunday and public holidays. You can get info about all Stagecoach Bluebird routes at the Bus Station at Union Square or on their website.

To use the bus you pay the driver as you get on. Tell him or her your destination and he/she will tell you the fare or sell you a day ticket. Press one of the "stop" buttons around the bus when you are nearing your destination and the bus will stop at the next bus stop. First Aberdeen buses do not carry any change at all so you need to use the exact money. As of June 2015, an adult single fare on city buses is usually £2.20 but is £2.60 if the journey is longer, while all child tickets are £1.10. An adult return ticket (also valid for two journeys on different routes) is usually £3.75 but is £4.00 for longer journeys. If you'll be using more than two buses a day, a day ticket gives travel on all First buses that day; for adults this day ticket costs £4.00 (or £3.00 if issued after 7pm) and £3.50 with a university-issued student ID card. You can also buy a carnet from the First Aberdeen travel shop on Union Street or any shop with a PayPoint outlet (usually newsagents or small convenience stores; they have a yellow "PayPoint" sign outside).

All buses are modern and have low-floor access; some routes (e.g. 1 and 2) use articulated "bendy" buses. First Aberdeen has a monopoly on city bus routes and a reputation for mediocre service and high fares compared to other cities. Citizens frequently complain about the service, but in truth most services are fairly good, with routes that pass the universities (e.g. 1 and 2) being especially frequent during term-time. After 7pm all run only every 30 minutes. Stagecoach Bluebird city buses run on few routes at the moment but are often slightly cheaper, and drivers give change.

By taxi

The tower of the Petrofac building glows in a changing sequence of bright colours at night, a distinctive point on the city's skyline. It houses offices of an oil services company.

Taxis are widely available from a number of ranks dotted around the city centre. The main ranks are located off at Back Wynd (just off central Union Street), Hadden Street (just off Market Street) and inside the railway station. There is another located at Chapel Street (at the western end of Union Street). Most Aberdeen taxis are saloon cars or people-carriers rather than London-style black cabs and can be any colour. Taxis and their drivers must be registered with the City Council and carry an official taxi registration plate (usually on the back). You can also call for a taxi to pick you up from any address; while there are various companies, the major ones are ComCab at +44 1224 35 35 35 and Rainbow City on +44 1224 87 87 87.

Taxis are the most popular way to get home from a night out, so at night they can be harder to come by. After dark, they can be hired only at designated posts on Union Street - these consist of a vertical post with the words "Night Taxi" illuminated. You'll probably spot them by the queue forming at each Night Taxi stand. On busy weekend nights, be prepared to queue for long periods among drunken revellers, when these ranks are often patrolled by taxi marshalls. At night it can can be difficult to hail a taxi on the street as many do not give any indication if they're available for hire and some will not pick up groups of males. Aberdeen taxi fares are high, but they always go by the meter price and are regulated by Aberdeen City Council.

By bicycle

Due to the many narrow roads and inadequate lane provisions, this can be rather treacherous at times. Cycle lanes are appearing (but are often shared with buses) as are cycle "boxes" at traffic lights so the situation is getting better for those who cycle. It's getting easier to park a cycle too, the city council have now provided loops for chaining bikes within the city centre streets (e.g. at Shiprow and Castle Street) and within the multi-storey car parks. Aberdeen City Council has a webpage with information on cycling in the city , while Aberdeen Cycle Forum - a voluntary group encouraging and developing cycling within Aberdeen - have produced cycle maps for the city. These can be downloaded from the City Council's cycling website (see above), or obtained from public libraries in the city or council offices (such as Marischal College on Broad Street).

It is possible to cycle from Aberdeen city centre to the genteel suburb of Peterculter along the route of the Old Deeside Railway. The "line" begins just outside Duthie Park and passes through Garthdee, Cults, Bieldside and Milltimber before ending at Station Road. It is mostly paved with a few breaks where you have to cross a road. The route is very scenic and relaxing, and is also used by people walking dogs, riding horses, other cyclists, and other people just enjoying a stroll, so being courteous is a must. There are signs placed along the line with bits of history about the line and how it came to be.

By train

Girdleness Lighthouse stands close to the entry to Aberdeen Harbour and protects shipping from being wrecked on the rocky shore, since the wreck of a whaling vessel in 1813

Prior to the 1960s, Aberdeen had a suburban rail service but like many less-profitable routes in the UK, this was closed during the "Beeching Axe" of the 1960s. The only stations in the city now are the main railway station on Guild Street in the city centre, and a single suburban station at Dyce. As a result, rail transport is unlikely to be an option for within-city transport other than to Dyce, but it can be useful for travel to outlying towns. Local services run from the station at Guild Street to:

Dyce - On the north west of the city along the Inverness line. This may be an option for travelling to the airport, but less convenient than the 727 bus for most travellers. It may be a preferable way to travel to the suburb of Dyce as the journey time is less than 10 minutes, as opposed to the hour+ it takes on the bus due to traffic congestion and the fact that the bus takes a circuitous route. There are plenty of trains, though the frequency is quite scattered, so consult a timetable or www.nationalrail.co.uk. Dyce station is located just off its main street.

Inverurie - The next stop up the line from Dyce, out of the city in Aberdeenshire. The station is located a short walk from the pleasant town centre. Many commuters live in Inverurie.

Portlethen - The first stop south on the line. There are few services stopping here outwith rush hour. The station is on the east of the town on the road to the old village. A walk from here to the main shopping area will take you around 10–15 minutes, there are buses that run every 20 minutes just outside the station if you need to use them.

Stonehaven - The next stop south from Portlethen. Trains are fairly frequent. Buses to Stonehaven centre depart from the hotel across from the station, or you can walk (10–20 minutes depending on speed). Stonehaven is a pleasant harbour town which attracts tourists, including to see the spectacular ruins of Dunottar Castle. Between here and Aberdeen, look out the sea-side of the window for spectacular coastal views. Many tourists visit Stonehaven in the summer and train is a great way to reach it from Aberdeen. The journey time from Aberdeen station to Stonehaven station on the train is around 20 minutes.

See

One of the dolphins from the "Wild Dolphins" sculpture trail in Summer 2014. This example is "D-REX" and seen here at the Robert Gordon University's campus.
Aberdeen Art Gallery, constructed of pink granite.
Inside the Aberdeen Art Gallery. The columns showcase the different varieties of granite quarried in the region and used to build the city, as well as exported around the UK and worldwide.
Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow
Union Terrace Gardens - a public park in the city centre
Granite Buildings on Union Street
High Street, Old Aberdeen, where the University of Aberdeen has its main campus
King's College, Old Aberdeen - part of the University of Aberdeen (founded 1495)

For more information on these and other attractions the Tourist Information Centre at the corner of Union Street and Shiprow is a useful point of contact (open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6.30pm, more restricted hours on Sundays, tel. +44 1224 288828). Many city museums and galleries are closed on Mondays, though the King's Museum at the University of Aberdeen is open as are other attractions.

Triple Kirks, seen across Union Terrace Gardens

Do

The Robert Gordon University's Administration Building on Schoolhill, next to the Art Gallery. It was constructed around 1885 as Gray's School of Art, then converted to administrative use in the 1960s when the Art School moved to the Garthdee campus.

Festivals

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen

Sports

Theatre/Concerts

Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), in the north of the city at Bridge of Don.

For plays, shows and live music, there are four main city-owned venues in Aberdeen, each providing a distinct and atmospheric setting for performances. You can book tickets and get a guide to what's on at these city-run venues from Aberdeen Performing Arts. They run the Aberdeen Box Office which sells tickets for all these venues plus some others; it is located on Union Street next to the Music Hall .

Learn

University of Aberdeen - Sir Duncan Rice Library
The Robert Gordon University - Garthdee campus

Buy

Rosemount Viaduct
Regent Quay, Aberdeen
Union Square shopping centre, at Guild Street

Aberdeen is the shopping capital of the north of Scotland, drawing shoppers from the entire region. As there are no other nearby cities and oil money means many Aberdonians have money to spend, there are a large number and quality of stores in the city for its size. For many decades, the main shopping street was Union Street, which rivalled the most prestigious streets in Britain. Today, Union Street is still considered the spiritual heart of shopping in Aberdeen and contains many shops, but primarily chain stores found in high streets all over the UK. A walk up and down Union Street is essential for any first visit to Aberdeen. The dramatic architecture, although now mostly in need of restoration, is not visible in storefronts at street level - look up to see the impressive carved granite and grand designs of each building. Sidewalks on the street get very busy during the day and especially on weekends.

In recent years more upmarket stores have been gravitating from Union Street and other streets to the shopping malls in the city centre, and independent stores to the streets around Union Street. At the same time, some shops on Union Street have been moving downmarket. As a result, shopping in Aberdeen is spread out around Union Street, these malls, and surrounding streets. The shopping malls are extremely popular with Aberdonians. They include the Bon Accord Centre (entrances on Upperkirkgate and George Street), the St. Nicholas Centre (entrances on Upperkirkgate and St. Nicholas Square), the Trinity Centre (entrances on Union Street and Guild Street), The Academy (entrance on Schoolhill, specialises in boutique shops), and the newest and largest, Union Square on Guild Street. Today, nearly all the stores found on British high streets can be found in Aberdeen at these malls, on Union Street or a surrounding street. Most shops open at 9am and close at 5pm or 6pm. Late-night shopping (till 8pm) is on Thursdays in Aberdeen, except Union Square where shops are open till 8pm every weeknight.

Some of the many high-street stores that may be useful when travelling include the following, but there are many more:

When shopping, don't be limited to the malls and chain stores! Aberdeen has a large collection of small, tucked-away shops which can provide everything from Bohemian dressware to Indian furniture. If you are adventurous you may uncover a hidden wonder. Good streets to find independent stores in the city centre are Rosemount Viaduct, Holburn Street, Rose Street, Chapel Street, Belmont Street, Upperkirkgate and The Green, along with Rosemount Place in the Rosemount area (to the north of the city centre).

Markets

Aberdeen Country Fair farmer's market at Belmont Street.

The Aberdeen Country Fair is a farmers' market and craft market on the last Saturday of every month, and takes place on Belmont Street. It is very popular and one of the largest in Scotland and stalls sell high-quality local produce, foods and crafts.

Aside from this there are few outdoor markets in Aberdeen aside from irregular international and Christmas markets which are organised every so often, typically on Union Terrace. There is also a less prestigious market on the Castlegate every Friday morning, selling general items.

You may walk past the Aberdeen Market building on Market Street. Aberdeen once had a grand and prestigious indoor market similar to (if not as big as) those in other cities such as the Grainger Market in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the St. Nicholas Markets in Bristol but it was demolished in the 1980s and replaced by this. The current modern building provides an indoor market which offers permanent space to small stallholders providing retail, food or other services. Most of the units inside are small shop-like enclosures, and the low rents provide a chance for small start-ups and local entrepreneurs to get a foothold while building up their business, before moving to more established areas of the city-centre. Although it appears downmarket, footfall is quite high and you may encounter hidden gems! For example, amazing sushi was available at a stall here, until the proprietor's success here enabled him to recently open his own restaurant on Huntly Street (further up Union Street).

Supermarkets and Food Stores

Former General Post Office on Crown Street, now converted to upmarket apartments

If you are looking for food (e.g. if staying in one of the aparthotels or walking round the city has made you hungry), or general items such as toothpaste, these are good places to go. Like most people in the UK, Aberdonians buy much or all their food and everyday items at supermarkets, of which there are many in the city, but the largest ones tend to be in suburbs or on the outskirts. However, there are also a number in the city centre or close to the centre. Most city supermarkets are open till 9pm or later every night. If you have a car, the Tesco Extra hypermarket at Laurel Drive, Danestone and Asda superstore at the Bridge of Dee roundabout are open 24-hours. Some of the useful, more central stores are as follows:

In addition, there are an increasing number of handy The Co-Operative, Sainsbury's Local and Tesco Express mini-supermarkets/ convenience stores in the city centre and around. These are all open from early till late (usually 11pm). Useful such stores include Sainsbury's Local stores on Upperkirkgate/St. Nicholas Centre, Rosemount Place, and on Holburn Street; a Tesco Express store at the western end of Union Street and another on Holburn Street; and numerous small Co-Operative stores such as the west end of Union Street, Rosemount Place and in numerous suburbs. If hungry late at night, there is a 24-hour convenience store on Market Street.

Eat

Aberdeen butteries (also known as rowies)

An Aberdeen specialty is the Aberdeen buttery, also known as a rowie. A rowie/buttery looks like a cross between a pancake and a croissant. They have a flaky yet heavy texture and are very salty (avoid these if you have high blood pressure!). They're served either plain or with butter or jam to make a tasty snack, ideal at tea-time or after a few hours walking round the city, and served with tea or some other beverage. It is said they were created as a high-energy snack for fishermen that wouldn't go stale during long voyages. You won't find them in many cafes or restaurants, but instead Aberdonians buy them and eat them at home or on the go. Buy them at bakeries or any supermarket (in the past they were made with lard but often now use vegetable oil instead, making them even more unhealthy, so if you are vegetarian, ask or check the ingredients list).

Aberdeen has hundreds of restaurants, catering for every taste. As with shops, there are well-known, easy to spot places, and out of the way ones. However, we'll leave the exploring up to you. For chain restaurants (e.g. Yo! Sushi, Wagamama, Giraffe etc.), visit the upper level at Union Square, but Aberdeen has a wealth of wonderful independent restaurants that it would be a shame to miss out on. Here is a list of more popular haunts in the central area.

Cafes (suitable for lunchtime or a snack)

If you want a lunchtime soup or sandwich try these city centre cafes. They are popular because of their good soup, sandwiches and atmosphere, and are reasonably priced.

In addition to these local coffee shops, there are numerous Costa, Cafe Nero and Starbucks branches throughout the city centre.

Restaurants

Drink

Archibald Simpson Bar, Castle Street

Like any Scottish city Aberdeen has a large number of bars and nightclubs. The role of alcohol in Scottish culture is frequently debated but for better or worse, heavy drinking is a feature of nights out for many in Scotland, especially on weekend nights. However, this is less pronounced in suburban establishments and those outside the city-centre or catering to an older clientele. Aberdeen is a city with a large number of young people (including students and young professionals) and people of all ages who like to go out. As a result, while not on the same level as Glasgow, nights out are often lively - much livelier than many visitors would expect. Especially on weekend nights, the city centre is full of revellers, even in the most severe winter weather (Aberdonians, like those in Newcastle, often do not dress for a night out according to the weather).

There are hundreds of licensed premises in the city that cater for every taste, from upmarket bars, to more casual bars, and a wide range of pubs. There are also numerous clubs, some very good (e.g. Snafu on Union Street opposite the Town House). Due to the large student population there are often student deals around. These may be extended to everyone and not just those with student ID cards. If you plan to go to a club, bring photographic ID showing your date of birth as this is often demanded by doormen - a photocard driving licence or passport is effective. Remember that smoking is illegal inside public venues - you will notice crowds of smokers standing outside even in freezing conditions. This has also led to the trend of installing/ re-opening Beer Gardens that are now constantly full of smokers.

The usual and most approachable starting point for a night out is Belmont Street. It is home to numerous bars and nightclubs. Union Street and to a lesser extent Langstane Place and Bon Accord Street (off Union Street) are also destinations for a night out due to their numerous venues. Various other city-centre streets are also home to drinking establishments.

All of the above bars serve a variety of food at reasonable pub prices, with the exception of Cafe Drummond's.

The most mainstream nightclub is Espionage on Union Street. It has three floors covering varied musical taste. Entry is free, but drinks are full priced.

Aberdeen Harbour, on a dreech day

On either side of Belmont Street and you'll find many other pubs:

Major nightclubs in Aberdeen include:

Sleep

Aberdeen has a wide range of hotels as well as guest houses and bed-and-breakfasts. Many of these cater to business travellers (who come all year round) as well as tourists (most of whom visit in summer). There are also an increasing number of apart-hotels and self-catering apartments available. For budget accommodation, plan for £70 a night or less while for a splurge plan for £150+ a night, and somewhere in the middle for mid-range. Note that, due to the oil industry, hotel rooms are generally more expensive during the week than at weekends. Those below are just a few suggestions. You can find many, many others on any hotel-booking website. A number of bed-and-breakfasts are also located on King Street. If you find yourself in Aberdeen without a reservation and needing a place to stay, the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street has a more extensive list.

The mid-range hotels have frequent special offers which reduce the price significantly so check their websites in advance to see if an offer will be on during your stay. During early-to-mid September in odd-numbered years (e.g. 2011, 2013) the giant Offshore Europe oil industry convention takes place with all hotel spaces in the city and surrounding towns packed to capacity. Unless you want to face a "no room at the inn" scenario, avoid visiting at the same time as the convention.

Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Stay safe

Aberdeen is a very safe city, with a crime rate lower than the rest of the UK. It is very unusual for visitors to experience crime in Aberdeen, especially compared to other UK cities such as London. However, use common sense. Whether male or female, avoid walking through deprived areas such as Tillydrone (north of Bedford Road and east of St. Machar Drive) and Torry (the south bank of River Dee) as these have a relatively higher crime rate. Also, avoid walking alone south of the River Dee at night as muggings and assaults here are reported frequently in the media.

Street beggars sometimes operate in the city-centre, but are relatively harmless. Aberdeen beggars are not aggressive and while they will ask passers-by indiscriminately for spare change, they can just be ignored. Aberdeen is a harbour city and prostitution occurs in certain streets in the harbour area. Prostitutes are not always provocatively dressed and may approach male passers-by saying "Are you looking for business?". Do not engage a prostitute as this is illegal.

The main possibility of hassle is with alcohol-related aggression at night (particularly weekend nights). While few Scots would admit it, most cannot handle anything like as much alcohol as they would claim and on nights out, many (both men and women) drink far more than they can handle. Public drunkenness on weekend nights is an issue, as throughout Scotland. As a result, brawls, assaults and abuse (e.g. racist or homophobic language) are not uncommon and there is a heavy police presence on weekend nights. To avoid any hassle, firstly avoid drinking more than you can handle yourself. Avoid getting into arguments, making eye contact with groups of males, or staring at obviously drunken individuals. If you are from England, avoid displays of English symbolism such as the St. George's Cross or wearing England sports kits as this may make you or your group a target for aggressive drunks looking for an excuse for a fight. Also, be aware of having your drink spiked at city bars and clubs; do not allow a stranger to buy a drink for you or let your glass out of your sight.

Connect

The city is well-covered by the main UK mobile phone networks - nearly every Aberdonian has a smartphone and seems to be using it most of the time. You can also access the internet at the following locations:

You can also access free wi-fi (i.e. wireless internet access) if you bring your laptop/tablet/smartphone in the following areas:

Cope

Work Out

Gyms and fitness facilities are very popular in Aberdeen (exercising outside is not always possible due to the weather!). Numerous private chains operate in the city (e.g. DW Fitness, David Lloyd, Bannatyne's, etc.) and are popular, but if you're visiting, try the suggestions below. If looking for a place to jog, try along the esplanade at the beach, or in one of the larger parks such as Duthie Park (entrances on Polmuir Road and Riverside Drive) or the city's largest park, Hazlehead Park in the western part of the city.

Further from the city-centre, the two universities also operate high-quality sports and fitness facilities open to the public, including large indoor sports halls. Numerous athletes train at both facilities. Their websites have full details.

Another option is provided by council-run services (branded as Sport Aberdeen), which include leisure centres, swimming pools and an ice-skating arena.

Post Offices and Mailboxes

Golden Post Box, Golden Square, commemorating cyclist Neil Fachie's victory at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

A main city post office is located at the western end of Union Street close to the junction with Holburn Street, and another in the basement of WH Smith in the St. Nicholas Centre. There is a smaller post office in the back of RS McColl on the Castlegate. Post offices are usually open 9am to 5pm on weekdays and Saturdays.

Mailboxes are dotted around the city centre and like all UK mailboxes take the form of a bright red cylinder. However, since summer 2012 a handful of golden postboxes have appeared across the UK, each specially painted to commemorate a British gold-medal winner at the London 2012 Olympic Games who is from or has a connection to that area. Aberdeen has at least two of these golden postboxes in honour of local gold-medal-winning Olympians - one on the Castlegate commemorates rower Katherine Grainger while another on Golden Square is in honour of Paralympic cyclist Neil Fachie. The nearby town of Westhill also has one for sprint kayaker Tim Brabants. You can also find plain red post boxes at the corner of Union Street and Broad Street (next to the Town House), and on Union Street by the staircase that leads down to The Green. You can also post mail at Post Offices.

Banks

As with the rest of Scotland, bank branches in Aberdeen are dominated by the "big four" Scottish banks: the Bank of Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale Bank and the TSB. You'll find their branches dotted around the city centre and in many suburbs and they provide a full range of banking services (e.g. cashing travellers' cheques) and all have ATMs. Most banks in Aberdeen are open on weekdays from 9am to 5pm, with some open Saturday mornings. Useful city centre branches are:

If looking for banks which are prominent in England and Wales, these generally have only a single branch in the city (other than Santander which has at least three). There is no branch of Lloyds Bank in the city, but if you are a Lloyds customer there is an arrangement where you can access most services from Bank of Scotland branches (both are owned by the Lloyds Banking Group).

St. Andrew's Cathedral, Aberdeen (Episcopalian/Anglican)

Places of Worship

As you walk through the city, you'll notice many churches in the city centre, some of which have now been converted to other uses (e.g. the Maritime Museum on Shiprow and numerous bars on Belmont Street and Union Street are partly housed in converted churches). However, there are still many places of worship for all major faiths. As throughout Scotland, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) has the largest number of churches and adherents, followed by the Roman Catholic Church, and then the Scottish Episcopal Church (part of the Anglican Communion).

Aberdeen has three Christian cathedrals representing each of these: St. Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen (not a cathedral as it is now Presbyterian but usually termed as such), St. Mary's Cathedral on Huntly Street (Roman Catholic) and St. Andrew's Cathedral on King Street (Episcopalian). Cathedral decor and memorials at St. Andrew's commemorate the fact that the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Samuel Seabury, was consecrated in Aberdeen in 1784 by bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church a short distance from where the cathedral now stands.

Evangelical churches have been growing in the city in recent years and there are now quite a few of these, often housed in church buildings redundant from other denominations. The cathedrals and most city-centre churches are also open for private prayer and contemplation during the day. You may see the old Scottish word "kirk" used to refer to a church.

Islam has also been growing recently in the city: the main mosque is located in Old Aberdeen and now struggles to cope with the growing number of Muslims worshipping there. There is a second mosque on Crown Terrace and another is planned.

Christianity

Islam

Go next

Stonehaven harbour

Aberdeen makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding region, particularly Aberdeenshire. Road signs placed by Aberdeenshire Council on entering claim it to be "The very best of Scotland, from mountain to sea" and many of the most beautiful, seductive, and interesting features of Scotland are in easy reach of Aberdeen. These make ideal day trips, returning to the city in the evening. A car makes it easiest, but some places are easily accessible by bus or train, in some cases with a bit of walking. If driving, unless you have a satellite navigation system make sure you have road maps - buy these at city bookstores, petrol stations or the Tourist Information Centre on Union Street.

Castles

Craigievar Castle
Crathes Castle

Many spectacular, even fairy-tale castles are located near to Aberdeen. Unlike many English castles (which are often simply military forts), many Scottish castles developed to be not only fierce strongholds but also comfortable homes for local landowners or the wealthy elite, often with amazing gardens. Today you can visit some of them, especially those in the care of the charity The National Trust for Scotland or the state antiquities agency Historic Scotland. They are popular visitor attractions with cafes or tea rooms and gift shops, and often good for families.

Golf

Royal Aberdeen Golf Clubhouse - geograph.org.uk - 1500189

Scotland is the country that gave birth to golf, and excellent courses are provided not only for citizens by the City Council but by various private organisations. The Royal Aberdeen golf course was founded in 1790 and is the sixth oldest in the world, and the Royal Deeside course in the River Dee's valley are both excellent. However, these and yea even the Old Course at St Andrews are about to be eclipsed by what is (after years of controversy and news coverage) Scotland's new most famous course; Donald Trump's International Golf Links at Menie in Aberdeenshire. You can also play golf at a number of public golf courses in the city, most notably at Hazlehead Park which has two 18-hole courses and at Queen's Links by the Beach (entrance on Golf Road).

Aberdeen is a good location to stay if you want to see castles, play golf or go on a distillery trail. Within 30 miles you can visit Crathes, Drum and Dunottar Castles.

The Malt Whisky Trail route is about 30 miles north and involves a number of distilleries including the Glenfiddich and Glen Grant tours.

The "Royal Deeside" area is also popular. Towns such as Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar are worth a visit. Balmoral Castle is very popular due to its Royal connection.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 20, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.