Why the Granite City really rocks

by DAVID PARKER

ABERDEEN seems to have a reputation south of the border as an industrial city, populated by oil workers, which might place it far down the list of potential holiday destinations.

But the Granite City, Scotland’s third most populous, has so much more to offer than a home for those connected to the oil trade.

The city itself has busy shopping streets, museums, history and a great nightlife – while Aberdeenshire offers beautiful, rolling countryside, stunning views and spectacular coastal walks.

Those taking a shorter trip to the city could take in many of its attractions in a day or two – such as the Maritime Museum, which includes information on the city’s oil and shipping industries and marine biodiversity.

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You might be lucky enought to hear a live talk by one of the museum’s employees about the great shipbuilders or seafarers of the past, or the story of North Sea oil.

It’s also worth watching the 3D film about life for those working on an oil rig in the North Sea.

Another attraction, the Tolbooth Museum, is one of Aberdeen’s oldest buildings and is one of the best-preserved jail buildings in Scotland.

Visitors can climb steep, spiral staircases to the old cells, once occupied by the city’s criminals, which are full of information about how crime and punishment has evolved in Scotland.

The steep staircases and cramped rooms mean you need to be fit and healthy to pay a visit – but anyone interested in crime and the history of how Aberdeen evolved would enjoy the visit.

The city has a nightlife to cater for everybody, no matter which kind of tipple you’re after.

It’s home to Brewdog, the brewery known for making beers with an unconventionally high strength and a range of delicious craft beer.

Its bar on Gallowgate was the first in the UK to open and visitors will always find a good range of craft beers, by Brewdog and guest breweries, on tap.

If Brewdog doesn’t satisfy your appetite, there’s a selection of other craft beer bars in the city centre which are worth checking out.

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All of them offer a full range of beers – from IPA to lager, pilsner to fruit beer – at a range of strengths. And you won’t be restricted to buying either a pint or a half – you can usually order a third or two-thirds of a pint as well, depending on the strength of the beer.

Six Degrees North and Fierce are among those worth checking out – or, if you fancy a more traditional pub, the Illicit Still on Netherkirkgate is recommended.

Slains Castle, which has a gothic theme, is worth checking out. The pub holds regular quizzes on a range of themes befitting its eerie, magical style – but good luck trying to find the toilets, which are in a secret location.

No trip to Scotland would be complete without a whisky or two – and there’s a great range of whisky bars on offer, including Grape & Grain and CASC.

The Aberdeenshire countryside has much to offer and among its hidden gems is the Falls of Feugh, which is short walk from Banchory.

The stone-built Bridge of Feugh is popular with visitors who like to watch salmon leaping upstream. The best months to watch the salmon are from September to November and from February to March.

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From there, it is a short drive to Scolty Hill, which offers a number of circular walks through the woods to the summit. It is topped by a 20m tall tower monument, which was built in 1840 as a memorial to General William Burnett. From there you can appreciate a panaromic view of the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Just 20 minutes north of Aberdeen is Newburgh Beach, known for its sand dunes and 400-strong colony of seals.

Visitors can take a bracing walk along the sand, taking in panoramic views of the bay and headland and admiring the seals frolicking in the sea.

Ten miles north of there is Cruden Bay which offers spectacular views of the cliff edge and the North Sea. It is a short walk from there, along the clifftop, to the ruins of Slains Castle, a 16th century fortress built as a Scots Baronial mansion.

Interesting cliff features such as stacks and stumps can also be seen along the coastline.

The Aberdeenshire countryside, and its coastline, has much to offer, and for visitors spending more than a few days in Aberdeen it is well worth appreciating.

Stonehaven, which is a short train ride from Aberdeen, is a beautiful coastal town offering stunning views, delicious eateries and a ruined 13th century clifftop castle.

It’s known for multi-award winning fish and chip shop, The Bay, but if you’re spending the day in Stonehaven it’s worth working up an appetite first by embarking on a walk along the clifftop to Dunnottar Castle, via the war memorial.

It is a beautiful walk which takes you from the fishing harbour and up a steep cliff path to dramatic views over natural bays and the North Sea.

It’s worth stopping to admire the town’’s unique war memorial, positioned on the clifftop, which was designed by local architect John Ellis and unveiled in 1923 to remember those lost in the First World War. It is designed in the style of a ruined ancient temple, representing the lives ruined by the war.

It is then just a short walk to Dunnottar Castle, positioned on the headland with ruins dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Visitors can enjoy the castle at their own pace, taking in the information boards or using the castle’s very own app. Much can be learned about Scotland’s history here and its many battles with England over the years.

Those making their way back to Stonehaven can pop in to the Tolbooth Museum, situated in a building once used as the town’s prison. It contains a prison cell and a crank, a punishment device which was weighted down and had to be turned by prisoners.

It also has a range of artefacts from Stonehaven’s past including household items from a bygone era such as a hand-powered washing machine, tattie chipper and spurtle.

An ideal way to finish off your day in Stonehaven is a visit to The Bay for its world-famous fish and chips. The eaterie, situated on the seafront, is proud of its success, with trophies and certificates adorning the walls and cabinets around the fish bar.

Not only is the food delicious, but it gains extra points for being eco-friendly – the cutlery it hands out are made of biodegradable materials and its fish is locally-sourced and sustainable.

It’s also worth stopping by Aunt Betty’s ice cream parlour next door, which offers generously-filled cones (if you’ve gorged on fish and chips, make sure you ask for a child’s portion) with spectacular toppings including natural flowers or an assortment of chocolates.

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