Why not combine an Aberdeen city break with a break at Cairngorm Lodges where Aberdeenshire meets The Cairngorms National Park. Two very different worlds but in reality just an hours drive apart.
The Scotsman, one of Scotland’s national newspapers , calls its city of Aberdeen – where ships dock right up against the city-centre streets and dolphins leap in the busy North Sea harbour – “one of the most architecturally distinctive in Europe.” Its mile long Union Street is lined with granite buildings and it boasts not one but two Old Towns; Old Aberdeen has cobbled streets, mature trees and a 15th century fortified cathedral – this is where the UK’s fifth oldest University was founded in 1495. But there is also Footdee, or “Fittie” as we affectionately call it – a quirky fishing quarter with rows of tiny cottages, flower-filled gardens and boldly coloured outhouses which sits right at the water’s edge.
Aberdeen is a cosmopolitan and connected place – with people working and studying here from across the globe, their accents mixing with the sound of local Doric, our original Scots language. This very different city works hard to welcome visitors from afar and entertain them during their stay. With no less than 10 festivals happening in 2016 we were lucky to be able to enjoy a diverse array of culture from music to art to dance to light and much more besides, all of which were unique and inspiring. No wonder Aberdeen is fast becoming Scotland’s weekend city. We certainly look forward to more from Aberdeen Festivals in 2017.
And then we can head inland following the route of the River Dee to our beloved Royal Deeside; it feels like a deep dive into the glens and ancient forests where you are free to escape, roam across our highland estate and well, just …br…ea…the. Take time in the forest to observe our red squirrels and roe deer. Marvel at the flora so lush and the fauna so plentiful. Scan above the tree tops in search of a red kite or golden eagle. This is true Scotland.
Summer days are endless when you’re this far north so make the most of it with hiking, biking, gliding, kayaking , gorge walking and zip wires (if you’re brave enough) all on the doorstep. Winter days here tend to be colder and drier with bracing fresh air encouraging you to keep active on the hills and slopes. Luckily we have our warming pleasures to return to – a wee dram or two at the end of the day by the roaring log fire. Just as well we have a whole estate of woodlands to keep the woodburners stocked and the lodges warm.
While Aberdeen City is cosmopolitan, in Aberdeenshire traditions and roots run deep. Our communities are strong, Doric and most definitely the music – is alive. Locals join together for stirring evenings of song, bothy ballads and tales in village pubs. They love visitors to sit with them and join in if they wish. This is true at Highland Games too where the clans that have gathered for centuries still gather today; visitors are encouraged to compete in the hill races and tug o wars – there’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition!
This is your opportunity to bag a Munro with 34 around Braemar alone. There are legends to be scaled – The Old Man of Lochnagar and mystical Bennachie. On a clear day you will be rewarded with views for many miles across great estates and heather clad moorlands. As you make your way to the top ponder at the clean clear springs that travel down the mountainside to fill our still dark lochs and crystal clear rivers where salmon come to spawn.
Queen Victoria fell deeply in love with what would become known as Royal Deeside and her beloved Balmoral Castle, still the Scottish home to our Royal family. Balmoral is ideally located to enjoy the beauty of ancient Caledonian forests and the fast flowing River Dee. Ancient sites and symbols lay testament to the area being the heartland the ancient Picts. The number of castles, from Dunnottar perched of a cliff edge, to Craigievar the Disney Castle means Scottish History lives on here.
This is a landscape and an area shaped and stewarded by hundreds of generations of hunters, farmers and foresters. Our distinctive culture has been retained and we hope you will enjoy it with us and see for yourself why this is “one of the last great places on earth” (National Geographic).