I adore that Alana likes to travel the way I do, explore and get under the skin of a city off the beaten track, really taking the time to wander and taste the beer. I mean, the culture of a new place.
Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city, the ‘gateway to the North Sea’ and not a city you’d find yourself visiting unless you have another reason to be there. I date a sailor who works in the offshore industry and he’d been away forever doing boat things so I decided to pay him (and Aberdeen) a visit.
When going to a new place I normally search for travel blogs to get ideas beyond the usual Tripadvisor/tourist board website fare but it seems nobody has written a travel blog on Aberdeen. So after researching and visiting it myself (and with many thanks to Emma) I would like to present:
Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen – Part 1
Get some Scottish banknotes
If you’re used to spending English pounds the Scottish equivalent are a colourful change. Plus it’s fun to use them back in England. They’re legal tender anywhere in the UK but they can confuse people – so if you’re the mischievous sort this one is for you.
Visit the Aberdeen Museum
I LOVED this museum. The rooms were small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a lot of the paintings and sculpture were in my art sweet spot of somewhere between 1800 and 1940.
Following a colourful trail of flowers up the stairs took me to the current exhibition which was 50 years of work by textile designer Kaffe Fassett.
Compared with the white walls in the rest of the gallery the exhibition was a riot of colour, pattern and texture. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t rate it high enough. The only people that seemed to like it more than me were the couple wearing matching Fassett inspired knitted jerseys.
The staff are also lovely. When I asked reception if anyone would know if works from an ancestor of mine were in the collection another staff member tracked me down, catalogue in hand to look it up for me before I had a chance to find him first.
Get your sailor boyfriend to give you a tour of his boat
It’s not something that most visitors to Aberdeen get to do but The Boy organised for me to have a quick tour of the boat he works on. Technically it’s 81 metres of multi purpose offshore vessel but calling it a boat simplifies things.
There was some pretty serious maintenance underway - in fact the boat wasn’t even floating as it was getting a new paint job and an overhaul of its mechanical bits. It was fascinating, oily, manly (seriously there were no women anywhere) and a totally different working environment from my job in a pristine central London office.
Visit Footdee and try find the ugliest garden ornament or friendliest cat
Footdee (called Fittee by the locals) is an old fishing village on the east side of the Aberdeen harbour. It’s incredibly photogenic with cute little wooden shacks and slate roof cottages. I had a lot of fun judging peoples taste in garden ornaments and trying to figure out if a garden gnome can ever be ironic.
The weather was good so I also took a walk along the beach near Footdee. You can see out across the North Sea and watch the boats coming in to Aberdeen harbour. I was there at 7.30am but I think it would be spectacular if you arrived a bit earlier for the sunrise.
Walk around Aberdeen
Aberdeen is known as the grey or granite city as a lot of the buildings are build of the local granite. The Marischal College building is pretty spectacular as it’s recently renovation has restored the granite from charcoal to the original silver grey.
Aberdeen isn’t a big city and I got a good feel for it by walking around.
Leave Aberdeen and go on a daytrip
45 minutes south of Aberdeen by bus is the town of Stonehaven and nearby Dunnottar Castle. The castle is a ruined fortress famous as the hiding place of the Scottish crown jewels from the army of Oliver Cromwell. It’s also perched on a headland facing the North Sea and is pretty awesome to explore.
There is a path that heads from Dunnottar Castle in the direction of Stonehaven. Hoping it would eventually get me to town I followed it along the edge of the cliffs getting stunning views over farmland, the sea and back towards the castle. The walk goes past the Stonehaven War Memorial which is designed to look unfinished to symbolise the lives of the local men that were cut short.
When I reached Stonehaven there was all sorts of noise (I believe it was a rather enthusiastic jazz band) and activity down by the harbour. The town was in the middle of a harbour festival and there were children and boats everywhere as well as people trying to convince you to vote Yes or No to Scottish independence, donate to the RNLI or even just buy a kipper in a roll.
I also ducked into the Tollbooth Museum which is tiny but worth a look. It’s like being in a really quirky and cluttered antique shop. Except nothing is for sale.
Things in Aberdeen I didn’t get to see
I had some bad luck with flight cancellations and delays and arrived in Aberdeen half a day later than I planned. Here’s some other things I would’ve seen if I had the chance:
Aberdeen Maritime Museum
I prioritised the Aberdeen Art Gallery ahead of this museum however it’s meant to be pretty cool and would’ve made the list if I’d had another day.
Aberdeen Country Fair
Held on the last Saturday of the month (and the Saturdays before Christmas) this market has everything from local produce to crafts and jewellery.
In a second installment shortly I talk about the tasty places for food and drink at in Aberdeen...
Thank you Alana! I need to book a couple of tickets methinks...