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Visiting Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire had been on my bucket list for quite some time, not only I’d heard amazing things about this magical place, I’d also seen so many pictures of the beautiful highlands, fantastic castles and spectacular landscapes and lakes that my immediate reaction when @visitabdn reached out about a 3 day trip around Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire was YES, let’s do it!, one thousand times yes!
And so it happened, from a Friday to a Sunday, my friend Deyana (aka @immovingtolondon) and I explored some of the most magical places of Aberdeenshire.
The day started early, but it was for a good reason, we had an early but short flight to Aberdeen! Always a big fan of short flights to magical places…
As soon as we touched down our adventure began!
We drove straight from the airport to Ballater, during our drive we could see the highlands in the background, the green fields, the picturesque houses and the castles, the narrow roads with stone bridges over the clear water streams….it was like we were living a fairytale.
Ballater is a picturesque Victorian Village located in the Cairngorms National Park and known as ‘Royal Warrant’ little town due to the amount of awards granted to local businesses by members of the Royal Family.
After window shopping and sightseeing for a bit, we stopped by The Carriage for Afternoon Tea.
The Carriage is the newly restored Old Royal Station in Ballater. In 1866 the station was built so that Queen Victoria and the Royal family could travel by train to nearby Balmoral Castle. After closing in the following century it was then reinvented as an office for Aberdeenshire council and finally as a restaurant and visitor centre. In 2015, Ballater suffered a great loss when the The Carriage was destroyed by a fire leaving little behind.
After this sad event, an extensive restoration plan was initiated and the station was rebuilt to its former glory by Prince Charle’s charity work. The interior of this landmark has been made into a beautiful dining space, as well as a visitor centre and a library. Currently you can enjoy beautifully curated menus throughout the day, tasting locally sourced ingredients as well as experiencing a fantastic afternoon tea in the cosy tearoom.
As walked in the wooden panelled room with floral seats, we already knew we were going to have a delicious afternoon tea.
The tradition afternoon tea was composed by finger sandwiches, raisin and plain scones with clotted cream and jam and, of course, delicate pastries. And for tea, we could choose from the Highgrove Teas selection and I couldn’t say no to the famous Prince of Wales Blend.
After a very satisfying afternoon tea, we were ready to keep exploring, and so we did. Our next stop was: Muir of Dinnet
The Muir of Dinnet, located at the edge of Dinnet Village, is as enchanting as it sounds, with walking trails in the woodlands perfect for looking out for birds and delicate wildflowers and animals. It is there that you can also find a magnificent example of nature’s work, the Burn O’Vat, a granite cauldron-shaped pothole.
After the utterly refreshing walk in the nature we made our way to Craigievar Castle in Alford.
One of the most recognisable castles in Scotland, the pink Craigievar Castle looks like taken out of a fairytale and it’s actually said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.
This iconic tower house, very much loved in Scotland, was a family home until the 60’s, incorporating a blend of modern comforts and rare antiquities. Nowadays, you can explore the two way marked trails around the castle grounds and you can visit the castle, only accessible via guided tours.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to go on a guided tour as the season was not open yet, but we explored the grounds and took almost a million pictures of this beautiful princess castle!
After this magical experience we headed to our beautiful hotel, Tor Na Coille. This privately owned Victorian Country House Hotel, located in the village of Banchory, is a four star hotel perfectly stationed for a luxury stay while touring impressive castles and the gorgeous countryside in Royal Deeside.
After checking in and relaxing for a couple of hours, we made our way to the dining room and enjoyed a delicious dinner full of culinary classics with a twist. We had an early night, after a long but fun day, and already excited about our second day in Aberdeenshire.
The second day of our trip started with an early breakfast and check out followed by a short drive to the Cluny Castle.
Cluny Castle, a picturesque castle situated in Sauchen, near Inverurie, is a majestic and enchanting castle, secludedly hidden in a romantic location and surrounded by over two hundred acres of beautiful landscape.
Dating back to the 14th Century, this impressive mansion still remains a much loved private family home which can be hired for events and even as a filming set! The fact that it’s so versatile and easily accessible, with a splendid historic and visually appealing look, it became a favourite amongst some of the world’s leading film makers and was the location for a number of highly praised films, including the time it doubled as Balmoral Castle during the filming of the acclaimed film The Queen, starring Hellen Mirren.
As we got back to the car after wandering about, we looked up how to get to our next destination, Castle Fraser, which was only a 10 minutes drive away.
Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses in Scotland and part of the National Trust for Scotland. Home of the Fraser family for over 400 years, the castle is open from March 1st until December 16th with regular tours, where you can see the family ornaments, mementos and portraits, as well was discover quirky features such as secret staircases, and explore beautifully designed landscapes by waling the trails surrounding this monument.
After walking around the grounds and checking the little store, it was almost lunch time so we made our way back to the car to drive to Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, where we had lunch.
Welcoming guest for over 120 years, the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel is a small hotel with 19 bedrooms located in the heart of Cruden Bay. Whether you stay for leisure or business, when in Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, you are only one short walk from the renowned Cruden Bay Golf Course, the historic harbour, the scenic beach and the Slains Castle. It was also in this small hotel that in the late 1800’s Bram Stoker, inspired by the surroundings, stayed while he wrote Dracula (1897).
We enjoyed a delicious meal in the restaurant, if you want something more relaxed you can always have something in the pub but never forgetting that Kilmarnock Arms Hotel is proud to serve its costumers with locally sourced produce with a modern twist.
After our lunch and a short stroll to check the picturesque beach, we were back in the road making our way to Slains Castle.
The Slains Castle was once upon a time a very majestic castle on the coast of Cruden Bay, but due to various misfortunes this famous castle looks nothing like its days of glory.
After a very bumpy drive, we parked the car next to the ruins and went in. We saw the naked windows and walls, the dark and cold rooms, the inexistent roof (which was removed by its latest owner to avoid taxes), the green paths…only the castle’s skeleton was there, but still, it’s structure, location and views are fantastic and it didn’t surprise me to discover that Slains Castle served as inspiration to Bram Stoker for the setting of the tale in Count Dracula (1897).
After wandering about, we sat on the grass, watched the waves clashing against the rocks and listened to the loud wind – the perfect way to relax before heading to Aberdeen.
After a 45 minutes drive, we arrived to Footdee.
Footdee, locally known as Fittie, it’s a former fishing community based right next to the beach front, designed by the same architect responsible for Balmoral Castle, John Smith. All cottages have their backs to the ocean, to protect them and their residents from the ferocious storms that still come in from the sea, and they all face inwards in squares where you can see them painted with bright colours and with eccentric decorations.
It was then time to check in at Mercure Caledonian, an elegant and perfectly located Victorian hotel overlooking Union Terrace Gardens, with a design inspired by Aberdeen’s rich heritage.
After checking in and and relaxing for a couple of hours we walk to the The Sandman Signature Aberdeen Hotel, located in the heart of the city, where we had dinner.
We dined in the hotel’s restaurant, Chop Grill & Bar, where we enjoyed a beautiful cooked meal with fresh ingredients and hand-crafted cocktails, in a lively environment. Day 3
The third and last day of our trip also started bright and early with breakfast in the hotel and we then went on a walk to explore the Aberdeen city centre. As it was Sunday, we had a little stroll in the empty streets and took some pictures. We also admired Andy Scott’s Poised Statue and the Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world!
After getting back to the hotel to check out, we stopped by Old Aberdeen on the route back to the airport. It was there that monks and scholars, traders and travellers settled in the 14th century.
We walked along the cobbled roads and it was like we stepped back in time, surrounded by historic sites, especially the St Machar’s Cathedral, which still stands alongside King’s College, the predecessor to The University of Aberdeen, founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1495..
And so our weekend trip in Aberdeenshire came to an end, we had such a great time exploring and sightseeing all the beautiful and historic places, Scotland really is stunning!
Thank you so very much to the amazing team from @visitabdn who made this all possible! Can’t wait to go back one day!
#visitABDN #beautifulABDN #ScotlandIsNow