Aberdeenshire Travel Guide

Planning a trip to Aberdeenshire?

Aberdeenshire isn’t on many Scotland bucket lists.

But it’s one of my favourite areas in Scotland. There’s castles, cute small towns, and beautiful scenery.

Keep reading for my ultimate guide to Aberdeenshire: the best places you should go, where you should miss, and all my top tips for travelling in Aberdeenshire.

TOP 5 PLACES YOU SHOULDN’T MISS

  1. Dunnottar Castle: One of my favourite castles in Scotland. It’s worth going to Aberdeenshire just to see this. Read my ultimate guide to Dunnottar Castle here. Either make your own way there or do a small group tour from Aberdeen.
  2. Craigievar Castle: Another one of my favourite castles in Scotland. It was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle (and it’s pink). Read my ultimate guide to Craigievar Castle here.
  3. Ballater, Braemar and Balmoral Castle: Really cute small villages with lovely walks. You can also do a tour of Balmoral Castle (the Queen’s Scottish castle). Either drive yourself or you can do a small group tour from Aberdeen (max 8 people so it’s not a hideous big tour bus).
  4. Crovie: A small traditional fishing village on a cliff. 
  5. Dufftown and Speyside: Technically this is just outside Aberdenshire, but it’s very close. This is the best whisky area in Scotland. Do a distillery tour from Aberdeen (or Inverness or Edinburgh)

OVERRATED PLACES YOU SHOULD MISS 

  1. Aberdeen: Aberdeenshire is beautiful, but I don’t like Aberdeen itself. It’s the main city in Aberdeenshire and it’s just grey, ugly and boring. Skip it.
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BEST OF ABERDEENSHIRE

Not sure where to start? Read my curated collection of the best things to do in Aberdeenshire.

How to get to Dunnottar Castle: The ultimate guide

How to get to Dunnottar Castle: The ultimate guide

Craigievar Castle: The complete guide (and why you should visit the pink castle in Scotland)

Craigievar Castle: The complete guide (and why you should visit the pink castle in Scotland)

WANT MORE SUGGESTIONS?

Feeling overwhelmed? Want more suggestions? Download my Edinburgh Bucket List for free – find out my very favourite things to do and places to eat and drink in Edinburgh.

TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN ABERDEENSHIRE

HOW TO GET AROUND ABERDEENSHIRE?

The easiest way to get around Aberdeenshire is driving.

If you’re just going to Aberdeen (which I don’t recommend – it’s boring!) you can easily get around with public transport/taxis. But to see the best places in Aberdeenshire (like Craigievar Castle and Dunnottar Castle) you need a car. There’s no public transport to Craigievar Castle, for example.

DRIVING: The best way to get around Aberdeenshire is driving. There are lots of rental car companies and it can be quite overwhelming not knowing which one to choose. I always use rentalcars.com – it compares every rental car company so you know you’ve searched everything.

TRAINS: There’s quite a good train network around Aberdeenshire. You can get to quite a few places by train, but not everywhere is accessible (like Craigievar Castle). It’s also a lot quicker and you have more flexibility if you drive.

I found it quite overwhelming to navigate the trains in Scotland – there are lots of different train companies and they all have different websites/apps to book. I found Trainline was the best way to book – it’s like the Skyscanner for trains. It searches all the different train companies so you know you’ve searched everywhere.

BUS: There’s quite a good bus network around Aberdeenshire, but again it doesn’t go everywhere and it’s much better to drive. The two main bus companies are Megabus and Stagecoach.

TAXI/UBER: There’s taxis in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, although there’s less availability in more rural areas. There’s no Uber.

TOURS: I’m not a big fan of tours, especially big group tours. But sometimes it’s the easiest way to get somewhere, especially when there’s limited public transport/taxis (like trying to get to Dunnottar Castle or Braemar/Balmoral Castle). I always look for small group tours run by locals.

These are small group tours worth doing in Aberdeenshire:

  1. Dunnottar Castle day trip
  2. Braemar/Balmoral Castle day trip
  3. Whisky tour to Speyside – from Aberdeen (or Inverness or Edinburgh)

ACCOMMODATION IN ABERDEENSHIRE

Aberdeen is a big area so where you will stay will depend on what you plan to do. Do you want a long weekend in Aberdeenshire just based in one place, are you passing through on a Scottish road trip, or do you want somewhere central to use as a base to travel around Aberdeenshire?

I don’t like Aberdeen – it’s a boring ugly town. But it would be a convenient base and there’s lots of hotels.

If you want somewhere more charming to stay, I recommend Braemar, Ballater, Crovie, Stonehaven, Arbroath or Dufftown (the last two are technically outside Aberdeenshire – but they are nearby).

I always book my accommodation with Airbnb or booking.com. If you find an Airbnb you like, you can usually find it cheaper on booking.com. They also have a good loyalty programme with big discounts.

I also love Mr & Mrs Smith – it’s a curated collection of the best luxury boutique hotels in the world. They don’t recommend any hotels in Aberdeenshire at the moment, but it’s worth checking if you’re going to my other favourite places around Scotland.

If you’re looking for the best boutique luxury hotels in Aberdeenshire, add these to your bucket list:

  1. The Chester Hotel
  2. Douneside House
  3. Banchory Lodge
  4. Lys-Na-Greyne

WHEN TO GO TO ABERDEENSHIRE?

The best time to visit Scotland is Spring (March to May) or early Autumn (September or October).

It surprisingly rains the most in Scotland in Summer (June to August). Summer is also super busy, especially during the July school holidays which you should avoid.

The weather is usually the nicest in Spring and there are beautiful cherry blossoms and bluebells everywhere. It’s also lovely in Autumn where the leaves are red, although it gets cold and dark by November so don’t go then.

You can go skiing in Braemar in Winter (January to April).

HOW LONG TO SPEND IN ABERDEENSHIRE?

You could spend a day in Aberdeenshire or a couple of weeks – it really depends what you want to do.

  • Allow half a day if you only want to see Aberdeen (I don’t recommend this – there’s not much to see in Aberdeen)
  • Allow 1-2 days if you want to visit Dunnottar Castle and Craigievar Castle (you can easily see both in a day if you’re driving. If you don’t have your own car, you can do a day trip to Dunnottar Castle on a small group tour)
  • Allow 1-2 days if you want to visit Ballater, Braemar and Balmoral Castle (you can do a small group tour, or drive yourself if you want to spend a couple of days there).
  • Allow 1 day if you want to visit Crovie

This is a very rough guide and just to see the “main sites”. It also doesn’t allow for travel time (if you’re driving all the way from Edinburgh – you’ll obviously need longer than one day).

It will depend on what you want to see. Do you want a long weekend relaxing in Braemar? Do you want to spend a week doing a big road trip everywhere in Aberdeenshire?

VISAS + COVID

You don’t need a visa to visit Scotland if you’re from the EU, Australia, New Zealand, United States or Canada, but you will be restricted on how long you can stay. Check the UK Immigration website to see if you need a visa and how long you can stay.

You can also check the Visit Scotland website to see if there are any covid travel restrictions.

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VIEW ALL ABERDEENSHIRE POSTS

How to get to Dunnottar Castle: The ultimate guide

How to get to Dunnottar Castle: The ultimate guide

Craigievar Castle: The complete guide (and why you should visit the pink castle in Scotland)

Craigievar Castle: The complete guide (and why you should visit the pink castle in Scotland)

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