Ten more hidden gems in Aberdeen

Last year, we wrote about some of the great places to visit in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire that are less well-known, whether you have lived here for years or for those who are visiting. Here are ten more brilliant places to visit in Aberdeenshire that are off the beaten track compared to popular sites such as the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Hazlehead Park or Footdee!

Located just 30 minutes north of Aberdeen lies Tolquhon castle – a 16th century castle that has been coined one of the most beautiful in Scotland.

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Ten hidden gems in Aberdeen

St Machar's Cathedral in Old Aberdeen
St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen photo © Copyright Stephen Craven and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

1. St Machar’s Cathedral

Our first suggestion can be found in Old Aberdeen to the north of the city centre. St Machar’s Cathedral is the oldest building still in active use in Aberdeen and dates back to the early 12th century. With its unique heraldic ceiling, massive twin spires and glorious stained glass, St Machar’s Cathedral is a magnificent sight to behold.

The building has a tumultuous history, as it was built, partially destroyed, and rebuilt several times over a span of 250 years! The cathedral is truly beautiful and had been restored to its former glory, making it lovely for visitors to wander, both inside and outside, free of charge.

For more impressive sites to see in Old Aberdeen, you can read our recommendations here!

2. Crynoch Burn

Maryculter Woods, found on the outskirts of Aberdeen near Milltimber, is a local nature conservation site and the perfect setting for a leisurely stroll. There is a 4.3km circular trail here which leads you along the beautiful Crynoch Burn before looping through woodland, generally taking around 1 hour to complete.

The trails here are relatively flat and easy-going, mostly being on solid gravel paths, making it an ideal place for all ages to enjoy – dogs are also welcome here!

The ruins of Tolquhon Castle
The ruins of Tolquhon Castle photo © Copyright JThomas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

3. Tolquhon Castle

Located 30 minutes north of Aberdeen is a castle that has been coined one of the most beautiful in Scotland. Tolquhon Castle was constructed in 1536 by Sir William Forbes as an extension to an earlier tower house built here called Preston’s Tower. The descendants of William Forbes continued to live in the castle until 1718, and after this, the castle subsequently decayed and is now in ruins.

Tolquhon Castle is a wonderful castle to wander through, with intact upper floors and plenty of rooms to explore. Despite being in ruins, enough of the castle’s structure is still standing, which provides visitors with a real sense of what life would have been like to live here around 500 years ago. The site is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and the castle is open to visitors from the end of March to the end of September each year.

For more information on admission prices, please visit: https://www.historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/tolquhon-castle/prices-and-opening-times/.

For more inspiration on castles to visit in Aberdeen, you can read our blog here!

The central parterre in Pitmedden Gardens
The central parterre in Pitmedden Gardens photo © Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

4. Pitmedden Gardens and Museum of Farming Life

Our next suggestion is conveniently only a 5-minute drive from Tolquhon Castle. Pitmedden is a small village near Ellon, but despite its size, it is home to a very impressive gardens which is open all year-round.

Pitmedden Gardens, which first opened in 1675, is a delight for the senses with over 30,000 annual bedding plants filling the garden with gorgeous, vibrant colours. The centrepiece of the gardens are the parterres, which are surrounded by miles of clipped hedging, sculptures and heritage. At the top of the gardens is Pitmedden house which was constructed in 1807 and now houses the visitor reception, giftshop and tearoom – where they serve delicious home baking, teas and coffees, and light lunches.

Farming equipment in the Museum of Farming Life
Farming equipment in the Museum of Farming Life photo © Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Also found at Pitmedden Gardens is the Museum of Farming Life – a small museum dedicated to telling the story of what it was like to live and work on the farm in the early 20th century. Visitors can have a look around a farmer’s living room and inside old farm buildings with a variety of real farming equipment and machinery on display.

For more information on prices and opening times, please visit: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/pitmedden-garden/planning-your-visit.

Keith's Tower near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire
Keith’s Tower near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire photo © Copyright Ralph Greig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

5. Keith’s Tower

Just 30 minutes southwest of Aberdeen is a mysterious tower that stands just south of the River Dee, near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire. Keith’s tower is a 50-foot-tall octagonal tower that was built in almost 200 years ago in 1825 by the fifth Duke of Gordon – the first colonel of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders.

The tower was originally built to commemorate the winning of a lawsuit, however it appears to have coined its name in reference to a battle that took place nearby in the early 1400s between the Keith and Irvine of Drum clans.

The tower is located in the middle of some trees, so it feels really elusive and tucked away in the countryside. Visitors are able to climb up the tower, which has 62 steps to the top – make sure to bring a torch as the windows are covered over making it quite dark inside! This is a beautiful and secluded spot, and you will most likely be able to explore it all to yourself.

Cuddling and feeding the lambs at Farm Stop
Cuddling and feeding the lambs at Farm Stop photo © Copyright Farm Stop

6. Farm Stop

Just a 10-minute drive from Aberdeen is Farm Stop – a family-run farm offering an interactive and all-weather farm experience that captivates visitors of all ages. Easily accessible from the A92, visitors can get up close and personal with a delightful variety of farm animals, including sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, donkeys, bunnies, ducks, chickens, and alpacas – they even have adorable highland cows!

The friendly and knowledgeable staff ensure that every visit is memorable, whether you’re cuddling baby goats and lambs, feeding the pigs, or petting the donkeys – and sessions include family-friendly or adult-only experiences.

Tours are available on select days, and pre-booking is essential to enjoy this unique experience. Find out more by visiting https://farmstop.co.uk/.

View overlooking Aberdeen from Kincorth Hill Nature Reserve
View overlooking Aberdeen from Kincorth Hill Nature Reserve photo © Copyright Scott Cormie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

7. Kincorth Hill Local Nature Reserve

Kincorth Hill Local Nature Reserve, locally known as “the Gramps,” is a lovely area of heathland and woodland with a variety of footpaths perfect for walking and wildlife watching. The longest trail is 3.4km, taking about 50 minutes to complete, and its well-maintained wide paths make it an ideal spot for a family walk, with dogs welcome to explore off-lead in certain areas.

One of the highlights of this trail is the Kincorth Hill Viewpoint, where you can enjoy spectacular views over Aberdeen on one of its picnic benches to rest and take in the scenery. Along the route, interpretation boards offer insights into the area’s natural history, and there is also a sculpture trail which doubles as an orienteering course!

A recently exposed ruined pillbox at Blackdog Beach
A recently exposed ruined pillbox at Blackdog Beach photo © Copyright Bill Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

8. Blackdog Beach

Blackdog Beach, located north of Aberdeen, is a lovely beach that is much quieter than its popular neighbour, Balmedie Beach. Whilst enjoying a nice stroll along Blackdog Beach, you can explore the area’s rich wartime history, with remnants of World War II pillboxes scattered along the shoreline as well as a hidden bunker that was recently uncovered by shifting sands.

Access to Blackdog Beach requires navigating quite steep sand dunes, so it’s best suited for those with good mobility. The beach has a small car park and is dog-friendly, making it the perfect place to get out for some fresh air as you can make your walk here as long or as short as you’d like.

Cullerlie Stone Circle
Cullerlie Stone Circle photo © Copyright Scott Cormie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

9. Cullerlie Stone Circle

Cullerlie Stone Circle offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into ancient history. This interesting site, open year-round and free to visit, features eight rough granite boulders arranged in a circle just over 10 meters in diameter.

Unlike typical stone circles, which often include a recumbent stone flanked by upright stones, Cullerlie’s layout is unique. Within the circle are eight small ring cairns, constructed between 1800-1200 BCE, which likely served as cremation sites. There are information panels which provide further context to this site and there is a small car park just a short walk away.

Inside the Greyhope Bay Centre
Inside the Greyhope Bay Centre photo © Copyright Mount Cafe

10. Greyhope Bay Centre

Our final suggestion is to visit the Greyhope Bay Centre, located on the south side of Aberdeen Harbour next to the historic Torry Battery. The Greyhope Bay Centre offers a cafe, community, and education space in an off-grid container conversion. The centre is most popular for its panoramic views over the harbour, giving them the highest encounter rate for spotting bottlenose dolphins in the UK, with an 80% chance on any given day!

There is a lovely café here, serving hot and cold drinks alongside fine pieces, where customers can relax and enjoy the view – they even provide binoculars to help you spot wildlife or passing ships! There are also many classes and creative workshops hosted here.

Find out more about what’s on at Greyhope Bay Centre here: https://www.facebook.com/greyhopebay/.

Amy LeithBy Amy Leith
A marketing student born and raised in Aberdeen with an admiration of the Scottish isles, desire to travel and see the world, a superior taste in music, enjoys cooking and socialising with family and friends.

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Header image: A sunny day at Blackdog Beach, north of Aberdeen photo © Copyright Bill Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence