Stonehaven Bay, Aberdeen, Scotland

Located at the convergence of the Dee and Don Rivers and the North Sea, Aberdeen is more commonly known as the “Granite City” for its many enduring grey stone buildings. The silvery grey granite from the nearby quarries gives this city its unique character, as when the sun shines the mica in the stone sparkles. The city is also often referred to as the “Flower of Scotland” due to numerous parks and gardens. Aberdeen is one of Scotland’s biggest fishing ports and centre for offshore oil and is the capital of the Grampian Region. It also serves as the ferry terminal for both the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Aberdeen has so many fascinating places to enjoy, including a number of protected historical buildings dating back to the 16th Century. Over 200 years old Union Street is Aberdeen's busy main thoroughfare where you will find plenty of shops, cafés, restaurants and shopping arcades.

The leafy suburbs of Old Aberdeen are linked by winding, cobbled streets and feature some of the most beautiful architecture including the St. Machar’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is thought to occupy the site of a small Celtic Chapel that was erected by St. Machar in 581 A.D. The prominent towers on the West front, with their sandstone spires date back to between the 1518 - 1530’s and the 16th Century wooden ceiling is painted with the coats of arms.

The University and King's College of Aberdeen was founded in 1494 and received its charter from King James IV. Its most identifying feature is the huge 1633 tower with its elegant stone dome. It is the only remaining structure of its kind in Scotland. The 16th Century Oak Choir stalls and wooden ceiling in the chapel have also been preserved. While on the grounds of the campus a visit to the Cruickshank Botanic Gardens is a must.

When visiting Aberdeen there are a few museums and galleries to devote some time to including the 1884 Aberdeen Art Gallery, which houses a comprehensive collection of 17th - 20th Century paintings as well as displaying collections of British silver, glass and ceramics. The Aberdeen Maritime Museum is located in the Harbourside Shiprow district in a 16th Century Provost Ross House. The museum is a popular place to visit and includes collections of photos, paintings and models of the history of the area. Provost Skene's House was built in 1545 and is the oldest residence in Aberdeen, housing an outstanding museum with displays of locally excavated artefacts, period costumes and religious paintings.

Brig o'Balgownie or Bridge of Don is Scotland's oldest bridge and situated in one of the most romantic settings. Access to the stone structure is via a short walk through Seaton Park. Another great old bridge is the 1520’s Brig o’Dee decorated with coats of arms and inscriptions in Duthie Park.

Located 90 minutes from Aberdeen is Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of Queen Elizabeth II, a Neo-Baronial style castle from the Victorian era. The estate has extensive parklands, which can be explored by a safari tour showing off the amazing scenery and the local wildlife. The lovely nearby town of Braemar is a great place to explore. Famous for its annual sporting event, the Braemar Gathering better known as the Highland Games, this is Scotland’s equivalent of the Olympics that have been held here every autumn since 1832.

Crathes Castle is run by Scotland’s National Trust and is fine example of a Baronial style castle. The tower has small oriel windows, corner towers and exquisitely painted wooden ceilings that date back to the 1600’s. The figures portrayed in the Room of the Nine Nobles are ancient heroes such as Hector, Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. There are also three Old Testament characters and three famous rulers, including King Arthur and Charlemagne. The castle also has its own ghost in the Green Lady’s Room.

A short train ride from Aberdeen’s lies Stonehaven, a quaint seaside village with white cottages and wooden clad curiosity shops dotted around its harbour. There are also some typical English sweet shops to try while here. Dunnottar Castle is an imposing, ruined medieval fortress unevenly situated on a rocky headland south of Stonehaven. For those of you, who prefer your castles Disneyesque, set your sights on the 1457 Craigievar Castle a blush pink, turreted treasure with its crow stepped gables and oriel windows. This towering seven story residence stands as a symbol of authority and wealth.

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