Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
The City of Aberdeen and its neighbouring coast and inland countryside boasts a vast array of walking opportunities, including many less visited gems. The city itself reveals a different aspect when explored on foot, leaving time to examine buildings and sculptures usually hurried past. With so much of the county facing the North Sea, the coast provides a handsome selection of routes taking in sandy dunes, rugged cliffs and natural arches, ruined castles and endless wildlife-watching spots. Inland, the fertile rolling farmland provides a gentle introduction to the foothills of the Cairngorms where heather moorland and rocky granite tors provide spectacular views over the whole county.
This guide features 40 shorter walks exploring the city, market towns, coastal villages, woods, cliffs and moors which make this area so diverse and rewarding for the walker.
96 pages / 105mm x 148mm / step inside the guide
Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
This book covers Scotland’s third largest city, Aberdeen, and the surrounding rolling countryside and dramatic coastline of Aberdeenshire. Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire boast a vast array of walking opportunities, including many less visited gems. Stretching from the massive dunes of Collieston in the north to the wide arc of sand at St Cyrus in the south, this guide takes a big bite out of rural Aberdeenshire – featuring the popular moorland peaks of Bennachie, the Deeside settlements of Banchory and Aboyne and north to Huntly, Turriff and Fyvie where castles dot the agricultural landscape. The area known as Royal Deeside, which includes Ballater and Braemar, forms part of the Cairngorms National Park – walks in this area can be found in the companion guidebook, Aviemore and the Cairngorms: 40 Shorter Walks; likewise, walks around the picturesque fishing villages of North Aberdeenshire can be found in the guide, Moray: 40 Coast and Country Walks.
Most of the walks in this guide are straightforward and can be completed in a morning or afternoon. The landscape and contrast between city and countryside means variety is the key to this selection of both much loved and less known outings. Aberdeen itself offers a rich history and architecture-laden tours exploring different areas of the city, including its golden beach. The rural routes are mainly circuits and, where possible, include access by public transport. In addition to the coast, Aberdeenshire has more than its fair share of characterful small hills, most with stunning views: some of these routes do necessitate an up and back approach, in which case the time given is the estimated time for the whole route without stops. Many walks are designed to be combined with visits to local attractions, castles, distilleries and the numerous tearooms, cafés and pubs.
A small number of the routes are suitable for all-terrain baby buggies and these are highlighted at the start of the relevant description. Many others are perfect for adventurous families, with highlights including the chance to play king of the castle at Dunnottar, endless open space and a small petting zoo at Hazlehead Park in Aberdeen, a tall tower to climb atop Scolty Hill and the chance for little legs to run on the great expanses of sand at St Cyrus. A sketch map accompanies each route, many of which are waymarked, well-walked and established routes with little chance of getting lost as long as you are properly prepared; however, an Ordnance Survey map is usually advised. Where the routes are likely to be muddy underfoot, this is highlighted, but in general decent waterproof footwear should be worn on most of the walks. Waterproofs and extra clothing are essential on some of the hillier walks, such as Bennachie or Clachnaben, where weather conditions can change very rapidly.
General access information and dogs
Recent legislation has given Scotland some of the most walker-friendly rights in the world with access permitted over most land away from residential buildings.
With these rights come responsibilities, as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, essentially requiring respect for other land users and responsible access, especially on farmed or grazing land. In particular, dogs should be kept on short leads or under tight control during the spring and early summer to stop them disturbing livestock and groundnesting birds. Dogs should also be kept away from livestock at all times.
The people and the land
Fit like? Doric, which is used nowadays to refer to the mid-northern Scots dialect, is still in use today, particularly in North Aberdeenshire, Fraserburgh and Peterhead with variations in other parts. So if someone asks ‘Ay ay, fit like?’ or ‘Fou’s yer doos?’, it means ‘how are you?’ (the latter literally means ‘how are your pigeons?’). The surviving dialect is one pointer to the region’s long history, as Aberdeen and its shire has seen human habitation since prehistoric times. The area is dotted with ancient sites, cairns, cists, forts, standing stones and stone circles, all testament to the area’s early inhabitants. Aberdeen itself is an ancient city, built up around a small fishing port on the Dee Estuary and the area now known as Old Aberdeen around the mouth of the Don. Fishing has remained important in the northern settlements of Fraserburgh and Peterhead, but is much diminished in Aberdeen itself.
A stroll around Footdee reveals the picturesque former fishertown close to the sea where the houses, designed with net drying, fish gutting and net mending in mind, huddle together in a tight-knit hollow just metres from the North Sea. Much of Aberdeen’s early prosperity came from shipbuilding and sea-going trade, as well as a thriving textile and paper industry. These traditional industries were eclipsed by the boom years following the discovery of North Sea oil. This in turn has sparked the growth of high-end property and shopping, both evident on any tour of the city centre or outlying suburbs and villages. North Sea oil reserves have begun to decline, however, and the Scottish government is hoping that the technological and entrepreneurial skills from the oil industry can be harnessed to make Aberdeen a centre for the renewable energy sector in the future. Many of the buildings in the centre date from the Victorian era, built using the locally quarried granite that gives Aberdeen its nickname, ‘the Granite City’.
Granite is a famously hard rock and as a result many of the buildings still look almost as new; however, the grey rock can give the city an austere face, despite the sparkling of the mica in the rock in the rain. Aberdeen is also one of the few cities to boast a wide sandy beach, although the East coast weather, despite being often sunny, is rarely without a bracing breeze – the sands are usually more popular with surfers, joggers and dog walkers than those seeking a Bermudian tan. The city is blessed with fine parks and open spaces, and two walks include visits to Duthie Park, where the wonderful (and tropically warm) winter gardens should not be missed, and Hazlehead Park where there is a plethora of activities on offer, including golf courses, a huge children’s play area, maze and pet’s corner.
Inland from the city, the richness of the agricultural land becomes apparent in the patchwork of fields, watered by the Rivers Dee and Don, with the occasional moorland hill poking up above as the great massif of the Cairngorms is approached. Some 4000 years ago, man first began to grow crops and domesticate livestock in this area. Many of the relics from the prehistoric eras remain archaeological mysteries, and good examples such as the recumbent Tomnaverie Stone Circle near Tarland can be seen on these walks. Later examples of Bronze Age fortified hill forts dating back to 2200BC can be seen on Mither Tap and Dunnideer near Insch.
Having such a varied landscape, Aberdeenshire abounds with different natural habitats. The wild cliffs, as well as providing excellent sites for towering man-made castles and fortresses, offer nesting sites for thousands of seabirds. The Bullers of Buchan are particularly spectacular during late spring and early summer when the air turns white with wheeling birds. However, the other coastal routes are also good for wildlife spotting, with the Ythan Estuary known for its wading birds and the dunes at Balmedie another rich habitat. The coast is also a great spot for looking out for seals, porpoise or dolphins, with Boddam Head a favourite location. Inland, Aberdeenshire remains a stronghold of the red squirrel although its grey sibling, which carries a virus lethal to reds, has advanced northwards from Angus in recent years and threatens much of the population in this area. Look out for the red-tufted creatures on any of the woodland walks. Another seasonal spectacular is the salmon leaping as they make their way upriver to traditional spawning grounds; the Falls of Feugh, near the start of the Scolty Hill walk, is a good place to watch for this during October and November each year.
Fly fishing for these wily creatures, as well as brown trout, remains very popular on the wide rivers of the area, particularly the Dee. Combined with golf and shooting, and the many excellent teashops, castles and whisky distilleries nearby, the area has a very traditional feel. However, the vibrant pulse from the university and technology-driven city of Aberdeen and the changing use of the countryside, including the increasing popularity of newer sports such as mountain biking and kite surfing, means there is something for everyone.