Car-free adventures aroundAberdeenAberdeenshire

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Scotland’s third biggest city makes a great hub for car-free adventures and an excellent base for a staycation – scroll to the bottom for more on buses, bikes and places to stay. With its maritime heritage, medieval colleges, two picturesque rivers and miles of sandy beach, granite Aberdeen has plenty to see without leaving the city. But hop on a train or bus and you can explore all kinds of landscapes, from the clifftop Dunnottar Castle to the long slopes of Loch Ness.

  • County: Aberdeenshire
  • Great for: boats | castle | churches | maritime heritage | museums |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Dunnottar Castle

    A visit to this atmospheric clifftop ruin combined with a stroll around Stonehaven makes a great day out. Dunnottar Castle, on a rugged peninsular above the North Sea, is one of the most dramatic castles even in Scotland, a country that’s famous for them.

    • The short train ride from Aberdeen along the cliffs to the village of Stonehaven is an adventure in itself and the walk along the cliffs from Stonehaven to Dunnottar castle, a couple of miles south of Stonehaven, is spectacular. The castle’s car park is only small so Dunnottar actively encourages car-free visitors (no discount yet, though!).
    • From Market Square in Stonehaven, walk past the clock tower over Allardice Street and along little Market Lane to the sea, following signs for castle. Keep going around the harbour and up onto the cliffs, past the viewpoint at Bervie Braes.
    • Follow the road and then a path along the cliffs, with the war memorial on Black Hill above, and stunning views of Dunnottar Castle soon ahead.
    • Alternatively, hourly bus X7 runs direct from Aberdeen via Stonehaven and stops on the main road not too far from Dunnottar castle.
    • Stonehaven is famous for having one of the best fish and chip shops in Britain so you can reward yourself when you get back to the village; stroll along the beach with the sea on your right until you reach The Bay.
    • And – if you’ve still got room – have some ice cream for pudding from Giulianotti, a charming old-fashioned sweet shop on Evan Street, with a great line in unusual flavours.
  1. 4. To Inverness and beyond

    Stately Inverness, its wide river flanked by churches and spanned by an elegant suspension bridge, is the largest town in the Highlands. Trains link Aberdeen and Inverness a few times per day. They take a lovely route round hills, through woods and fields of sheep, and finally along the Moray Forth to Inverness.

    • Soon after Insch Station, look out for the dramatic stone arch of a ruined fort on the Hill of Dunnideer to the right of the track. The train goes on past Leith Hall and through hilly Strathbogie, running alongside a meandering river for several miles.
    • There are more pretty sections after the town of Huntly: the railway runs between the River Deveron and Kinnoir Wood and then beside the little, winding River Isla.
    • Inverness makes a great base for exploring the Highlands. There are buses along the Great Glen past Loch Ness (like the 919 Citylink to Fort William), which stops at Urquhart Castle.
    • Rabbies, a friendly tour agency with an environmental conscience, takes groups all over Scotland and beyond. It’s a good way for car-free travellers to reach several sights in a day; they have tours daily from Inverness and are also running new routes out of Aberdeen.
  1. Buses, bikes and places to stay

    Here’s a bit more practical info if you’re planning a staycation in Aberdeen.

    • If you’re taking several bus rides around Aberdeen, there’s a First day ticket giving unlimited trips across the city.
    • If the bus journeys are on the same day that you arrive by train, get a PlusBus ticket in advance for unlimited First and Stagecoach bus rides around the whole urban area.
    • There are several bike hire options and the level seafront is great for pedalling.
    • There are lots of places to stay in Aberdeen. Oyo Flagship Brentwood is right next to Aberdeen railway station with doubles and triples.
    • The modern Sandman Signature, just round the corner from the art gallery.
    • If you want to stay in Stonehaven, we recommend the cosy, helpful Belvedere Hotel, ten minutes’ stroll downhill from the railway station. It has twin rooms and a lively bar on the ground floor.
  1. Discover more offers and days out in Aberdeenshire with Good Journey. For more money-saving tips see our handy guides to trains and buses.

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