The coastal city of Aberdeen in the north east of Scotland is known around the world for its links with the energy industry, however it is also the perfect destination for group travel. Whether you are looking for action and adventure, or a more luxurious stay, Aberdeen and the surrounding area has it all: world-class attractions, stunning scenery, outstanding food and drink, incredible history, an abundance of culture, and so much more.
For history buffs, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire can’t be beaten for their sheer number of castles and historic buildings. From imposing ruins to royal residences, the area is awash with incredible architecture and fascinating history.
Dunnottar Castle, situated just outside of the town of Stonehaven, is a striking ruin, perched atop a foreboding cliff face and towering over the North Sea. Featured in a number of films, most recently Victor Frankenstein starring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy, it is a must-see when visiting the north east of Scotland.
Group rates are available for parties of 20 or more at £5 for adults; £2 for children under 16. Guides are admitted free of charge. A coach car park is also available, and is free to use for groups who have pre-booked. Call the Castle Kiosk 01569 762173 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Those wishing to visit the Royal Family’s summer residence in stunning Royal Deeside – Balmoral Castle – can do so when it is open to the public from March 25 to July 31, 2016.
Once described by Queen Victoria as her “dear paradise in the Highlands”, the castle has a rich royal history. Visitors can enjoy an audio tour of the grounds, gardens and exhibitions to learn fascinating facts about the castle and its residents. A gift shop and coffee shop are also situated on site, allowing visitors to relax and bring home a memento of their visit.
Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more at £9.50 for adults; £8.50 for senior citizens and students; £5 for children aged 5-16. Guided tours are available for an additional £50 per group. Coach drivers and guides are admitted free of charge. Coach parking is available by prior arrangement. Call the Estates Office on 013397 42534 or email: email@example.com
The turrets and gargoyles of Crathes Castle may well have leapt from the pages on an ancient fairy tale. The incredible 16th-century tower house sits among incredible gardens, famous for their year-round colour and vibrancy.
From the yew hedges to the herbaceous borders of the Walled Garden, the grounds and surrounding forest walks offer an incredible glimpse at the Aberdeenshire countryside. The castle itself houses a collection of family portraits and historical artefacts, and many rooms retain their original ornate painted ceilings.
Group rates are available for parties of 12 or more at £9 per person. Coach parking is available. Catering – including soup and sandwich lunch or high tea – may be booked in advance.
Accounts of Drum Castle vary: some say it is a 14th century medieval tower, others a grand Victorian or Jacobean property. Drum Castle’s extensions make for a very unique property – in fact, by viewing it from each side you could be forgiven for believing you were looking at an entirely different building. Also set within stunning grounds, including the Garden of Historic Roses, Drum Castle makes for a perfect day out.
Drum Castle is also home to Human Presence, a specially curated collection of contemporary art housed in a newly created gallery while Aberdeen Art Gallery is under renovation.
Self-guided tours are available around Drum Castle. Groups are limited to 25 – larger groups will have staggered start times. Coach parking is available, and should be booked in advance.
Scotland’s national drink is beloved all across the country, and Aberdeen has its fair share of aficionados. To discover the history behind the amber nectar and see how it is made, a visit to a distillery is a must.
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Royal Lochnagar Distillery, which sits in the shadows of Balmoral Castle, was once a favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who embarked on the first ever distillery tour while in residence in Scotland. The single malt whisky made there today is still made by the same traditional methods the royals oversaw hundreds of years ago. Tours today reveal the secrets of making a delicious malt whisky, and allow visitors to sample some of the delicious amber nectar.
Booking in advance for groups is advisable, and availability is increased in the morning. There are a variety of tours available, beginning at £7.50 per person. Call 013397 42700 or email Royal.Lochnagar.Distillery@diageo.com
Glen Garioch Distillery
Glen Garioch Distillery (pronounced “Glen Gee-ree”) is another Aberdeenshire gem in the town of Oldmeldrum. The distillery draws on a rich history, and now produces a range of delicious single malt in numerous vintages. The knowledgeable tour guides are happy to share the secrets of the distillery, and offer a taste of ‘the water of life’ to end the tour.
Groups are advised to book in advance. A variety of tours are offered, beginning with the Founder’s Tour at £7.50 per person. Drivers attending the tour will get a dram to take away with them. Call 01651 873450 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
His Majesty’s Theatre
For theatre-goers keen to experience some of the city’s culture, His Majesty’s Theatre boasts a wide variety of performances through the year – from touring musical and plays, to local productions including the highly-lauded Student Show.
Comedians and musicians have also been known to appear in the venue, and will do so again in 2016. Highlights in the coming year include Avenue Q in March/April, Footloose in June, Jimmy Carr in August, Chicago in September/October, and The Commitments in March 2017. Call 0845 270 8200
Hidden Aberdeen Walking Tours
To get to grips with more of Aberdeen’s history, Hidden Aberdeen operates a number of walking tours throughout the city. Incorporating the medieval Old Aberdeen and the quaint fishing village of Footdee (pronounced “Fittie”) the various tours on offer open up a fascinating insight into the city’s colourful past, from grizzly murders to incredible historic facts.
Private tours can be organised for groups at £10 for adults; £8 for concessions.
Celebrating a rich tradition of sports, music and dance in Scotland, Highland games make for a fantastic day out. Numerous games take place throughout the year across the country, however some of the biggest and most celebrated events happen in Aberdeen and the surrounding area.
The Aboyne Highland Games (August 6), founded in 1867, are hailed as Scotland’s “traditional games”. Featuring over 96 area events, including the “heavies” – tossing the caber, throwing the heavy hammers, and putting the shot. Pipe bands and Highland dancers will also fill the area with traditional Scottish music and dance in hard-fought competition.
Closer to the city centre, the Aberdeen Highland Games (June 19) are held in Hazlehead Park and attract visitors from all across the country. Showcasing a number of traditional Scottish events – including the heavies, running, solo piping and Highland dance – the Aberdeen Highland Games will this year also host the Scottish Tug-o-War championship.
For more information about group travel in Aberdeen, as well as attraction and accommodation information, visit www.visitaberdeen.com
*Please note: prices are correct at time of writing and may be subject to change.
Check out the exhibition Toys and Games at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum running from March 25 to January 14,2017. This exhibition is inspired by the painting Marjory and Anne by Alexander Christie. This portrait shows local children playing with toys at home in 1943 and evokes the universal experience of play. Drawing on collections from the 1940s to the present day, visitors can take a trip through time. What childhood toys and games will you remember? Call 01224 337712.