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Visiting Scotland is a bit like stepping onto the pages of a storybook. Or maybe even a film set. With its rolling landscapes, natural beauty and peaceful air, it’s the kind of place you might go to escape. But there’s another side of the northern-most part of Britain.
I’m talking about Adventure.
Scotland is one of the best places in the world to get outdoors, and Aberdeenshire has all the beauty and nature you’d expect of a Scottish region. But it will also get your heart going in other ways, too. If you love adventure and you love the outdoors, you won’t want to miss this lesser-known part of Scotland. Here’s why!
Adventurous things to do in Aberdeenshire
If you’re looking for a Scottish break with a mix of nature, adventure, luxury and local tradition, you’re in luck. Aberdeen has it all. Here are 7 ways to experience a more adventurous side of Scotland and see the best of Aberdeenshire.
Go kayaking at Knockburn Loch
Whether you’ve been kayaking before or not, Knockburn Loch will be the most relaxing upper body workout you’ve had in a while.
Surrounded by the hills of Royal Deeside, Knockburn Loch is one of the top triathlon venues in the country. You don’t need to compete to appreciate it, but it sure makes a beautiful spot for a paddle. If you’re feeling brave, you can even take a swim in the (slightly chilly!) Loch.
Tackle a quad bike trail
Deeside Activity Park is – as the name suggests – a great place to head for outdoor activities. Here you’ll find everything from archery to off-road driving, but don’t miss the quad bike safari.
Hop on a bright red quad and get ready to hit the trails. With rocks, mud and knee-high puddles to tackle, the quad safari isn’t as straightforward as it looks. It is, however, just as fun – if not more. Just brace yourself for the bumps!
Of all the things we did in Aberdeenshire, the quad safari was by far my favourite. Even after having a quad for a whole month while living in Greece!
Stay in a haunted room at Banchory Lodge
It was obvious our stay at Banchory Lodge was going to be special as soon as we checked in. From the quirky decor in the bar to the attention to detail on everything from the room key to the room categories, Banchory Lodge is unique.
What I didn’t know until a couple of hours after checking in, however, was that Banchory Lodge has a haunted room. And I was staying in it.
If anything sent adrenaline through my body, it was finding out that room 21 was the haunted one. Aside from randomly falling over twice and a few weird lights, I didn’t notice any unusual. But who knows what you might see if you stay at Banchory Lodge…
Explore by horseback at Glen Tanar
Glen Tanar is a huge estate covering 25,000 acres of Aberdeenshire’s countryside.. It’s home to several holiday cottages, forestry, farming and conservation, and it’s mostly closed to outside traffic.
A one-hour horseback ride will barely scratch the surface of this huge area of land. But you’ll get to ride along Trout Loch, across the water of Tanar and into the ancient Caledonian pine forest. If you haven’t already fallen in love with Aberdeenshire, there’s a good chance it will happen on this ride.
Surround yourself with nature on a jeep safari
If horseriding isn’t your thing, hop on a jeep for a guided estate safari. You’ll venture through the forests, across the water and up into the hills of this impressive estate.
Keep your eyes peeled for trout, herons, red squirrels, eagles and other animal residents as you explore. Stop by a cosy chapel that hosts several weddings every year. Or just sit back and enjoy the incredible views around you.
Bennachie (pronounced “benna-hie”) is a range of hills on the edge of the Grampian mountain range. Its highest summit, Oxen Craig, sits at 528 metres and takes around 45 minutes to hike.
Even though it’s a short hike, leave longer than you think you’ll need. You’ll probably want to stop for lots of photos along the way, as well as taking in the amazing views around you.
Swing through the trees at Go Ape
If you love getting active outdoors, make sure you schedule in a trip to Go Ape.
Go Ape isn’t unique to Aberdeenshire – there are now 33 sites across the UK – but the Aberdeenshire course is completely unique. Over 5 courses, you’ll climb trees, balance across wobbly bridges and crossings before sliding down ziplines to finish. If you’re feeling brave, there’s even a “Tarzan swing” that will make you feel like you’re really flying.
Planning a trip to Aberdeenshire
How to get to Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire is both easy to get to and easy to get around. There are regular flights to Aberdeen International Airport from all over the UK and Scandinavia, as well as European capitals such as Amsterdam and Paris. And if there’s no direct fly from your home city, Aberdeen is only an hour from London by plane.
Aberdeen train station is well-connected to other Scottish cities, as well as London and other UK hubs.
Where to stay
One thing that really surprised me about Aberdeenshire was just how varied the choice of accommodation is.
The shire is home to the UK’s top boutique hotel, Meldrum House, a 13th century mansion set among the stunning Aberdeenshire landscapes. Meldrum House is full of Scottish charm and will be a memorable part of your trip even if you have spend one night there. Plus, the food is phenomenal!
If you prefer somewhere a little more quirky, check in to Banchory Lodge. Even if you don’t stay in the ‘haunted’ room, each of the 28 bedrooms has been individually designed with its own unique style and quirks.
And if you prefer a little more independence, Dalriada luxury lodges (above) offer a peaceful home away from home. These self-catering lodges opened this year and have incredible views over the coastline, including Dunnottar castle. Check in here for luxury comfort in your own little getaway.
This short travel video I put together shows all of the above and more. I hope it gives you a taste of the kind of adventure that awaits in Aberdeenshire: