As a regular peruser of weekend newspaper travel pages and supplements, my mother recently offered up an interesting observation:
“In all of the trips to Scotland I read about, it’s curious that I never see anything about Aberdeen.”
Granted, as a born and bred Aberdonian she has more than a small amount of interest in Aberdeen, but it did get me wondering.
Aberdeen, the third most populous city in Scotland after Glasgow (#1) and Edinburgh (#2), is only around 2.5 hours drive from both of these drawcard Scottish cities; a little over an hour away from Balmoral, and approximately 2.5 hours from Inverness. And those famous Speyside Whisky Trails so popular with tourists are only 100kms from Aberdeen!
As beautiful as the rugged west coast and its islands are, as Glasgow is different from Inverness, and Edinburgh is different from Balmoral, so is Aberdeen different – and well worth a visit, as a stand alone destination or as part of a larger Scotland itinerary.
Aberdeen itself has a population of around 200,000 and boasts more sunshine than Birmingham, and almost as much as London! In mid to late June it never gets really dark, with the sun setting after 10pm and rising at around 4am, and when the national pastime, golf, can be enjoyed until nearly midnight. (There are 30 golf courses within 30 minutes’ drive of the city.)
Greenwich Mean Time – 10 hours behind AEST.
British Summer Time (BST), like Daylight Saving Time in Australia, commenced on 26 March 2017 and will end on 29 October 2017. Aberdeen is nine (9) hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) from March through October.
When some states of Australia switch to Daylight Saving Time (AEDT) in October 2017 (through to April 2018) Aberdeen will be 11 hours behind those states.
INTERNATIONAL DIRECT DIALLING
+44 + 1224 + Local Number
PASSPORTS & VISAS
Australian passports must be valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.
Australian citizens travelling to the UK for a non-working holiday of under six months duration do not need a visa to enter the UK, however, travellers are advised to bring the same documents needed to apply for a visa, to show to officers at the UK border.
Australian High Commission in London
London WC 2B 4LA, United Kingdom
+44 20 7379 4334
+44 20 7887 5558
Monday to Friday 9am-5pm
CLICK HERE for comprehensive information for international visitors about travelling to Aberdeen
There are no non-stop flights from Australian capital cities to Aberdeen, however, there are direct flights available with a number of airlines (including British Airways and Qantas) that, given the distance to the UK, naturally include multiple stops and domestic codeshare transfers. Aberdeen is a 2 hour domestic flight from London (British Airways, EasyJet).
Travelling from London to Aberdeen by rail is easy, and includes the option of comfortable overnight sleeper services. The various train services also make it easy to get to (and from) Aberdeen from any number of Scottish and English cities.
Trains depart from London’s Kings Cross Station regularly and the journey is approximately 7 hours.
Virgin Trains East Coast also service the London-Aberdeen route, as well as to and from Aberdeen from other Scottish cities including Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The Caledonia Sleeper overnight train services running between Scotland and London departs London Euston Station on the Highland Route, for Aberdeen.
Click here for all National Rail sleeper services
GETTING TO ABERDEEN CITY FROM THE AIRPORT
Taxi – No need to book, always available at the Airport taxi rank, just outside the main terminal. A taxi to the city centre costs approximately £20.
Bus – The Jet 727 service runs frequently throughout the day from just outside the main terminal.
Visit Aberdeen Coaches
If you’re coming from outside the EU – as long as you have a valid licence from your own country, you can drive in the UK for up to 12 months.
Drive on the same side of the road (LEFT) as in Australia.
The telephone number for emergency services in the UK is 999.
Hospitals – Aberdeen City
Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is NHS Grampian’s largest hospital, situated at Foresterhill, Aberdeen.
Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and Aberdeen Maternity Hospital are also housed at the Foresterhill site.
Woodend Hospital caters for many patients, including the elderly.
Royal Cornhill Hospital provides inpatient and community support for mental health services.
A large number of outpatients are seen at the Woolmanhill Hospital in the city centre.
NHS 24 is Scotland’s national Telehealth and Telecare organisation
- For General Enquiries Contact NHS Grampian on 0345 456 6000
- Call 111 for out of hours services
For Medical Centres and General Practitioners click here
Pharmacies are usually open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5 or 5:30. Some larger Aberdeen supermarkets that operate on extended hours may have a pharmacy on the premises, or a rotation system for pharmacists on call (check any pharmacy window for the number to call.)
Aberdeen’s water is perfectly safe for drinking.
The city of Aberdeen sits within Aberdeenshire, in the northeast of Scotland, a region that meets the North Sea along the coast, with one of Britain’s most spectacular and dramatic coastlines. Stretching as far as Fraserburgh in the north, Aberdeenshire boasts many fishing villages tucked into rugged inlets with plenty of colourful history of smuggling and shipwrecks.
Known as ‘The Granite City’ for its proliferation of distinctive granite buildings that seem to twinkle in the sunshine, Aberdeen boasts a history of over 8000 years of settlement, taking its name from the two rivers that straddle the city, with the name Aberdeen literally meaning ‘between the Dee and Don’.
Traditionally, Aberdeen was home to fishing, textile mills, ship building and paper-making. These industries have been largely replaced but their impact on the city is still obvious. The Aberdeen Harbour Board, established in 1136, is Britain’s oldest business.
Today the city is a vibrant mix of restaurants, bars, shopping and entertainment, with ‘Old Aberdeen’ showcasing the city’s unique history across well-preserved ancient dwellings and streets, and unique examples of centuries old architecture including the University and King’s College of Aberdeen (1492), Marischal College, the second largest granite building in the world (1593), St. Machar’s Cathedral (its origins date back to the 1130s and its nave and two western towers were built between 1422 and 1440!) and the Old Town House (1788).
You can even see a statue of William Wallace in the city but, be warned, he doesn’t look a bit like Braveheart’s Mel Gibson!
Aberdeenshire is also known as ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’ for the 300+ castles – more per acre than anywhere else in the UK!
Scotland is largely a Christian country
English is the main language, although you will hear Scots and Doric spoken in Aberdeenshire.
The Scots are proud of their heritage, with many annual celebrations paying homage to their Celtic origins, history, and cultural icons. Scotland’s biggest celebration is for ‘Hogmanay’ – the ringing in of the New Year with its attendant rituals and rites, and plenty of good fun! (See Public Holidays). Scotland also honours Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, (or ‘Rabbie Burns’ to the Scots), with a range of events and dinners and the traditional ‘piping in of the haggis’; and the Patron Saint of Scotland (and namesake of Scotland’s most famous golf course!) on St. Andrew’s Day.
Although there isn’t a big tipping culture in Scotland, it is quite common to tip in restaurants or taxis when you receive good service. 10 percent is a good standard.
Most shops are open from 9am – 5pm, with some staying open longer and on weekends.
Plastic carry bags cost the customer 5p (pence) per bag. Since the legislation was introduced in Scotland in 2014 there has been some confusion concerning which bags do carry a charge and which retailers and ‘use’ of bags are exempt, with different rules applying in some instances in England. For further information on Scotland’s plastic bag legislation click here.
There is a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places throughout Scotland.
Winter temperatures in Scotland average from about 2 °C to 6 °C, rising to around 12 °C to 19 °C in the summer months of July and August. Aberdeen can often be colder due to its location in the north of the country. With its location on the North Sea, winds can be biting and somewhat ‘refreshing’ in winter!
In March, April and May fishing season begins; in June, July and August the warmer weather is perfect for exploring and for the Highland Games; September, October and November herald autumn and the festivities for Scotland’s Patron Saint on St Andrew’s Day; the winter months of December, January and February can often bring snow for a White Christmas, with the world’s most enthusiastic New Year celebrations – Hogmanay – and Burns Night, celebrating Scottish poet Robert Burns in late January.
CURRENCY & BANKING
Local currency is the Great Britain Pound sterling (GBP). AUD$1 is approximately GBP£0.57
Check current exchange rate here
Scottish banks issue their own bank notes but they have exactly the same value as those issued by the Bank of England and they are legal tender in all parts of mainland UK.
Banks are open weekdays 9 to 5. Some banks have extended hours on Thursday evening, and some open on Saturday morning.
International credit cards are welcomed by most hotels, restaurants, shops, car rental companies and tour operators.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on all purchases in shops, hotels, and restaurants at a rate of 20%. There are no other taxes on purchases.
INTERNET & MOBILE PHONES
Most hotels offer some form of internet service – most now feature in-room Wi-Fi options (some with a fee) – as well as many cafés and visitor attractions. Talk to your internet provider about a pre-paid dongle/mobile broadband plan before you travel.
Your mobile should switch onto a UK network while you’re there, though charges for calls and data vary. Check with your own provider before your holiday.
Aberdeen uses the UK standard 230 volts AC 50Hz with three rectangular prongs that form a triangle ‘G Plug’.
2017 ABERDEEN PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
Some public holidays are set by Aberdeen City Council and are only applicable to Aberdeen (although some of them may coincide with national holidays). Each local authority in Scotland has powers to designate certain days as ‘local’ public holidays.
- 1 January – New Year’s Day
- 2 January – New Year holiday
- 3 January – New Year holiday (Substitute Day)
- 14 April – Good Friday
- No Easter Monday holiday in Scotland
- 1 May – Early May Bank Holiday
- 29 May – Spring Bank Holiday
- 10 July – ABERDEEN ONLY – Summer Holiday Monday – Start of Trades Fortnight
- 7 August – Summer Bank Holiday
- 25 August – ABERDEEN ONLY – Autumn Holiday Monday
- 30 November – St. Andrew’s Day
- 25 December – Christmas Day
- 26 December – Boxing Day
GETTING AROUND ABERDEEN
Aberdeen is serviced by taxis and an efficient bus network. Cabs can be hailed in the street or you can pre-book, including minibuses for larger groups.
Learn more about Aberdeen – The Granite City – and Aberdeenshire.
IMAGE: Aberdeen city centre at night CREDIT: Visit Scotland