Like Scotland’s capital, Aberdeen – the third largest city in the country – emerged from two contrasting communities, Old and New Aberdeen. Old Aberdeen, frequented in the later Middle Ages by monks, traders, and scholars, was established as a burgh of barony in 1489, and incorporated by Act of Parliament with New Aberdeen in 1891.
Located 2km north of the modern city centre, Old Aberdeen is a delightful walk through time, where the quiet cobbled streets are lined with well-preserved historic buildings – The High Kirk of St Machar, King’s College, and the Old Town House, among others – that open a window onto the city’s earliest origins. Here, some of the city’s most celebrated thinkers – scientists, philosophers, writers, and inventors – lived, studied, and taught; it’s impossible not to sense the power of learning as you wander through the narrow medieval streets, with impressive architectural creations surrounding you.
GETTING THERE AND OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Situated close to the city centre, Old Aberdeen is easy to reach, with multiple transport options to suit all visitors.
Arriving on foot
Old Aberdeen is little more than a half hour walk from the modern city centre, with the most popular visitor attractions – The High Kirk of St Machar, the zoological museum, and the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens – comfortable nestled close by. Many walking routes and tours offer a leisurely view of the medieval city, without the stress of driving and parking.
Arriving by bus
With the University of Aberdeen based in the neighbourhood, Old Aberdeen in served by frequent buses, operating every day as often as every ten minutes. Some services also operate overnight.
Travelling to Aberdeen
Aberdeen is a key part of the continental transport system, with flights to the city from 27 overseas and 13 domestic destinations. Travel to the city centre from Aberdeen Airport is by bus (30 minutes), taxi (15 minutes; £16), or train (from nearby Dyce: 10 minutes, £2.70).
Access to Old Aberdeen
Old Aberdeen’s streets are mainly flat, so are accessible for visitors with mobility difficulties. Many of the quiet, cobbled streets have paved or tarmacked pavements suitable for wheelchairs.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO NEARBY
Old Aberdeen is crammed with fascinating places to explore so, if you’re on a limited timeframe, ensure you check out these unmissable sights:
The High Kirk of St Machar: a site of Christian worship since the 6th century, the High Kirk of St Machar is no longer a cathedral (a bishop hasn’t sat here for hundreds of years), but remains a powerful and imposing building, with a beautiful carved ceiling and impressive stained glass. The left arm of William Wallace is reputedly interred within the stone walls.
Cruickshank Botanical Gardens: a haven of tranquillity, the gardens extend to cover over 11 acres, featuring an arboretum, herbaceous borders, and a rock and water garden. Whether you are an avid gardener or simply want to enjoy a chance to pause and unwind, the Cruickshank Botanical Gardens are bound to please.
King’s College: reminiscent of Oxford and Cambridge’s universities, King’s College radiates history and is a powerful symbol of Old Aberdeen’s reputation as a place of learning. The design of the chapel, which dates to 1498, mirrors King Solomon’s Temple and is the most complete medieval church interior in Scotland.
Seaton Park: one of the largest green spaces in Aberdeen, Seaton Park is eternally popular with local and visitors alike, as well as hosting training sessions for Aberdeen Football Club! With an enviable riverside location, the 27 hectares are a delightful mix of parkland, walled gardens, wildflowers, and grass, making it a pleasant oasis to while away the hours in peace.
PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
With a high student population, Old Aberdeen isn’t short on places to eat out.
For a light bite, head to Kilau, a charming café set in an old town house on the High Street, close to the university. Sandwiches, home baked products, and soup are popular choices, but the menu often changes, so there’s always something different to savour. The garden café is especially pleasant in summer, while takeaways are also available.
Situated opposite the university, The Bobbin is a popular pub restaurant that features an extensive menu. From burgers and loaded subs to light bites and the all-day breakfast, the choices are many.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Based in Old Aberdeen, the university was founded on the instruction of Pope Alexander VI, after a request from the Bishop of Aberdeen who wanted to cure the ‘ignorance’ that he had observed in his parish.