There is evidence to suggest that people have lived in the area of Aberdeen since the Stone Age, and since that time there have been untold cultural developments that have led to the rise of one of the UK’s greatest northern cities. Now Scotland’s third most populous city, Aberdeen houses two universities and is the educational hub of the northeast bringing people from across the globe to contribute to the city’s growing economy.
Aberdeen’s history is just as interesting as its present, and if you’re visiting you should explore the city’s finest historical sites to get an insight into its past. We’ve compiled a list, below, of places that we think you should visit.
King’s College Chapel
Not to be confused with King’s College, Cambridge, the chapel in Aberdeen is the main chapel used by the University of Aberdeen. The construction of the building started in 1498 and was officially consecrated in 1509. The Crown Tower – the main feature of the chapel – has been adopted as a symbol by the university as an institution and when you see it for yourself it’s easy to understand why.
The chapel is deeply tied in with the roots of the college itself; Bishop Elphinstone – the founder of King’s College, Aberdeen – and its first principle Hector Boece are both buried in the chapel, at their request.
Set in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, Craigievar Castle’s pink-hued walls stand out from the surrounding scenery in a spectacular way. Often referred to as a fairy-tale castle the gargoyles, corbelling and turrets that complement the setting, inspire the imagination of all who visit.
The castle is a classic sample of Scottish Baronial architecture that can be seen across the country. The construction was completed in 1626 by William Forbes – an Aberdonian merchant and brother to the Bishop of Aberdeen. At 200 acres the grounds are perfect for exploring and make for a fantastic day out.
One thing to note is that if you’ve any hope of getting round quite a few of these sights, it’s sensible to find somewhere to stay overnight, as you won’t be able to get it all done in a day. There are plenty of places to stay all over the city, so you’re spoiled for choice.
St. Machar’s Cathedral
Shaped by the Scottish reformation, St. Machar’s Cathedral, as a Church of Scotland church, can be found in the burgh of Old Aberdeen. Interestingly this cathedral is not a cathedral at all since it has not been the seat of a bishop since 1690.
Home to a decidedly important group of medieval bishop’s tombs, the Cathedral is under the care of Historic Scotland (an agency responsible for the care of monuments across the country), the ceiling of the main cathedral has been maintained beautifully; a frieze that lists all the bishops from 1131 to 1560. Be sure to take your camera along to this one.
Provost Skene’s House
A Provost of Aberdeen is the convener of the local authority of Aberdeen itself and Provost Skene was in this position of power from 1676 – 1685. The Provost himself is less of the attraction than the house itself which, as records suggest, dates back as far as 1545.
Now officially titled as a ‘Period House and Museum of Local History’ the building was actually opened to the public in 1953 the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth. The rooms themselves have been carefully crafted to appear as though they sit in the 17th and 18th centuries with furniture and decoration from said eras. The museum is free to visit, so make this a stop on any city tour.
Top photo: Craigievar Castle. Photo courtesy of Roubicek.