Guide to Old Aberdeen – Aberdeen is a modern city, but Old Aberdeen is its historic heart. We took the kids for a wander on New Year’s Day for a budget day out that works at any time of year. Everything is free! Don’t forget to schedule the playground or the Dead Zoo at the end, as a carrot to dangle before little ones.
Dead Zoo or Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum
I love this place. Skeletons and taxidermy a plenty in the Zoology Building just off Tillydrone Avenue. From Indian elephants and penguins, to huge whales and tigers, who needs the Natural History Museum when you’ve got around 75,000 specimens on your doorstep?
Added bonus is the fact it’s FREE, but only open office hours. A playground can be found across the road, in St Machar Park.
The University of Aberdeen & Kings College Chapel
The University of Aberdeen is Scotland’s third oldest university and the UK’s fifth oldest (after Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews and Glasgow) so, architecturally, it’s grand and very different to the rest of the city. Plaques highlight past alumni, unicorns wave saltires, and students trot about looking suitably studious.
My kids found the sculpture by Kenny Hunter the most interesting, asking why the student held apples in his hands. Apparently they are meant to represent knowledge and intellectual awakening.
We stumbled across the MacRobert fountain, which I’ve never seen before. It’s dedicated to the MacRobert boys who gave their lives to flying and to the RAF during the Second World War. Ultimately their mother lost her three sons in quick succession, between 1938-1941.
The MacRobert family home in Tarland, has been transformed into a quality country house hotel, with an excellent tasting menu that I’d thoroughly recommend. The kids spent ages at the fountain, shredding my nerves as they jumped from stone to stone, enjoying the risky possibility of falling into the icy cold water. Fun…
The cherry on the cake for kids is Seaton Park. Its paths are great for learning to cycle or scoot, or simply take a circular walk through the park up to the cathedral. End the experience with a play at the relatively newly refurbished playground with its popular wee train.
St Machar Cathedral
We took the kids briefly to the Cathedral, a grand granite building that hosts regular events and services.
This old bridge features in Lord Byron’s poem Don Juan. Byron grew up and attended school in Aberdeen, so it’s not surprising the city features in his work.
Cruickshank Botanic Gardens
Part of the University of Aberdeen, these eleven acre gardens offer a rock and water garden, sunken garden, rose garden, herbaceous border and an arboretum, and houses a collection of over 2500 labelled plants. Access these gardens via the main entrance on The Chanonry, close to St Machar’s Cathedral.
The last time we visited the tots’ highlight was seeing a row of beehives, then an actual beekeeper appeared and was kind enough to answer a LOT of questions about bees and beekeeping (mainly from my pal Sophie who suddenly discovered a passionate interest in honey). FREE. For opening hours click here.
Houses & Architecture
Generally, this is an interesting area to explore to wander amongst the old granite houses, grand homes and cute cottages. A slice of living history that has me peering in windows and imagining life in Old Aberdeen.
Looking Forward – 2020
The Kings Museum is currently closed for refurbishment, with a planned reopening for Autumn 2020. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m naturally curious.
Out of all these excursions my children absolutely adored the Dead Zoo, and we regularly visit Seaton Park. For other things to do in Aberdeen click here.