With a Local – Aberdeen, Scotland

During a recent trip to Aberdeen, Scotland, I chatted with a local food blogger Colin Fraser for insider tips on where to visit and places to eat and drink.

I was invited to Aberdeenshire for a press trip to cover the reopening of Aberdeen Art Gallery, following major restoration and refurbishment. The gallery is now connected to the adjacent Cowdray Hall and Remembrance Hall. Aberdeen Art Gallery re-opens its doors to the public on 2 November and until 23 February 2020 hosts the photography exhibition Martin Parr – Think of Scotland on the third floor.

After visiting the gallery, I viewed artworks that are a legacy of the Nuart Aberdeen street art festival. During the springtime festival some of the top names in the genre are invited to create on the Granite City’s streets.

Colin, who shares his passion for cooking and gastronomy on The Food Hoover, answers questions to provide a local’s insights into Aberdeen.

Street art created by Herkut on the facade of Aberdeen's indoor market.
Street art created by Herkut on the facade of Aberdeen’s indoor market.

Why should people visit Aberdeen?

Aberdeen is one of those places that you can do lots of things in one day.

You can come here on a foodie trip and have breakfast, lunch and dinner in three completely different places. Between those you can go and visit our old towns and get a bit of history there. Alternatively, you can have a chilled day and one of our many parks and gardens.

You could venture into some of our boutique shopping districts, to get a flavour for the kind of local produce and independent retailers that we have in the area, or out to see the stunning coastline and castles.

I really like landscape photography, so I would say go down to Aberdeen Beach and to the River Don’s mouth. You get a really fantastic stretching view over to Fittie (the Footdee district) on the Deeside and down to the dunes of Newburgh Beach, where a colony of seals lives.

The first floor of the newly refurbished Remembrance Hall, which is now connected to Aberdeen Art Gallery.
The first floor of the newly refurbished Remembrance Hall, which is now connected to Aberdeen Art Gallery.

What is your favourite place in Aberdeen?

Within Aberdeen my favourite spot is Old Aberdeen. I live in the area as well.

I like nothing better than a day out and walking on the cobbles of Old Aberdeen, down to the Brig o’ Balgownie, taking in the quiet spots and soaking up the Old Town vibes.

The South Breakwater juts into the North Sea from Torry Battery at the mouth of the River Dee.
Blow away the cobwebs with a seafront stroll? The South Breakwater juts into the North Sea from Torry Battery at the mouth of the River Dee.

Where would you go for a meal in Aberdeen?

For an evening meal I would probably take them to Cognito on the Corner (1 Mid Stocket Road; tel. 01224 977896), up in Rosemount. It’s a really nice bistro and bar-type setup. You get a lot of different menu options: fish, meat, vegetarian or vegan options. I’m not one for ordering macaroni cheese when I’m out but it’s a really good macaroni cheese there. And good wine.

For lunch I’d go to Food Story (13-15 Thistle Street) in the city centre. It’s a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly café. The do really good salad bowls and superfood granolas, really good coffees and cinnamon buns.

Mackerel served at Aberdeen's Cafe 52.
Mackerel served at Aberdeen’s Cafe 52.

Where would you go for a drink in Aberdeen?

I was looking for a quiet spot I’d probably go to Grape and Grain (31 Thistle Street). They’ve got a lot of good wines on offer and it’s a really quiet spot. So if you’re wanting to get caught up with a friend, and not wanting a noisy bar, it’s a great place to go. You’ll also get a lot of local gins to choose from.

If I was on the lash I’d start at the Ninety-Nine Bar and Kitchen (1 Back Wynd). They have live music most Fridays and Saturdays, DJ sets as well, and plenty of drinks to choose from.

Sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream.
What goes with sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream. Would you choose a coffee, sweet white wine or maybe a glass of Madeira?

What’s your favourite story from Aberdeen?

I’ll go down the ghost story route! We’ve got the Green Lady, who is like a local ghost celebrity. Many castles say that they’ve got a Green Lady ghost in their midst. One is at Crathes Castle.

Apparently, a servant maid who was having an affair with the laird suddenly disappeared. No-one knew where she went. People assumed that she’d got pregnant and had to go away. Then years later, when and the castle was having renovation work done, workmen found a skeleton with a baby underneath the floorboards. People say the ghost of the Green Lady walks around the castle.

I heard a story once of a tourist who was in one of the rooms. The tour group left to go to another room, which she stayed in to fix her hair using the mirrors. She saw someone standing behind her and said, ‘Sorry, I’m in your way’. She turned around and there was no-one there.

Ruins of Slains Castle on the coast of Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Author Bram Stoker took inspiration for Count Dracula’s castle from Slains Castle on the coast of Aberdeenshire.

If visitors have an extra day in the region, where would you recommend?

I would recommend going up to Inverness if you’ve got the time.

My granny lives in a small village called Tomatin. There’s a distillery there that you can do tours of. I’d suggest going there and for a walk in the Highlands. You get the scale of the heather, hills and countryside.

If you can’t go that far I’d say do to Aberlour, which is probably about an hour’s drive from Aberdeen, maybe an hour-and-a-half. It’s good for a stop for a coffee. They’ve got a really good place nearby called The Craigellachie Hotel (tel. 01340 881204) and inside they’ve got a restaurant called the Copper Dog, which is nice.

Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Looking for other ideas? Balmoral Castle is also in Aberdeenshire.

Further information

Find out more about Aberdeen and the surrounding region on the Visit Aberdeenshire website.

Thinking of travelling elsewhere? Take a look at the Visit Scotland website.

Loganair and Flybe operate direct flights between Newcastle and Aberdeen. Trains are also an option for travelling to the city.

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Pinterest pin with recommendations on restaurants, bars and places of interest in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Use Pinterest? Pin this and return to read about restaurants, bars and places of interest in Aberdeen, Scotland, recommended by local blogger Colin Fraser of The Food Hoover.

4 Comments

  • Janis

    November 2, 2019 at 15:25 Reply

    Aberdeen sounds incredibly interesting, I love the look of Slains castle.

    • Stuart Forster

      November 10, 2019 at 16:28 Reply

      I had a fantastic time up in Aberdeen. Heading outside of the city to visit some of the region’s many castles is well worthwhile if you enjoy history and architecture.

  • Kavita Favelle

    November 2, 2019 at 16:08 Reply

    Always ask the locals, especially those with a passion for great food! Lovely post.

    • Stuart Forster

      November 10, 2019 at 16:24 Reply

      Thanks Kavey. Colin certainly knows his stuff regarding places for food and drink.

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