Winter Escapes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

Winter Escapes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire

By Georgia Kartsagkouli and Valerie Safira

Do you know what sounds good after assignments and exams? A vacation! Whether you are staying in Aberdeen over the winter break or having some spare time before your departure to your home countries, why not explore some fantastic places in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire? :) We are aware that this won’t be a normal Christmas break, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of it and be safe at the same time!

1. Cairngorm Reindeer Centre (The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd)

Get Christmassy by meeting one of the most famous icons of the season: the reindeer! Lies within the Cairngorms National Park, the centre is Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer in their natural environment. Did you know that reindeer differ in both behaviours and looks throughout the year? Come and learn all about them through guided hill trips and/or paddocks and exhibition options. If you are looking for a special Christmas present or are simply an animal lover, you can adopt a reindeer from this centre! On top of that, their exhibition layout is designed in the Christmas theme. Cute! Find out more about time to visit, bookings and others on


Reindeer at Cairngorms 

Official Instagram of The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd (@cairngormreindeer)

2. Royal Deeside and Castles

As the name suggests, Deeside is closely related to the Royal Family. The picturesque scenery in the area has made Queen Victoria (and countless other people) fall in love with it. Situated in the Royal Deeside is the Balmoral Castle, the holiday home to the Royal Family since it was purchased in 1852 by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. The castle is currently open for tours until the end of December.


View - Balmoral Castle 

Official Instagram of Balmoral Castle and Estate (@balmoral_castle)

Other castles that are currently open for visitors are Dunnottar Castle (open every day) and Crathes and Drum Castles (open at the weekends). Known as one of the most photogenic castles in Scotland, Dunnottar Castle sits on a 440-million-year-old rock that was forced to the surface during the Silurian period. Surrounded by the sea, Dunnottar Castle makes a great destination for nature lovers. However, if you are looking for more exposure to cultural history and arts, Crathes and Drum Castle are the ones for you. Please note that all castle visits must be booked online due to social distancing.


Balmoral Castle:

Dunnottar Castle:

Crathes Castle:

Drum Castle:


3. Snowsport Centres

There are many ways to enjoy nature in the cold. One of them is by playing snowsports. Not only is it fun to do, but you can also reap the benefits of being active. Some of Aberdeenshire’s snowsport facilities are planned to reopen in mid-December. Among others are Cairngorm, Glenshee, and the Lecht snowsport centres. Please do check the latest information on their websites prior to visiting as there might be changes due to COVID-19.


Cairngorm Mountain:

Glenshee Snowsports Centre:

The Lecht 2090:

To plan a better trip, you can check the snow condition at the ski sites on VisitScotland’s page before travelling:


4. Aberdeen Christmas Market

Fancy some Bratwurst, churros, or delicious hot chocolate while enjoying the Aberdeen cityscape? Then you should definitely visit the Aberdeen Christmas Market! This year, the Christmas Markets are held in front of Union Square and inside Bon Accord Shopping Centre. Come to Union Square Christmas Market to enjoy a Christmassy outdoor dining experience (or to have a romantic winter date :p). The venue is open until 7 January 2021 from 11:30-22:00. Online booking through Union Square website is recommended.

Walk-ins are also welcome on a first-come basis.


 Union Square Christmas market

Union Square Christmas Market

Bon Accord Christmas Market is located on the lower level of the shopping centre (next to Topshop) and opens every weekend between now and the end of the year. The market features local craft workers and small businesses in the main as well as some excellent local goods on display. Open from 10:00-18:00 (17:00 on Sundays). Check the detailed information of the stallholders and schedule here:

It is also fun to stroll around the city centre where you can find Christmas trees and decorations put up along the streets. We must say that this year’s decorations are better than last year’s!

5. River Don and Brig o' Balgownie

Get dressed in layers and put on your most comfortable shoes and be ready to walk into a fairytale. River of Don and Brig o’ Balgownie is actually a big part of the University’s old traditions and I am sure most of you have already paid a visit. However, for the people that haven’t yet discovered this hidden gem, let us give you some information. You can access River Don either through the Seaton Park and Hillhead Student Village by just following the signs along the way or by reaching the mouth of Don on King Street and follow the way along the river. Just be aware that you have to start early to enjoy your walk along the river before it gets dark!

 View of River Don

River Don


  1. Aberdeen Art Gallery

If you want to make the most out of your time in Aberdeen, then you should definitely visit the Aberdeen Art Gallery at least once! Stroll around one of the UK’s finest art collections and find yourself lost between classic and contemporary artwork that spans over 700 years. Once you’ve been at each of the 22 exhibitions and display galleries, you can enjoy the beauty of the Granite City from a different perspective by visiting the rooftop of the gallery. To make sure you won’t miss this opportunity you should pre-book a two-hour slot via:

For more information about the Gallery visit:

7. Cute cafes in Aberdeen

For all the fellow bookworms that are searching for a place to write their novel, Books and Beans is just for you! The combination of books, great coffee, amazingly good smoothies and tasty soups makes this coffee shop the best one you can visit on a cold winter day! Even if you are not really a fan of reading, you can always enjoy the atmosphere of the cafe and pretend you are the main character of a movie, because that’s exactly the vibe that visiting Books and Beans gives. Now that you got excited about it, you can find Books and Beans on Belmont Street (on the right side of Union Street). It’s open every day from 10AM to 4PM. And yes, it is Covid-safe!

And since you are already in a “coffee mood” you should also visit the Cult of Coffee for the best cappuccino. It is located on the corner of Esslemont Avenue and Leadside Road and is open every day until 5PM. And because two cafes are never enough, you can also try the Craftsman Company on Guild Street near the Union Square Shopping Centre.

8. Johnston Gardens

Walking in nature is always a good idea, especially when you want to clear your mind after the multiple assessments that you had to submit! The good news is that you can actually find this type of peace not far away from the city centre. All you need is a bus ticket to Johnston Gardens! Johnston Gardens is a place-to-visit all year long, but we have to admit that it becomes a Winter Wonderland during the colder months. Okay, yes, this may require snow to have the perfect landscape, but still, the garden is the best destination for a walk and a possible photoshoot (because you will definitely want to capture nature's beauty). Just make sure you start early in the morning to enjoy the garden while the sun is still shining (or it’s just in the sky but hidden behind the clouds, it’s the same XD).


Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen 

Johnston Gardens

So, those are some recommended places to visit and things to do this winter. We hope you can have the best time in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire (wherever you choose to go)! This article is written in collaboration with VisitScotland, an incredible source to get information regarding travelling around the wonderful Scotland. If you’re in Aberdeen and would like to get more tips and travel inspiration, feel free to walk into ‘Aberdeen iCentre’ on 23 Union Street, or simply contact them at or +44 (1224) 269180. The centre is open for visitors Monday-Sunday 10:00-16:00 until 27 December 2020 and Monday-Saturday 10:00-16:00 from 28 December 2020 until 31 March 2021.

Last but not least, don’t forget to always adhere to the latest Government rules and safety measurements wherever you are. Have a pleasant holiday everyone!

*Information contained in this Blog was correct at time of publishing. 

Published by Students, University of Aberdeen

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