Romance is the feeling we chase in relationships and our surroundings can enhance it. Everyone has different ideas about what they find romantic. Aberdeenshire has everything to offer whether it is being swept away to the Granite city for a luxury weekend treat or simply watching the sunset from its many stunning beaches. You will not only fall head over heels for each other but also for the vast landscapes, sandy beaches, the old town and the astonishing international art in the heart of the city centre. Recently I was away on a charming weekend to Aberdeenshire with Mr Berries and these are the things I would recommend to rekindle your love with your significant other.
1 - Chase the fairytale castles
Lead the princess in your life to a fairytale trail down the history lane. With 263 castles, it's not surprising that Aberdeenshire is known as the "Scotlands Castle Country". You can go on an adventure on the Scotland Castle Trail and discover the 19 most dramatic and fairytale like castles in Scotland. On the way to Aberdeen we stopped to explore Dunnottar Castle. I first visited Dunnottar castle on 2nd January 2013, its a sight that once seen will never be forgotten. The ruins of the castle is perched on the edge of the North Sea on ancient conglomerate. Steeped in history, this haunting ruin is a photographer’s paradise, a history lover’s dream and an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. It was home to the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. Mary Queen of Scots visited here in 1562. We had arrived earlier than we thought so we decided to explore inside the castle for a small fee of £7 per person. Whats great is that if you are on a budget, you don't need to pay for the breathtaking views of the castle on the cliff top, the ticket office for visiting the ruins is actually on the bottom just outside the entrance to the castle. You have the option of a refreshing stroll around the path that hugs the breathtaking cliff edge and enjoy the views for free or to explore Inside the nook and crannies of the castle where you can discover the importance of Dunnottar, an impregnable fortress that holds many rich secrets of Scotland’s colourful past.
2- Eat award winning Fish and Chips with a view
After a couple of hours of exploring Dunnottar castle we headed towards The Bay Fish & Chips which is an award-winning fish and chips shop located on the scenic Stonehaven seafront. With an ethos of providing good quality sustainable food that tastes great and doesn’t cost the earth, this is a food experience not to be missed. This understated fish and chips shop in a remote fishing village makes the Lonely Planets Ultimate Eatlist. The Bay is the top UK entry and Lonely Planet’s top Fish and Chip shop in the world. The food is made to order, you can also specify how to cook your fish, whether you like it battered, grilled or baked. We shared a battered haddock fish and chips. Not sure whether it was the lightly coated crispy batter, the freshness of the flakey fish or the romance of the salty air but I can honestly say that it was the best fish and chips I have eaten for a while. It was so good that on our way back home, we headed there for a second time in the same weekend!
3- Swoop your lover away for a Romantic Meal and Overnight Stay
It might be a cliché but you can never go wrong by surprising your significant other with a delicious meal and luxury overnight stay. We stayed at the Chester Hotel which is a luxury hotel on Aberdeen's Queens Road, located just a 20-minute walk from the city centre. We checked in the hotel and then headed for dinner in the award-winning IX Restaurant, which holds two AA Rosettes and is one of nine eateries in the Aberdeen region to make it on the Michelin Guide. The menu changes with the seasons and only the best local produce is used to create delights that reflect the flavours of the North-east. You'll also have the opportunity to see the chefs hard at work through the theatre kitchen. They have a romantic getaway package, the details of which can be found here.
4- A Stroll to the Nautical Village - Footdee
Aberdeen isn't just a city by the sea, it's a city of the sea. Footdee is a fishing village next to the beach and possibly the quirkiest postcode in Aberdeen. Walking into Footdee (locally known as Fittie ) is like strolling into a time warp of a bygone era - each street has a row of cosy little cottages with brightly coloured outhouses. Watch the childish wonder in your partners eyes as he or she spectates on the eccentric decorations drawn from the city's seafaring soul. I would recommend at least an hour exploring the quirky village - letting your imagination feast on the details.
We were curious about the creative community that lived here and what would it be like if we owned a cosy little outhouse in this charming village. When we got back from Aberdeenshire, we spend some time looking at the real estate websites day dreaming about owning a property and moving into the time warp village in our old age - a village where actuality and imagination meet - there is no limit to what you can discover. Finally we spent some time in the harbour looking for the urban dolphins leap out for a dance.
5- Explore a Museum with a Thriller Twist
Peterhead Prison museum used to be a former Victorian H.M Convict Prison with the most notorious and dangerous criminals in Scotland brought here under one roof. The prison has been known to be the "Alcatraz' of Scotland. Now you are going to ask me - how can visiting a Prison museum be romantic? Well, think along the same lines of having a Romantic night watching a Horror movie together- except jaunting through the gory prison with a mysterious dark past. The corridors have been filled with interactive displays of the former convict prisoners and the brave personnel that served in it. On your tour you will see what prison life was like, whilst listening to the officers speak of their experiences as part of the audio tour that accompanies the walk around the prison. Each room has been carefully designed to capture the visitors sensory visualisation including the sounds and the smells of how prison life was back when it was functional, The chill in the air along with the horrific tales will guarantee your lover to stay close for comfort.
I must say that I didn't expect to be wowed by this location however I have recommended it to many of my friends. Top tip would be to take up the audio tour, without it, it wouldn't be the same experience. I am not sure what it was about the location, whether it was the lack of wind on that day or the savage history of the walls we found this experience exceptionally haunting and the terror will remain with us for a long time.
6- Experience the local cuisine
Trying new experiences can strengthen the bond with each other. We popped into the local bar in Crudden Bay - Kilmarnock Arms Hotel, where we enjoyed locally sourced fayre with a modern twist. We ordered breaded mushrooms stuffed with Haggis - It was delicious! An interesting fact about Kilmarnock Arms hotel is that in the late 1800’s this small hotel was a regular vacation spot for Bram Stoker while he wrote Dracula (1897) where he took inspiration from near-by Slains Castle for the count's lair. I wonder if Bram Stoker ordered Haggis too!
7- Cycle the cobbled streets of Old Aberdeen
Monks and scholars, traders and travellers settled round Old Aberdeen in the 14th century where St Machar's Cathedral still stands and where King's College, the forerunner to The University of Aberdeen, was founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1495. Old Aberdeen, where cobbled roads still run through the heart of the area, is a popular spot for tourists. Step back in time as you visit the historic sites, like the Brig O'Balgownie or go on an adventure through neighbouring Seaton Park. Rekindle your love by cycling through the old town and learning all about its interesting history.
8- Share an Adventurous outdoor Activity
There is no end to the number of outdoor activities you can do in Aberdeenshire - Taking time off our busy schedules and sharing an adventure together is the ultimate romantic thing to do in my book! We visited Forvie Sands which is a wide sandy beach just 20 minutes north of Aberdeen. Forvie Sands is home to an extensive sand dune system at the mouth of the Ythan River and even a colony of hundreds of seals which you'll see chilling out on the beach bay. My other half loves wildlife and it amuses me on how thrilled he gets when he spots a seal or two but I couldn't wait to see his face when he saw the colony of seals that are found in Forvie sands. We looked up the walk in the Walking Highlands website.
9- Challenge each other to find Aberdeen's Nuart
Nuart Aberdeen, a new international platform designed to present the most interesting and relevant street art of its time. It continues to capture the imagination of people locally and internationally alike. While the contrast of old and new continues to attract top artists from around the world, eager to display their work in a setting unlike any other. You can experience the vibrancy of the city streets when exploring the series of Nuart murals, installations, interventions and temporary exhibitions.
My suggestion would be to pick up a Nuart map from your hotel and spend an afternoon challenging each other to find them all. A local suggested that it would take 45 - 60 min to tick them off your list however allow couple of hours if you are looking to photograph these thought provoking street art.
10- Share the thrill of Buzzing Bars
On the Saturday night after an intimate sea food dinner at Bistro Verde located below the hustle and bustle of Union Street, we visited Grape & Grain which was a perfect stop for after dinner drinks. With art deco interiors and an impressive grand piano to match, Grape & Grain creates an intimate setting to end your evening. Enjoy a glass of wine or explore an extensive list of cocktails and spirits including local gin and whisky local to the North- east. Gazing into each others eyes to see what we had picked from the menu - I opted for the local Gin Granite North and he opted for a local whisky Glen Dronach. And the rest is history.......
This blog was sponsored by Visit Aberdeenshire.