GrampianRegions of Scotland

11 Free Things to Do in Aberdeenshire & Moray

There’s a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered in the historic regions of Aberdeenshire & Moray, where an intoxicating blend of history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes will keep you entertained for days on end.

Aberdeenshire spans over 6,313 square kilometres, making it the fourth-largest region in Scotland, with a stunning coastline stretching over 165 miles. Inland, the rolling hills and moors of the Grampian Mountains dominate, interspersed with countless scenic glens and tranquil lochs.

Aberdeenshire and Moray are steeped in history, dating back to prehistoric times and with landscapes that are renowned for their collections of standing stones, ancient cairns, and Pictish symbol stones. The region also boasts an impressive collection of over 300 castles which has earned it the title of ‘Scotland’s Castle Country’.

Dunnottar Castle

Many of these castles, such as the formidable Dunnottar Castle and the romantic Crathes Castle, have played pivotal roles in Scotland’s history, so if you’d like to see them for yourself I’ve included a collection of the best must-see castles in Aberdeenshire in this article: Best Castles to visit on the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail.

The region has much to offer in terms of attractions. For nature enthusiasts, the Cairngorms National Park offers stunning hiking trails, wildlife spotting, and winter sports, and the city of Aberdeen, known as the ‘Granite City’, offers a mix of vibrant nightlife, shopping, and cultural attractions such as the Aberdeen Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum.

Whether you’re drawn to the dramatic landscapes, the rich heritage, or the traditional culture, Aberdeenshire and Moray promise an unforgettable experience. Let’s dive into the cream of the region’s top attractions – all of which are completely free to visit – in this article.

  • Address: Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, Aberdeen, AB10 1FQ
  • Opening Times: See website for details.
  • Website: Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery can trace its roots back to 1884 when it was first established through the generosity of local art collector Alexander Macdonald. The gallery was designed by architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie and officially opened its doors to the public in 1885. It has undergone several refurbishments over the years including a significant redevelopment that was completed in 2019, and it is now one of the foremost visitor attractions in the city.

The original 19th-century building is a stunning example of late Victorian architecture, featuring a grand marble and granite main hall and a spectacular barrel-vaulted ceiling, while the 2019 redevelopment added a striking new rooftop extension that provides panoramic views of the city.

Inside, you’ll find an impressive collection of over 4,500 artworks including paintings and sculptures, most of which are from European and Scottish artists from the 16th century to the present day including the likes of Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, Claude Monet, and Tracey Emin.

The gallery is also home to the Aberdeen Archive, an extensive collection of documents, photographs, films, and sound recordings that provide a valuable resource for understanding the history of the city and its people, and the gallery also plays a significant role in the local community by offering a range of educational programs that aim to make art accessible to all.

The gallery also contributes to the promotion of art and culture on a broader scale and has been instrumental in supporting local artists and cultivating a vibrant art scene in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

  • Address: Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow, Aberdeen, AB11 5BY
  • Opening Times: Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12noon – 3pm
  • Website: Aberdeen Maritime Museum

The Aberdeen Maritime Museum, located in the historic Shiprow area in the heart of the city, is a place where the city’s close connection with the sea comes alive. Housed in a group of historic buildings that include a former church and Provost Ross’s House (one of the oldest buildings in the city), the museum has a significance that extends beyond its exhibits.

The building opened its doors as a museum in 1984 but was significantly expanded in 1997 to include the Provost Ross’s House. This expansion allowed the museum to incorporate a range of new and exciting exhibits and displays.

The museum offers a spectacular viewpoint over the busy harbour where visitors can watch the ships coming and going, but the main event is, of course, the collections which comprise artefacts from Aberdeen’s maritime history, shipbuilding, fishing and port history. Exhibits include displays on the North Sea oil industry, shipbuilding galleries, and displays dedicated to Aberdeen’s relationship with the sea.

One of the main attractions is a detailed model of the Murchison oil production platform which allows visitors to get a close-up look at the inner workings of an oil rig. The museum also boasts a unique collection of ship plans and historic photographs, many of which detail the city’s shipbuilding industry.

There’s also a cafe with panoramic windows that offer superb views of the harbour and a well-stocked gift shop with a range of sea-themed souvenirs.

Cruikshank Botanic Garden

Botanic Gardens Cacti

Cruikshank Botanic Garden, a hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Aberdeen, is a paradise for nature lovers, botany enthusiasts, and those seeking a quiet retreat away from the noise of the city. Established in 1898, Cruikshank Botanic Garden was the generous gift of Miss Anne Cruickshank to commemorate her brother Dr. Alexander Cruickshank. The garden serves both as a peaceful sanctuary for the public and a teaching resource for the University of Aberdeen which maintains it.

Located on the King’s College campus of the University of Aberdeen, it spans over 11 acres of land and showcases a wide array of plant species. The garden is divided into several sections, each featuring different types of flora from local Scottish varieties to exotic species from around the world.

As you enter, you’ll be greeted by the sight of the Sunken Garden, known for its stunning floral displays, and the Rock and Water Garden, home to alpine plants and a cascading waterfall. For those interested in edible plants, the Herbaceous Border features a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants. The garden’s greenhouse, a sight to behold in itself, houses tropical and subtropical plant collections including cacti, succulents, and carnivorous plants.

In addition to its natural beauty, Cruikshank Botanic Garden also offers educational tours, workshops, and events throughout the year.

Duthie Park

Aberdeen Duthie Park
  • Address: Duthie Park, Polmuir Road, Aberdeen
  • Opening Times: 8 am until 1 hour before dusk.
  • Website: Duthie Park

Duthie Park was first opened in 1883 and was gifted to the city by Miss Elizabeth Duthie, a local philanthropist, who bought 44 acres of land and donated it to the town council. She wished to create a beautiful park in memory of her family, and it’s still regarded as one of Aberdeenshire’s finest parks today.

Spread over 44 acres, the park is best known for its stunning David Welch Winter Gardens which is one of Europe’s largest indoor garden spaces. This spectacular greenhouse complex houses a vast collection of exotic plants and flowers from around the world including rare and endangered species, making a visit like a mini world tour of plantlife, featuring everything from arid desert cactuses to vibrant tropical blooms.

Other major attractions include open green spaces, sunken gardens, a Japanese Garden, and a bandstand from the Victorian era, all of which add to its appeal as a family-friendly venue. Children can enjoy playing in the park’s playground while adults can relax and unwind at the park’s cafe.

For history enthusiasts, there are a number of memorials and the park also hosts a fascinating collection of statues, while next door is the enormous and fascinating Allenvale Cemetery.

For those who love being active, Duthie Park offers boating in the park’s ponds and if you’re lucky, you can catch a concert or other live entertainment at the park’s bandstand, all of which makes Duthie Park a great place to visit at any time of the year.

Balmedie Country Park

Balmedie Beach
  • Address: Balmedie, AB23 8XG
  • Opening Times: The park is open during daylight hours every day of the year.
  • Website: Balmedie Country Park

Balmedie Country Park is situated in the pretty village of Balmedie which is an approximate 8-mile drive north from the centre of Aberdeen.

One of the most remarkable features of Balmedie Country Park is its extensive dune system which stretches from the park itself down to the water’s edge and is among the most substantial and unspoilt sand dunes in Britain. The park’s heart, though, is its spectacular beach, a wide golden strip that stretches north and south for 13 miles, making it one of the longest beaches in the UK. This beach is perfect for a relaxing stroll, sunbathing, or even a brisk swim for anyone brave enough to face the cold waters of the North Sea.

Balmedie Country Park is teeming with wildlife and bird watchers will be delighted with the variety of bird species they’ll see including skylarks, stonechats, and oystercatchers. But there’s much more to the park than bird spotting.

From kite surfing and wind-surfing to long walks, there’s something for every visitor. Children can enjoy the park’s play area, complete with swings and climbing frames, and adults can chill out with a hot drink and a snack at The Sand Bothy.

Golfers will find courses a couple of miles to the north and south, and of course, the park is just a few minute’s drive from Aberdeen so it’s easy to find indoor activities if Scotland’s famously changeable weather takes a turn for the worse.

Fraserburgh Esplanade

  • Address: AB43 8TL. The Esplanade can be reached via the A90 turning off to the East on Harbour Road.
  • Opening Times: Open year-round.

Fraserburgh Esplanade is a picturesque coastal location in Fraserburgh, a town on the northeastern tip of Aberdeenshire. One of the main attractions is the beautiful sandy beach which is perfect for a day of sandcastle-building and kite-flying as well as enjoying scenic walks along the beach.

Adjacent to the beach is a promenade that leads to Fraserburgh Harbour which is always full of private and fishing boats, making it the perfect destination to take young children who’ll no doubt be fascinated with the flurry of vessels that are constantly chugging their way in and out.

In terms of amenities, Fraserburgh is well-equipped. There are ample parking facilities, public toilets, and a play area for children, while a selection of nearby shops and restaurants provide a range of dining and shopping options.

The town of Fraserburgh itself is known for its fishing heritage and The Fraserburgh Heritage Centre, a short distance from the esplanade, provides a deep dive into the town’s history including its fishing industry and the role it played during the two World Wars.

Cairngorms National Park


The Cairngorms National Park, arguably the crown jewel of the Scottish Highlands, is located in the heart of Scotland around 40 miles west of Aberdeen. It’s the largest national park in the UK, covering 1,748 square miles and comprised of a captivating blend of wild landscapes, high mountains, hidden valleys, and flowing rivers.

One of the most noteworthy features of the park is its distinctive range of wildlife. It’s home to a quarter of the UK’s most threatened species including wildcats, capercaillies, and golden eagles, so if you visit there’s a chance you’ll catch sight of these animals as well as herds of regal red deer.

The park’s natural beauty is a sight to behold. From the windswept Cairngorm Plateau, the highest, coldest, and snowiest mountain peak in the UK, to the lush Glenmore Forest Park, there’s plenty to keep all ages captivated throughout the year.

You can hike rugged trails, hurtle down mountain paths on a bike, ski and snowboard during the winter months, and if you’re an adrenaline junkie you’ll be pleased to know that the park is home to five of the six highest mountains in Scotland, providing challenging climbs with breathtaking views.

Cruden Bay

  • Address: AB42 0NN. Head north from Aberdeen by car via the A90.
  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Website: Cruden Bay

Located approximately 20 miles north of Aberdeen, this quaint village is surrounded by sweeping landscapes of green fields to the rear and rugged cliffs and the azure waters of the North Sea to the front.

One of the major attractions of Cruden Bay is its beach which stretches for nearly two miles on the southern side of the village, offering a perfect spot for long walks, picnicking, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views of the sea.

The beach is framed by towering cliffs on either side that are home to a variety of seabirds, but especially so to the north where visitors will find the dramatic ruins of Slains Castle, a 16th-century ruin perched on a cliff that’s said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Today, the ruined castle is a popular tourist spot which offers a fascinating peek into Scotland’s past and is a good base from which to explore the surrounding coastline.

Golf enthusiasts, meanwhile, will love Cruden Bay’s highly-rated golf course which offers quite a challenge thanks to its undulating fairways, deep bunkers, and stiff sea breezes. The course is a favourite among locals and tourists alike and has been named one of the finest courses in Britain.

Finally, for those interested in history, the Cruden Parish Church is a must-visit. Dating back to the 12th century, the ancient church is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows so it’s especially worth visiting with a camera in hand.

Logie Estate

Scotland Forest
  • Address: Logie Estate, Logie, Forres, Moray, IV36 2QN
  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Website: Logie Estate

The Logie Estate is located near Forres in Moray, making it easily accessible yet secluded enough to offer a wonderful escape into the countryside. Its lush landscapes are crisscrossed by winding trails that are ideal for long walks, and the River Findhorn provides plenty of spots for salmon fishing. Surrounded by rolling hills and dense woodland, the estate is a haven for all outdoor enthusiasts.

With regards to amenities, the Logie Estate offers a diverse range of activities including a converted farm steading and the Logie House Gardens which features an enchanting 19th-century walled garden filled with a variety of plants, a beautiful pond, and an enjoyable maze.

The Logie Steading is a collection of 18th-century farm buildings converted into shops, a café, and an art gallery where you can shop for local produce, antiques and arts and crafts, or just enjoy a meal in a relaxing setting. A visit to the Logie Estate is an opportunity to engage with nature and a chance to appreciate the simple pleasures of country life, and it’s an absolute must-visit for anyone looking for woodland walking trails on well-maintained paths.

Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve

Muir of Dinnet
Address:Burn O’Vat Visitor Centre,
AB34 5NB
Opening Hours:Nature reserve open 24/7.
The visitor centre is open 9 am to 5 pm (between Easter and October) and 10 am to 4 pm the rest of the year.
Admission Price:Free
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:01339 881667
Facilities:Toilets, visitor centre
Photos:Virtual Tour
YouTube Video

Out About Scotland Guide: Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve

The Muir of Dinnet is a fantastic natural reserve located in the heart of Aberdeenshire. Covering 4.5 square miles, this national nature reserve is known for its diverse landscapes that range from lowland heaths to woodland and freshwater lochs.

The reserve is steeped in history dating back to the Ice Age. Its most iconic feature, the Burn O’Vat, is a fascinating geological formation created by glacial erosion around 14,000 years ago. Visitors can walk right into this pot-like formation via a short walk from the visitor centre, after which they can head onto a spider web of paths that run through forestry and around Loch Kinord.

The Muir of Dinnet boasts an abundance of wildlife, offering birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to spot species such as goldeneye ducks, ospreys, and red squirrels, while the freshwater lochs – Loch Kinord and Loch Davan – are designated as Special Protection Areas for their importance to wintering waterfowl.

Notable trails include the Vat Burn and Loch Kinord circular walks, both of which offer breathtaking views of the reserve, with the highlight being the Loch Kinord trail which passes an ancient Pictish stone known as the Kinord Cross which is a beautifully preserved monolith.

As for activities, the Muir of Dinnet offers plenty of options for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife photography are popular choices, and for those interested in history and geology there’s lots to discover about the area’s ice age past and its early human settlements.

Nairn Beach

Aberdeenshire Beach
  • Address: Nairn, The Highlands, IV12 9AE
  • Opening Times: Open year-round.
  • Website: Nairn Beach

Nairn Beach, often referred to as the ‘Brighton of the North’, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland. It’s located in the town of Nairn on the Moray Firth, in the Highland council area, about 15 miles east of Inverness. The beach is renowned for its miles of golden sands and its waters which are relatively warm due to the Gulf Stream, making it a popular destination for water sports like swimming, surfing, and sailing, and it’s also a favourite spot for wildlife watchers as seals and dolphins can often be spotted from the shore.

The beach is split into two by the River Nairn. Central Beach is adjacent to the town and is easily accessible with ample parking, while East Beach is accessed by a footbridge over the river which leads into a vast area of forest

Nairn Beach is well-equipped with amenities. There are picnic tables, ample parking, public toilets, and a cafe, all of which are within an easy walk of the town centre, while Nairn itself (once a popular Victorian seaside resort) is home to a wide range of shops and restaurants.

Furthermore, Nairn is home to two championship golf courses and it hosts several annual events including the Nairn International Jazz Festival and the Nairn Book and Arts Festival, both of which attract visitors from all over the world.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.