With more than thirty other namesakes around the world – from New South Wales in Australia to South Africa's Eastern Cape – Scotland's Aberdeen remains the original and best, wearing its history well.
Known as the Granite City, and built on centuries of nautical heritage – herring fishing, whaling, shipbuilding, and the far more recent offshore oil boom, which took off like a rocket – the place is a shrine to the ambition of coastal life, with a rich mercantile quarter, marine climate and two sprawling universities. Whether you want jam-packed history, unbeatable golf or superb whisky, this is what you need to know about Aberdeen.
Notwithstanding this devotion to time-worn tradition, Aberdeen also offers up some genuine guidebook surprises: its quarried granite was used to build London’s Houses of Parliament, while it’s also the sunniest city in Britain. Bet you didn’t expect that from a place plotted at a latitude north of Moscow.
Farther along the coast, those same sands give rise to some of the world’s best links golf courses, undulating 18-holers shorn and sculpted out of 4000-year-old machair-topped dunes. Aberdeen has a golf course for every week of the year, with two big-hitters to try – namely Royal Aberdeen Golf Club, the world’s sixth oldest, and – politics aside – the $1.5 billion Trump International Golf Links on Menie Estate.
In the opposite direction, towards the Cairngorms National Park and Braemar, stop by the royal Balmoral Estate, where Her Majesty the Queen – most definitely not a witch – decamps to Scotland every summer.
Evidence of stranger times is on show at The Illicit Still, a gothic bar-cum-prohibition den, beautifully packed with leather armchairs, pool tables and sneering gargoyles. Finally, it's boisterous and student-packed, but Brewdog’s Gallowgate craft beer pub is where it all started for the Fraserburgh brewer that’s gone global.
Meanwhile, from September to March, on nights when the skies are burning clean with stars, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that you'll witness one of the greatest, if rarest, spectacles in the UK: the northern lights (the city even has a song about it). Check out the VisitScotland website for more information on catching the "Mirrie Dancers" all around the country.