Eat, Explore, Repeat
This post is part of a paid partnership with VisitAberdeenshire to help folks like you find the best places eat in Aberdeenshire, whilst taking too much time to throw leaves around at any given opportunity. It’s a tough old blog, as they say.I often harp on about Scottish hospitality being amongst the best in the world (yeah, I said world). Scotland’s the kinda place where folk are like, “awa an’ bile yer heid/come in, plonk your bum by the fire, here’s a hefty dram whilst I make you the mother of all suppers.” I love it. When I’m up North, it’s my granny’s mince and tatties. When I’m in the central belt, it’s basically anything dripping in Haggis (yep, I said dripping) and when I’m on the islands, it’s scones (not sure why to be honest, we just tend to get a lot of scones on the Scottish islands).
As for at home in Aberdeenshire? Well, seafood is a big ‘un. Mostly because the North East is home to Peterhead and Fraserburgh, fishing ports galore. We are currently learning how to fish. Cause fishing is way fun. We’ve also tried our hand at foraging in the hope that we might find a lobster under a piece of driftwood or something. No such luck. But I’ve bought myself the book ‘Edible Seashore’ from the River Cottage collection because I’m desperate to learn how to forage for my own supper. Watch this plaice.Then there’s Mackies of Scotland. Everybody kens Mackies. Mackies used to be known primarily for their groundbreaking ice cream. I say groundbreaking because their ice-cream is ridiculously good. I used to see Mackies signs all over shop freezers back in Inverness. But when I moved here and realised Mackies lived practically next door, it was like moving in next to royalty. But Mackies have gone way beyond yer tub of dairy. They now do crisps and chocolate. Basically, they just saw the opportunity for fine Scottish snacks and ran with it. *Applause.* They also have an ice cream parlour in Aberdeen, more on that one later…So far we’ve got; tidy seafood, Scottish snacking, Aberdeen Angus (you heard it) and, well, butteries (or rowies as local folk sometimes call them). That actually sounds like a lot, but there’s way more to this foodie corner of Scotland that meets the Aye. We went on a fabulous aye-venture to scout out the best places to eat in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and well, I’ve put on half a pound.
North East Aye-ventures
We do like to eat in funky food shacks up and down the country and I’m fair learning a lot on the old scran front. And although this wee Inverness rough-and-tumble lass can now tell the difference between a Béarnaise and a Beurre Blanc, you can’t take the “warming comfort food” away from the lass. I’m a cheap date. None of our aye-ventures so far have been quite as “foodie” as this one was and honestly, I’m living for it, so here is a whirlwind tour of food, fabulous castles, street art and architecture, with love from Aberdeenshire.
Kings, Gins, Mackies and Meldrum
Our first day of exploring Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire was awesome and an itinerary I would totally recommend. It was the perfect mix of city life, old-worldly vibes, foodie fantasies and country cosy. Albeit I may have been slightly tipsy by the time we arrived at Mackies 19.2 for ice-cream and crepes, but I wasn’t exactly having a bad time. I mean, I spent my morning wandering around the beautiful Old Aberdeen, ogling architecture and getting huge Autumnal vibes, before spending my afternoon sampling Scottish gins and ice-cream. Did I say it was a tough job or? Old Aberdeen is crazy bonnie. Think cobbled streets, oldie goldie architecture, turrets, wouldn’t-be-unusual-to-see-a-horse-and-carriage, Mary-Poppins and Harry-Potter vibes. I did some posing like a prize pony, then we stood and admired a crazy swirl-cloud in the sky over the King’s College which was a dramatic combination of incredible and apocalypse. Cannae beat it.
City of Aberdeen Distillery
The City of Aberdeen Distillery is way new. It opened in December 2019, right before a global pandemic. I mean, you gotta hand it to them. They did some proper productive marketing during the lockdown. We painted a wall 3 times to end up painting it back the same colour it already was. Fun.I love gin. And I don’t just love gin cause it’s cool to love gin now. Gin is such a versatile drink. And who knew that North East folk are well good at making the stuff? I have a top-four gin list from the distillery. FOUR. Which is why I went to Mackies 19.2 ice cream parlour looking starry-eyed and bushy-tailed. (For reference; Scottish Bramble, Scottish Strawberry, Rhubarb then Lemon).
I’ve never been to an ice cream parlour before. I mean, I’ve got ice cream to take away from like, an ice cream van, before. But I’ve never gone into a place dedicated to ice cream and sat and just gone mad on ice cream. We got American diner vibes from Mackies 19.2. I ate my Maple Madness crepe with white choc ice-cream and then I ate what was left of Scott’s Cookies and Cream Waffles. I washed both down with a cheeky wee prosecco because coffee seemed rude after copious gin samples. This has become one of my favourite places to eat in Aberdeen. Aye scream.I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Mackies ice-cream is groundbreaking. They’ve just launched mini pots in Scottish shops too so there’s basically nae excuse but to try them all. AND there’s a competition on Visit Aberdeenshires page to win a years’ supply of Mackies ice-cream. You should enter, but if you win, I want half, kay?
This place is gonna get a story all of its own because emm… Meldrum House though. This grand country hotel is actually a 13th-century Manor House. And it has a bar which is 800 years old. I’ve been hanging about Scott for 6 years now. He’s from Meldrum, and we’ve been to Meldrum at least 832 times. Not once has he taken me to Meldrum House.
I had to take him to Meldrum House. This place is like a wee Gleneagles in Aberdeenshire. It’s a cracker! Huge golf course, stunning views, luxurious rooms, lovely staff, a view of Mars (not even joking) and an awesome restaurant where we had the best beef and the best macaroni cheese we have ever had. We couldn’t eat pudding. And we can always eat pudding.
Victoria: Seared scallops in miso broth
Scott: Pressing of game, balsamic roasted beets, spiced pear jam
Victoria: Mac ‘n’ Cheese, crispy onions, Smoked Applewood, garlic brioche
Scott: Duo of Presly’s beef, fillet, slow-cooked blade, onion puree, smoked bone marrow jus
Castles, Comfort Food and Cosy Country Inns
Our second day was spent knee-deep in castles and ace eats in Aberdeenshire. We visited two of my personal favourite spots in the North East during day two of our foodie adventure; Fyvie Castle and Royal Deeside.We also stopped by our wee hoose to pick up our doggo so we could bring her to the Bullers of Buchan and then to Slains Castle for a Mackies-induced castle picnic of dreams. Slains Castle is said to have inspired Bram Stoker when he was writing Dracula. And that’s not terrifying when you live right next to the place or anything.
Just so you know, I’m nae a “Christmas in November” kinda person. It takes me a wee while to get into the festive spirit. I’m nae a Grinch or anything, cause once I’m in the festive spirit, I’m an irritant to be around. But if there was anything that could have swayed me, it was the cosiest lunch ever at the Saplinbrae Hotel. We sat by the fire cooking like geese (you’ll remember my comment on Scottish hospitality above, it’s often by the fire), being fed gorgeous comforting food (in hefty portions) by the nicest ladies ever. Literally, this was like eating in a room full of family, if your family were complete strangers, didn’t know your name and sat at least 2 metres away from you.
Saplinbrae didn’t just do great food, they did a great atmosphere. And Saplinbrae isn’t even far from us. And we had never been. Which I guess is a nod to going local and eating out somewhere different. We have a new lunch place and it’s just up the road ken?
Scott: Ugie smoked salmon, apple and fennel, avocado
Victoria: Chicken and sweetcorn soup
Scott: Celestial Dawn monkfish kiev, crushed potato, Autumn greens, Beurre blanc
Victoria: 10oz dry-aged Home Farm sirloin, hand-cut chips, mushroom and cherry vine tomato with peppercorn cream
The Boat Inn, Aboyne
We’ve been out to quite a few places to eat in Deeside now. But this place is the full package. This is what pushed me over the Christmas in November line. Introducing The Boat Inn, the place I never knew I needed and the place that all folk should go to at least once in November. As if the Deeside scenery on the way out wasn’t enough, we then had a literal scene from The Holiday.I mean, this was my idea of heaven; a cosy country inn, with beautifully snug rooms, a boss of a freestanding bath where I definitely did finish a bottle of Prosecco whilst I watched a Christmas film, arched ceilings and windows, and a lovely little traditional pub and restaurant with hearty, tasty food and warming atmosphere. If you are looking for good places to eat in Deeside, Aberdeenshire, check out The Boat Inn, The Fife Arms or Banchory Lodge. I speak from experience. There’s also lots to do in Royal Deeside.
Victoria: Mushroom and potato soup with granary bread
Scott: Clam chowder with Toulouse sausage, cider and cream
Victoria: Buffalo spiced chicken roll, melted cheese, smoked bacon, house bourbon & maple Glaze with fries and house slaw
Scott: Boat Inn chicken saag curry with saffron and cardamom Rice and kachumber
Brewdog, Fittie and the City
The last day on our awesome foodie adventure took us to Castle Fraser, another one of our favourite castles in Aberdeenshire. We kissed goodbye to the countryside to head into one of the best places to eat in Aberdeenshire, the one and only Brewdog, of course. There are Brewdogs scattered all over Aberdeenshire because that’s where they started out. We stopped by the Brewdog in Inverurie, having visited there a couple of months ago when we stayed at Thainstone House. When you visit Brewdog, expect edgy, comforting, pub grub with a funky atmosphere (and lots of dogs kicking about. Dogs are ace). I treated myself to a cooked Scottish breakfast, or as known at Brewdog; The Haystack, alongside a refreshing Mimosa. Scott had an avocado and feta salad bowl which looked waaaaay too healthy to go with a Mimosa.
After our lunch at Brewdog, we headed into the big smoke. Aberdeen City has so many cool quirks. One of my favourite parts of the city is Fittie (or Footdee as it’s officially known). Fittie is the coolest wee collection of fishing cottages and huts. The first recorded reference to Fittie was in 1398! Each wee cottage has a shed across from it known as a Tarry Shed. Some of the occupants have decorated their sheds with mad colours, funky garden ornaments and plenty of references to the sea. I love it down there. Maybe one day I’ll have my own wee Fittie villa.
Developed in collaboration with Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council and collaborating with twin-city Stavanger, Nuart provides a platform for local, national and international street artists to display their work. You will find pieces dotted all over the city centre. I love Aberdeen’s street art but the Green Lady is my favourite. She’s gorgeous and a wonderful nod to local folklore.
Visit Aberdeenshire: Win a Mini Break
I hope this has given you a taste of a weekend break in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Castles galore, architectural awesomeness, the best places to eat in Aberdeenshire, a stunning coastline, the North East really has it all. We know travel is limited at the moment, which is why we are also sticking to our home turf. But there is absolutely nothing to stop you dreaming. Visit Aberdeenshire and Mackies of Scotland have teamed up to offer a lucky winner a mini-break in Aberdeenshire and a years supply of Mackie’s ice cream. We were sent a wee goody bag with some Mackies products in it before our trip. If that is even a taste of what you’re getting, you’re going to want to enter for that alone. The competition ends in April 2021 and you can enter on the Visit Aberdeenshire website.
Please be mindful of the current COVID-19 government guidance. Maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks and sanitising can help you keep you and your loved ones safe and will help our Shire keep on keepin’ on. Stay safe!