Aberdeen Car Hire
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Aberdeen is Scotland’s third-most populous city and is located in the north-east of the country. Nicknamed ‘The Granite City’ because of the proliferation of this distinctive grey stone in the city’s buildings, it has a population of 200,000, and since the discovery of North Sea oil and gas in the 1970s it’s been the UK’s off-shore capital.
Currently in Aberdeen a Toyota Aygo or similar mini-size vehicle costs just £17.50 a day and the Ford Focus compact-size is only £20.30 a day, but even an economy model such as the Vauxhall Corsa is only £24 a day. Rent a car with Enjoy to explore Aberdeen and the gorgeous Grampian Region around the Don and Dee rivers – but first, here’s a bit more about Scotland’s third city.
- About Aberdeen: Aberdeen is known for fishing as well as oil and it was recently named the sixth-best city in the UK to live and work in (Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities Index). Oil and gas have given the area an economic boost since the 1970s and the city centre has a wealthy feel which is expressed through its many fine buildings, built over locally abundant granite which gives the city a beautiful sparkle in sunlight. Fishing is still a thriving industry in the North East, and the area around is dotted with pretty fishing villages throughout.
- Airports and Access: Aberdeen is served by Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) at Dyce in the north of the city. It has many domestic and international routes to destinations such as France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Scandinavia among others, and due to the oil industry its heliport is one of the busiest in the world.
- Driving Around Aberdeen: there’s so much pleasant driving around Aberdeen and the surrounding Grampian region, but here are a few choice trips:
- Famous Aberdeen: For a smaller city so often overshadowed by its bigger siblings Glasgow and Edinburgh, Aberdeen has produced a number of famous sons and daughters ̶ the poet Lord Byron lived here from ages 2 – 10, local John J.R. Macleod first isolated insulin, which won him the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology in 1923 and James Clerk Maxwell, who formulated the theory of classical electromagnetic radiation was chair of Marischal College at the University of Aberdeen. More recent notable persons include Annie Lennox, singer of 80s pop legends The Eurythmics, Lezlie Benzies, the former president of Rockstar North games company which produced global hit game Grand Theft Auto, singer Emeli Sandé, and Rose Leslie, actor known for her role as Ygritte in the popular Game of Thrones television drama.
Aberdeen has been settled for approximately 8,000 years. Historically a stronghold of the Pictish people, locals have a distinctive accent called Doric which comes from the Lowland Scots dialect. The city was the site of Scotland’s first newspaper in 1747 and its oldest university (and one of the world’s oldest), founded in 1495. Fishing has long been a mainstay of the local economy, and perhaps Aberdeen’s most famous food is the ‘buttery’, a savoury, flat croissant-type pastry that’s usually served warmed and dripping with butter. The city is also famed for its floral displays and parks and gardens.
Aberdeen to Portsoy ̶ at 50 miles from Aberdeen via the A947 this is one of our longer drives, but once you see the stunning fishing village of Portsoy on the Banffshire coast you’ll understand why it’s top of our list. Clinging to steep hills that lead down to an award-winning harbour is a village of pretty fisherman’s cottages intersected with narrow cobblestone streets. The harbour also has a beautiful lido which fills with the tide, and in August every year there’s a traditional boat festival which is always worth visiting.
Heading southeast for 20 miles along the A944 brings you to the ‘Gateway to Royal Deeside’, Banchory. It’s surrounded by rolling hills and lush countryside, and has two nearby castles, Crathes and Drum. There are also a number of fine golf courses in the area (Scotland is the home of golf, after all). You can see salmon leaping upriver at the Bridge of Feugh and perhaps the most impressive historical legacy is the number of Pictish archaeological sites in the area, most of which are stone circles.
Aberdeen Beach is a long expanse of golden sand that stretches from Aberdeen harbour to the River Don. Popular with walkers and kiteboarders due to the strong North Sea winds, it’s adjacent to the Queens Links, a large grassy park (Aberdeen has 45 public parks). The beach esplanade has restaurants and an amusement park and there’s even a public golf course and beach leisure centre which features an ice rink, swimming pool, and sports hall.
The Aberdeen Coastal Trail is 165 miles of scenic driving which includes nature reserves, very creamy and moreish local ice cream, and a number of castles and castle ruins perched on cliffs, like Dunnottar or Slains castles. Meanwhile, Cruden Bay golf club adds a dramatic backdrop to your round, while St. Cyrus in the southern Aberdeenshire country is a nature reserve that has miles of golden beach.
The Dufftown to Ballater road (via the A941 and A97) twists and turns through rugged landscape and has views of the magnificent Cairngorm National Park on one side or alternatively, the Tomintoul to Ballater route (via the ‘Old Military Road’, the A939) passes Corgarff Castle then takes you through the stunning Lecht pass, which is also a snowsports area in winter!
Guide to Aberdeen
Beaches and Cliffs
Aberdeen city has a miles-long beach (see above) but the surrounding coast also has long stretches of golden dune-backed beaches. Aberdeenshire is full of dramatic vistas, with cliffs, castles, and rocky promontories full of sea birds and wildlife around every corner. Keep an eye open for seals and golden eagles, wherever you are.
City and Culture
Aberdeen is full of culture! The Aberdeen Art Gallery has a fine collection of Impressionist, Victorian, Scottish and modern art, while the Marischal Museum holds 80,000 pieces ranging from archaeology to fine art. The city is home to a number of festivals, including the world’s largest arts festival for young performers, The Aberdeen International Youth Festival. There’s also a Jazz Festival, among many others. The music scene has always been strong, and the famous roll-call of bands who have played the iconic Lemon Tree venue is testament to Aberdeen’s live music heritage (which also includes plenty of folk music, and traditional Scottish dances called ceilidhs).
Sports and Pastimes
Football is the most popular sport in Scotland and in the UK, and Aberdeen has often punched above its weight. Aberdeen F.C. (‘The Dons’) play in Scotland’s top league ̶ winners of the European Super Cup and European Cup Winners Cup in 1983, The Scottish Cup seven times, and the Scottish Premier League four times, they’ve cemented their place in world football. Golf is hugely popular in the Scottish Northeast too of course, as it’s where Carnoustie (the world’s first golf course) and St. Andrews are located. An honourable mention should also go to Aberdeen University Shinty Club (founded 1861), the oldest in the world.
What to do in Aberdeen
Plenty to do
Although it’s in the north, Aberdeen is a well-connected city, not only in terms of transport and accessibility but also in culture, industry (particularly oil), and more recently, finance. Its restaurants and bars are varied, its nightlife lively and its shopping comprehensive ̶ you’ll never be stuck for activities for everyone.
As stated, the sparkling Mica present in granite – of which most of the city centre buildings are constructed – gave Aberdeen its nickname ‘The Granite City’. Granite is a very hard stone, and so when the buildings have been cleaned and repointed they look brand new and sparkle in the sun (on the downside they look grey and dirty if they haven’t been cleaned in a while). A walk or drive down the Union Street area of the city displays many fine landmark buildings such as the Music Hall, or Aberdeen Town House. There are also public statues of Scots heroes William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns in the city.
Although the Aberdeenshire coast isn’t especially warm, that doesn’t deter thousands of watersports enthusiasts coming to enjoy surfing, scuba diving, sailing, wakeboarding and kiteboarding, to name but a few activities. National Geographic has described the Aberdeenshire coast as ‘one of the world’s outstanding coastlines’, so bring your wetsuit and plunge into the wind and waves. For something a bit more relaxed, Stonehaven has a 1930s heated (to 29°C!) open-air pool and Portsoy’s annual Traditional Boat Festival is a must for sailors, or for those who just want to wander around a beautiful village while looking at wooden yachts and eating ice cream.
With so many people employed in the finance and oil industries in Aberdeen, there are plenty of places to spend money on drinks, food, and nightlife. From the craft beer hubs such as Brewdog (which started in the city) to the huge Krakatoa nightclub, or the whisky specialists at Casc, Aberdeen’s drinking establishments and nightlife is varied and vibrant. If you’re more into live music, head to one of the many bars on Belmont Street for a pint and some good craic (lively conversation).
Eating out in Aberdeen
Aberdeen has everything from wholesome local organic eateries to a choice selection of seafood options and local specialties like butteries and mince and mealie pies.
Rustico is a 50s-style trattoria which spans several floors. It’s a family-run Italian restaurant that has intimate alcoves, very friendly staff and an expansive menu. The portion sizes are generous and main courses start at £9.95 ̶ Bellissima!
Yatai Izakaya on Langstane Place serves Japanese food, often made with local Aberdeenshire produce such as Aberdeen Angus beef. The ‘omakase’ (‘leave it to us’) set menu is ideal ̶ explain any dietary requirements to your waiter, then relax with some sake (it’s Scotland’s only licensed sake restaurant) until a variety of mouth-watering dishes land on your table. The sushi starts at £5.50.
Aberdeen is proud of its creamy ice creams. From community favourite parlours like Crolla’s and Equi’s to the rich ice creams of Huntly, Portsoy and Banff, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Try local flavours like Irn Bru or tablet alongside all the usual favourites (and then some).
Meanwhile, if your sweet tooth fancies a bit more, try the patisserie Almondine. Its macaron and patisserie selections are just two of the delectable reasons that it perpetually has a waiting list for afternoon tea!
Bonobo Café is a relatively new addition to Aberdeen’s culinary scene. A completely vegan workers’ co-operative, you can take out or eat inside, in either the rustic interior or on top of the world in the roof garden (which has herbs, flowers, and even a pond). Try a full Scottish breakfast washed down with a coconut milk latte.
Transport in Aberdeen
Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) is an international airport in Dyce, seven miles (11 km) northwest of the city which handles approximately 3 million passengers a year. The nearest train station is Dyce, but it’s two miles from the terminal. If you’re looking for the independent flexibility that car travel gives you, Enjoy works with a number of car rental companies in Aberdeen, such as Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Easirent, Europcar, Hertz, Keddy by Europcar, and Sixt. Pre-book online and you can often grab discounts of 5% – 10%.
Buses and Trains
Aberdeen is on the East Coast main line that connects the city with Dundee, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York and London among many others, and also connects to Glasgow, Inverness – even Penzance (the UK’s longest train journey)! If you’re traveling from London, the Sleeper train is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to consider instead of flying.
The city and wider area are served by local, regional and national bus carriers which are typically reasonably priced. Companies like Stagecoach, National Express and Megabus have routes to all UK cities, sometimes for as little as £1 (really).
You drive on the left-hand side of the road in Aberdeen. The speed limits are: 70 mph (120 km/h) on motorways, 60 mph (100 km/h) on non-motorway main roads, and 30 mph (50 km/h) or 20 mph (40 km/h) if you’re close to a school or in busy urban areas. Here are some other important notes:
Drivers must carry a valid driving licence, insurance documents, MOT certificate and road tax certificate (or car hire documents & driving licence).
Drink-driving is strictly prohibited. The limit is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (in Scotland ̶ England, Wales and Northern Ireland differ slightly).
You’re not allowed to drive and use a phone (including texting) in the UK, except via your car’s Bluetooth connection (i.e., truly hands-free).
If you’re driving in rural areas in Aberdeenshire, be aware of farm animals (especially sheep) wandering or being driven from field to field on small country roads, sometimes with a narrow clearance or blind corners.
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