Portlethen – 4 km (Par 72) – Portlethen opened in 1990 and was designed by Donald Steel. The course is a good example of a parkland layout with many excellent natural features. The par five 485-yard fourth hole is a hole that requires caution, instead of valour.
Here, you face the decision whether to lay up short of the burn or attempt the carry to set up a birdie chance. The 15th is undoubtedly the signature hole of the course.
Stonehaven – 14 km (Par 66) – Stonehaven has some of the most dramatic holes on Scotland’s east coast. These are breath taking golf vistas that could grace the front cover of any golf magazine. While it looks dramatic, playing it is another matter.
With most of the holes perched on headland and a parkland section on the other side of the railway line, Stonehaven is not your typical coastal course. It is however a unique challenge and the views are simply glorious.
Deeside Golf Club – 15 km (Par 70) – Founded in 1903, Deeside takes its name from the river valley which climbs westward from Aberdeen into the beautiful hill country of Braemar and Balmoral.
Over the last few years major reconstruction work has taken place to provide a testing 6, 424-yards 18 hole course in which only five of the holes from the old course are virtually unchanged. These include the 15th (the old sixth), which bears the name James Braid, who was adviser to the club during previous course alterations.
Royal Aberdeen – 20 km (Par 64) The Balgownie Links is one of the oldest courses in the world and, as such, has attracted many top players over the years. Even some of them have found it to be a tough test and, for many, it is a perfect example of the exacting nature of links golf.
The 18th is a par-4 measuring 434 yards and is reckoned to be one of the best finishing holes anywhere in the country.
Trump International – 32 km (Par 71) – The eagerly-anticipated Trump International Golf Links opened in July 2012 to an enormous fanfare – and rightly so. The first golf development constructed in Europe by billionaire Donald Trump, the course near Balmedie in Aberdeenshire is nothing short of spectacular and seems destined to host high-profile golf tournaments before too long.
Set amongst what Trump has renamed ‘The Great Dunes of Scotland’, the course has been designed by renowned architect Martin Hawtree and makes full use of its stunning natural environment. It is no exaggeration to say that there is not a weak hole on the course, with the par-3 13th and par-4 14th perhaps the two best back-to-back holes.
Dunnottar Castle – 14 km – A romantic, evocative and historically significant ruined Castle, perched on a giant conglomorate on the edge of the North-Sea. Once seen – never forgotten.
Drum Castle, Garden and Estate – 19 km – One of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, has a real medieval Jacobite setting with a Walled Garden of Historic Roses that you can stroll through, or choose from three waymarked trails to explore.
Crathes Castle – 19 km – You can wander along the Coy Burn for a chance to spot buzzards, herons and kingfishers. Spend as long or as short a time as you please exploring the castle grounds with six woodland trails taking you all over the gardens.
Balmoral Castle – 71 km – Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852, having been first leased in 1848. The Castle is an example of Scots Baronial architecture and is classified by Historic Scotland as a category A listed building.
Braemar Castle – 86 km – A 17th century castle with a colourful past and an exciting future. Built by the Earl of Mar in 1628, it has been hunting lodge, fortress, garrison and family home.
Aberdeen Beach – 17 km -Here is a city beach with bucket and spade-loads of charm! With an art-deco inspired esplanade, the golden coastline stretches 3 km and is one of the best places in Scotland to see bottlenose dolphins in the summer. Keep going along the esplanade towards Footdee, an area known locally as ‘Fittie’, and discover a former fishing village with oodles of 19th century appeal, lined with clusters of quirky cottages originally built for fishermen working along the harbour.
Stonehaven Beach – 14 km – Stonehaven is a popular coastal resort, which is well used by water sports enthusiasts. The area designated is Stonehaven Bay which is approximately 1.1km in length, bound by the outflow of the River Carron and the harbour jetty to the south and rocky outcrops at the northern end. The southern end of the bay is more sandy and therefore gets greater usage by bathers.
St Cyrus Beach Nature Reserve– 47 km – The St Cyrus National Nature Reserve is very often not first on a visitor’s list of things to see and do, yet this lovely little Scottish nature reserve carefully preserves a wide variety of distinctive plant species. It features a variety of habitats and is also home to a number of birds and insects.
Balmedie Beach – 32 km – Explore miles of beautiful flat sandy beach, you can walk either north or south for several miles. Access is via the car park along board walks, through the dunes to the beach. Facilities also include a ranger centre, toilets and shops.
Walking and Cycling
Walking– The more southerly parts of Aberdeenshire have a wide variety of scenery. The upper parts of Deeside are covered in our Cairngorms National Park section, but lower Deeside too has some fine woodland scenery and lower hills, stretching down from Aboyne through Banchory to reach the very edge of Aberdeen. The area is packed out with forest and riverside walks. The high Cairn o’Mount road offers fabulous views before it descends to link with Fettercairn and the more lowland Mearns.
The coastline has attractions of its own. Stonehaven has a fine harbour but it is the spectacular ruin of Dunnottar Castle nearby that draws the crowds and photographers – it has one of the finest settings in Scotland. Further south, St Cyrus is a beautiful coastal nature reserve with a sandy beach. For routes – www.walkhighlands.co.uk/aberdeenshire/stonehaven.shtml
Road Cycling – Aberdeenshire’s rural and wide winding roads matched with its picture-perfect panoramic mountainous landscapes, make it the idyllic place for road cycling in Scotland.
The terrain in this part of Scotland varies from coastal passes and rolling farmland to challenging climbs, including the iconic Cairn O’ Mount, between Banchory and Stonehaven, where gradients of up to 18% will challenge even the fittest legs.
Ride through Royal Deeside to the Cairngorms National Park and take on the challenge of the UK’s highest pass at the Glenshee ski centre, or turn right at Ballater towards The Lecht and test yourself on what is recognised as one of the toughest, and most spectacular, road climbs in the country.
Mountain Biking – Imagine how you will feel mountain biking across Scottish Munros, immense loch’s, heathery moors, ancient forests, great estates and wide sandy expanses. Venture off the beaten track in Aberdeenshire as you take in endless views of rugged coasts and mountainous landscapes.
You will find routes and trails designed to challenge all abilities. Start your journey by finding your feet or testing your skill at one of the purpose-built bike parks across Aberdeenshire.
For rugged rides on an abundance of natural trails make your way to the Deeside delights near Banchory, Aboyne and Ballater – think loamy corners, roots and rocky descents with fun trail features all surrounded by remarkable scenery.
There is also the opportunity to follow in the tracks of the racers as you take on the ‘enduro’ trails at Hill of Fare, Pitfichie and Drumtochty. Get ready to earn your descents by pedalling up and then testing your bike skills as you will be faced with steep descents packed with surprises.