Despite being known as the Granite City, Aberdeen is full of green places to sit and pause, or walk and admire the flowers. From large scale parks or warm glasshouses, to churchyards and inviting patches of grass, here are eight of Aberdeen’s parks and gardens you won’t want to miss.
Duthie Park and David Welch Winter Gardens
Duthie Park sits on the banks of the River Dee, and takes in 44 acres of land. Featuring a boating pond with pedal boats and kayaks, a play area, large expanses of grass and beautiful flowers, this park is a popular family destination, although it is large enough that if you desire peace and quiet you should be able to find a spot for yourself. There is also a café and toilets. The Winter Gardens are spectacular, and worth a visit of their own, with the second largest collection of giant cacti in the UK, and year-round colour.
The Mither Kirkyard
The Kirk of St. Nicholas Uniting may seem like an odd choice to add to a list of parks and gardens, but this little oasis of green and trees is quite magical. The church is also known as the Mither Kirk (Scots for Mother Church) and is often full of wee birds singing. The trees provide welcome shelter, whether from rain, snow, wind or even sunshine, right in the heart of the busy centre of Aberdeen, and the ancient gravestones themselves are fascinating.
Union Terrace Gardens
Just a short walk west of St. Nicholas, these gardens date back to 1879 and the mature elm trees at one end are an even older remnant of a wood that once stood here. The gardens are shaped like an amphitheatre and concerts are sometimes held here. With the city’s crest made out of flowers, and several other beds of colour to catch the eye, this is a perfect spot to sit in the sun and have a picnic lunch, just off one of the busiest streets in Aberdeen.
Cruickshank Botanic Garden
Eleven acres of peace and tranquillity, situated in the beautiful surroundings of Old Aberdeen, this botanic garden is sometimes known as the Secret Garden of Old Aberdeen, and with good reason. Here the emphasis is on an outstanding variety of plants and different types of garden, from a formal rose garden to a rock garden, by way of an arboretum. Established in the late 19th century, with a nationally important collection, the gardens are still used extensively by the University of Aberdeen for teaching practice and, if you are interested in plants and natural history, this is the place to visit.
A photographer’s favourite, Johnston Gardens is a hidden gem, with pools, streams, bridges and a huge variety of shrubs and plants. Situated in the west end of Aberdeen, this is a quiet oasis of calm, and especially stunning in autumn, when all the leaves turn brilliant shades. There are many bird nesting boxes, encouraging wildlife to the area. Popular with wedding parties as a backdrop for photographs, Johnston Gardens may not be the largest in Aberdeen, but they are certainly one of the most beautiful.
In spring Victoria Park is perhaps the best-scented place in Aberdeen, with its rhododendrons in full bloom and their heady perfume filling the area. Centred around a fountain made of fourteen different varieties of granite, the park was named after Queen Victoria and opened in 1871. It continues to flourish as a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. There are plenty of benches to pause and sit, and there are clean public toilets too.
On the western fringes of the city, Hazlehead Park is huge and offers a wide variety of activities for all visitors. With many trees and wilder spots it is ideal to walk around taking in the wealth of wildlife it attracts, or perhaps a round of golf at one of the courses? There are football pitches, children’s play areas, a pitch and putt course, Scotland’s oldest planted maze, and even a petting zoo. The café at Hazlehead Park is an excellent spot to sit with a drink or grab a bite to eat. Situated in one of the rose gardens, the Piper Alpha memorial remembers the 167 oil workers who died in the disaster.
On the banks of the River Don and next to St. Machar’s Cathedral and Cruickshank Botanic Garden, Seaton Park is one of the busiest parks in the city. Featuring a walled garden, lush flower beds, many mature trees and wide open green spaces, this is an ideal spot to spend a summer’s afternoon. The walk from the Cathedral to the gardens deserves a special mention, as it features a wonderful display of flowers each year. Walking along the river bank gives you the opportunity to spot nature, and if you continue a little further you reach the Brig o’ Balgownie, mentioned by Lord Byron in his famous poem, Don Juan.