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University of Aberdeen and King's College in Old Aberdeen

Discover Aberdeen’s Architectural Masterpieces : A Guide to the Granite City’s Iconic Landmarks (2024)

Wondering about popular architectural landmarks in Aberdeen? Prepare yourself as we begin a delightful journey through Aberdeen’s enchanting architectural wonders. Also known as the City of Granite or the Silver City, Aberdeen extensively uses grey granite in its architecture. The distinctive and enduring architectural style of this city boasts captivating stories. Every single architectural gem in Aberdeen unfolds a blend of historical elegance with innovation. The structures you will see in the city are a testament to its enduring charm.

Aberdeen, Scotland, is home to a range of architectural marvels. This city has everything from housing the second-largest granite building in Europe to being home to cozy historic homes. So, what are you waiting for? Join us on this tour of discovering the diverse architectural marvels in Aberdeen. The article unfolds the Best Architectural Landmarks in Aberdeen, Scotland. Get ready for a journey that celebrates the heart and history.

Discover Aberdeen’s Architectural Masterpieces : A Guide to the Granite City’s Iconic Landmarks

1. Machar’s Cathedral

When in Scotland, you cannot miss visiting St. Machar’s Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece of Aberdeen. It isn’t just a building but a crowned jewel of Aberdeen. St. Machar’s Cathedral, being a sacred structure, holds immense religious values. However, at the same time, it also encapsulates centuries of history and artistry. This historic Cathedral dates back to its roots in 1136. While it wasn’t entirely built, there are claims of a small Celtic chapel erected by St. Machar in AD 58. However, the present Machar’s Cathedral’s earliest work dates back to the 14th century, which was completed in 1552.

Primarily, St. Machar’s Cathedral boasts the architectural style of the Scottish Gothic. This testament to architectural prowess features architectures of different styles spanning several centuries. The core of the Cathedral is of Medieval origin. Its design also incorporates different elements from Scottish Baronial, Romanesque, and Gothic styles. St. Machar’s Cathedral is truly a remarkable example of architectural evolution in Scotland. From its intricate stone carvings to those stained glass windows and pointed arches, every single feature here tells a story. One of the most notable architectural elements of the Cathedral is its Crown Spire, which was added back in the 16th century. For a wholesome experience, visit St. Machar’s Cathedral during classical or choral concerts.

2. University of Aberdeen and King’s College in Old Aberdeen

For the lesser knowns, the University of Aberdeen and King’s College aren’t just educational institutions but Aberdeen’s true architectural wonders. Both destinations boast some impressive architectural highlights that people visit from near and far. One of the highlights amongst them is the King’s College Chapel, a Scottish Gothic architecture masterpiece. The chapel is a prime example of late medieval Scottish architecture. Its stained glass windows, intricate stone carvings, and stunningly pointed arches add to the sight. Not only the exteriors but with vaulted ceilings and historic furnishings, its interiors are equally impressive.

The university’s main building, King’s College, is an architectural gem in itself. It displays an impressive combination of Gothic and Renaissance architectural influences. Further, the Elphinstone Hall inside the campus displays the Scottish Baronial style. Its features, including ornate stone detailing, crow-stepped gables, and facades adorned with turrets, appear extremely appealing. In contrast to the older buildings, Mitchell Hall is a modern architectural addition.

3. Market Cross

The Mercat Cross, aka Market Cross, is an architectural feature in the heart of Aberdeen. This symbol of civic and commercial authority is, in fact, part of many cities and towns in Scotland. The one in Aberdeen is located diagonally opposite the Tolbooth Museum. It is one of the highly decorated and elaborated medieval symbols of the city. Mercat Cross in Aberdeen was built in 1686 by the city’s guild of merchants. The centre of the structure featured staircases that allowed the announcement of newly crowned monarchs from the roof. The cross in the Mercat Cross refers to a horizontal arm or crossbar that extends from the top of the central pillar.

4. Brig o’Balgownie

Brig o’Balgownie, aka Balgownie Bridge, is an iconic architectural structure in Aberdeen. This significant historic structure holds immense value in the city. Brig o’Balgownie is a stunning example of medieval bridge architecture. The bridge was built back in the 14th century using a single Gothic arch made from local grey granite. This distinctive and timeless landmark is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Scotland.

Brig o’Balgownie not only holds architectural significance but also a prominent place in Aberdeen’s history. This crucial crossing point over the River Don acted as a strategic location for trade routes back in time. Currently, the bridge is popular for offering picturesque views of the surrounding area. It is equally loved among nature lovers and photography enthusiasts.

5. Provost Skene’s House

Provost Skene’s House, located in the heart of Aberdeen, holds significant architectural value as a well-preserved example of a 17th-century townhouse. However, this historic landmark has experienced some careful restoration and isn’t truly the original. But a visit here still offers some delightful insight into the architecture and life of the 17th century. The crow-stepped gables at this historic house display characteristic of Scottish architecture in the 17th century. Besides that, the ornate stone carvings add to the craftsmanship and offer a glimpse of historic aesthetics.

Provost Skene’s House was built using locally quarried grey granite. The construction material not only adds to the visual appeal but also adds durability to this timeless piece. A visit inside the historic house allows visitors to explore rooms and chambers offering a glimpse into the domestic life of the past. The architectural layout and design of these spaces reflect the period’s architectural sensibilities.

6. Crathes Castle

Nestled amidst the lush landscape of Aberdeenshire, Crathes Castle is a must-visit in Scotland. This 16th-century tower holds significant architectural value. Basically, a historic fortress, Crathes Castle, has been beautifully preserved. Its strategic design and architectural elegance talk about Scotlands’ castles of the Renaissance period. One of its standout features is the beautifully crafted tower house structure. Not only does it contribute to castles’ visual appeal, but when needed, it provides a defence against potential threats.

Inside the castle, one can explore a range of intricately decorated rooms. Everything here, from period furnishings and decor, transports you back in time. Do not miss the 17th-century gardens on the outdoors of the castle.

7. Craigievar Castle

Nestled in the picturesque countryside of Aberdeenshire, Craigievar Castle is a must-visit in Aberdeen. This place of remarkable architectural value exhibits Scottish Baronial architecture. The castle sits in the lap of rolling hills and invites individuals for its distinctive appearance and fairy-tale feel. Its most striking feature is the soaring pinkish-hued exterior that adds to its whimsical and romantic charm. Besides that, the steep roofs, crow-stepped gables and picturesque turrets add to the beauty and elegance. 

Craigievar Castle’s interiors are equally captivating, especially the Great Hall. A visit here allows enthusiasts to check out a series of uniquely decorated rooms with period pieces, family portraits and antique tapestries. Do check out the corbie-stepped garret, aka the castle’s tower. Also, spare some time for Craigievar Castle’s gardens, an integral part of its architectural value. These 18th-century walled gardens with manicured hedges, colourful flowerbeds, and tranquil pathways are truly serene.

8. Queen’s Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle, situated in the picturesque Cairngorms National Park of Scotland, holds immense architectural value. This prime example of Scottish Baronial architecture is a must-visit architectural landmark in Aberdeen. Balmoral Castle is basically a historic residence that once was a private royal retreat. Its distinctive architectural style speaks volumes. One of the most notable features of the castle is its tower house design. Featuring the elements of Scottish Baronial architecture (turrets, battlements, and crow-stepped gables), it truly captivates the eyes.

The turrets at Queen’s Balmoral Castle contribute to its imposing appearance while offering Highland landscape panoramic views. The defining aspect of Balmoral’s architecture here comes from the usage of local granite. This indigenous stone reflects the tradition of using local materials in Scottish architecture. Moving inside, the castle features lavishly furnished rooms with fine artwork and elegant decor. Victorian and Edwardian influences are easy to be seen in the interiors. When here, do not forget to check out the encompassing vast woodlands, gardens, and the majestic River Dee.

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