Aberdeen Car Hire advice - yes or no?
The Granite city sits in a geographically remote corner of the UK, but once you get there, can you get around easily using public transport, or is a car essential? What are the main Aberdeen car hire options? There are many reasons to rent a car in Aberdeen, but the city and its surroundings can also still be explored using local public transport options, even if your journey choices will be a lot less flexible:
Why hire a car in Aberdeen?
- Remoteness — although you will have no problem getting around the city itself, public transport routes starts to thin out massively once beyond the central city area.
- Limited train routes — Aberdeen is right at the end of the East Coast route from London via Edinburgh, and the only other train service is a limited frequency (one train every two hours) route to Inverness. Whereas even Inverness by comparison is a rail hub, with routes fanning out on each of the major compass points, Aberdeen really isn’t a great base for exploration by train.
- Backed into a corner – the simple reality is that Aberdeen sits in a corner, and only has one railway line running through it. Of course, the roads are also constrained by this geography, but you can at least drive in your own time, and not wait hours for a train, and this is a key reason why Aberdeen car hire is strongly advised as the better option.
- Limited attractions — there are relatively few points of interest in Aberdeen itself, whereas the surrounding countryside offers plenty of places to visit, including the famous Balmoral Castle. Without a car, these places are difficult to get to.
Why not? Aberdeen without a car
There are very few reasons not to hire a car for a visit to Aberdeen, unless you’re making a very brief stay in the city itself, and aren’t planning on venturing very far beyond city limits.
- Balmoral by bus: Hardy public transport users can go by bus to Balmoral Castle, which is just next to the village of Crathie on the A93 – allow around 2 hours, upto 8 buses each way per day.
- Orkney and Shetland — Aberdeen offers both onward flights and ferry services to the Orkney and Shetland Islands. You can take a hire car onto the ferry services, but is much cheaper to go as a foot passenger, and take advantage of local bus services, where you are also likely to pick up a good deal of local knowledge from fellow passengers.
- Scenic coastal rail route — the train route from Edinburgh up to Aberdeen has a number of particularly scenic stretches, especially as it hugs the coast for much of the route. Flying into Aberdeen and out through Edinburgh would be one way to enjoy this route, although the availability of flights there is generally much better than it is to Aberdeen anyway, so another option is just to pick return flights to Edinburgh and take the train in both directions.
If you are flying in and out of Aberdeen, then this train route is still worth exploring at least down to Stonehaven, where it goes inland.
- Start at Dyce: A very quick shuttle bus (or taxi) is available from Aberdeen Airport to nearby Dyce station, from where most trains heading south start.
Dyce is also the best place to board trains heading to Inverness, as this avoids going into Aberdeen city centre and back out again. However, your journey options are still limited to the route heading west to Inverness, and the coastal route heading south beyond Aberdeen.
Aberdeen car hire summary
As Scottish cities go, when it comes to train networks, Aberdeen is certainly the weakest link, so to get to other places you would almost certainly end up needing to go by bus. This is not our view of travel enjoyment — buses should be there to supplement train journeys, not as a preferred method of transport in their own right. There are also no truly “world class” scenic railway routes heading out of Aberdeen, whereas there are out of Inverness or Glasgow, and to a lesser extent, Edinburgh.
For this reason, Aberdeen gets our strongest verdict of all Scottish cities that a car is necessary to get the best out of your trip.
Aberdeen Road Ratings
Have you driven in Aberdeen?
This advice is based on a combination of visiting Aberdeen and additional online research. If you have your own Aberdeen car hire tips, or have suggestions on whether or not you need a car in Aberdeen, please share them below. Aberdeen was last visited by Carornocar in