The Granite City of Aberdeen in Northeast Scotland is a gateway to Orkney and the Shetland Islands, as well as the center of Scotland's North Sea oil industry with all of its related exploration and engineering businesses. Since the exploitation of the North Sea fields began, Aberdeen has changed from a provincial northern port to a cosmopolitan center, able to cater to the sophisticated tastes of well-heeled travelers.
London and Aberdeen are practically at opposite ends of the U.K., so flying is the fastest—and usually the cheapest—method of transportation between the two cities, with direct flights shuttling passengers in under two hours. The train takes much longer, but the overnight train is very comfortable if you opt for a sleeper cabin, and the price is offset by the hotel you're able to forgo for one night. If you have a vehicle, the drive is long but scenic, passing through or near major pitstop cities like Oxford, Manchester, and Glasgow.
How to Get from London to Aberdeen
- Train: 10 hours, 25 minutes, from $69
- Flight: 1 hour, 30 minutes, from $30
- Bus: 13 hours, from $38
- Car: 9 hours, 545 miles (877 kilometers)
The most comfortable train deal by far for this long journey is the Caledonian Sleeper—known as the "hotel on wheels"—that leaves London Euston at 9:15 p.m. and arrives in Aberdeen at 7:40 a.m the next morning. If you are willing to spend the night in a seat rather than a sleeper compartment, fares start at $69, although paying a little extra to have your own room with a bed is worth it for a 10-hour trip. If you're traveling with someone, you can reserve a two-bunk room and split the cost. The sleeper train leaves every evening except Saturdays, and deals are usually available for mid-week trips as opposed to the more popular Friday and Sunday trains.
The faster option is to take an LNER train from King's Cross Station, which takes about seven hours either direct or with one stop in Edinburgh. Basic fares purchased in advance start at $115, and get more expensive as the travel gates closer or you upgrade to premium tickets.
The Aberdeen Station is conveniently located downtown next to the popular Union Square Shopping Centre, within easy walking distance to all of the major sites in the city.
Thanks to low-cost airlines, traveling to Aberdeen by air may be the fastest and cheapest way to get between cities. Two airlines—EasyJet and British Airways—offer direct flights from London to Aberdeen. EasyJet is usually the least expensive, with one-way flights as low as $30 if you are flexible with your travel dates. However, EasyJet flies from Luton Airport (LTN), which is about an hour outside of Central London by bus. British Airways departs from London Heathrow (LHR), which is accessible by an express train or the Underground.
Once you arrive in Aberdeen, buses are available to shuttle passengers directly to the city center. The Stagecoach Bus operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the journey takes about 30 minutes depending on traffic.
Or rather, by coach. "Bus" refers to city buses in the U.K., while a "coach" is a long-distance bus. Depending on when you are making your travel plans, the coach may be the most affordable option for getting between London and Aberdeen. Although flights are usually comparable in price or even cheaper—not to mention several hours faster—last-minute plans during the peak travel season may make air travel prohibitively expensive.
Coaches from National Express leave London twice daily from Victoria Station, either in the morning or late at night. The overnight coach gets you to Aberdeen about an hour sooner, and also saves you a night of accommodation in pricey U.K. lodgings.
Aberdeen is 545 miles northeast of London, using the M1, M6 and M42 motorways in England and the M74, M8, M9, and M90 motorways in Scotland. In perfect conditions, it can take about nine hours to drive, but conditions are rarely perfect. Besides the traffic and constant roadwork, you can run into spring or autumn snow on parts of this route, prolonging the trip by potentially several hours.
If you do decide to drive, it's a scenic route through the countryside of Northern England and Scotland, and you'll pass by major cities like Oxford, Manchester, and Glasgow. It's best to split up the trip over as many days as you can afford, so you can leisurely make your way up to Aberdeen and explore as much as you can along the way.
One important thing to always keep in mind is that in the U.K., cars drive on the left side of the road. It sounds simple to remember, but it's easy to momentarily forget if you've always driven on the right. Also, remember that gasoline—called petrol in the U.K.—is sold by the liter (a little more than a quart). So when you see prices posted on gas stations, you'll have to convert the currency as well as the volume to make an accurate comparison to gas prices in the U.S.
What to See in Aberdeen
Aberdeen is Scotland's third-largest city and nicknamed the "The Granite City" for the ubiquitous stone buildings that line the city center. The best way to get acquainted with the city is to join a local walking tour, as many of the buildings have not only long histories but also haunted pasts, especially the macabre Crime and Punishment Museum housed inside a 17th-century prison. If you aren't into spooky attractions, Union Street in the city center is one of the hottest spots for shopping in all of Scotland, with several boutique stores as well as high-end brands. Aberdeen is a port city, and on a sunny day you can't beat heading to shore near the historic Torry Battery to walk along the water. If you're lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of one of the resident dolphins that hang out in the area year-round.