Take a train, plane or car to Scotland’s third largest city, Aberdeen, which boasts two distinctive nicknames — the "Granite City" because of the silver granite buildings that line the streets, and "Oil Capital of Europe" for the 1969 discovery of oil in the North Sea.

The city’s Old Aberdeen area includes King’s College and its chapel, which boasts pre-Reformation woodwork, and Marischal College, the second-largest granite structure in the world, according to The museum inside features exhibits on the University of Aberdeen, of which both Kings College and Marischal are part, and Scottish culture. Both the chapel and museum offer free admission.

Also in the university area is the Cruickshank Botanic Garden, offering rock and water features.

The city’s Duthie Park and Winter Gardens, which lie along the banks of the River Dee, offer large, covered gardens giving visitors a chance to see tropical plants from around the world no matter the weather.

Before leaving the Old Aberdeen area, visit the Cathedral of St. Machar, with its splendid stained-glass windows, pre-Reformation woodwork and heraldic ceilings.

Swimmers might want to go to Aberdeen’s sandy beach, where the brave can take a dip in the chilly North Sea. And Hazlehead Park allows children the chance to get close to donkeys and goats in the pet corner, while parents can enjoy a stroll of the wooded grounds.

Cordona’s Amusement Park offers a variety of rides and attractions, an indoor entertainment venue and games. Another family entertainment option is Storybook Glen, a 28-acre children’s fantasy land where, according to, more than 100 nursery rhyme and fairy-tale characters come alive.

If the weather turns sour, head indoors to the Tolbooth, one of the oldest buildings in Aberdeen. The 17th-century Scottish jail is now a museum focusing on the city’s history of crime and punishment.

For a peek at a more sophisticated side to Aberdeen’s past, visit the Provost Skene’s House, which dates to 1545. According to the Visit Britain Web site, it is the epitome of style and elegance.

After all that, if you want to dig even deeper into the country’s history, there are the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, with displays on the North Sea oil industry, and the Gordon Highlanders Museum, which explores the history of one of the British army’s illustrious regiments, the Gordon Highlanders Infantry.

— Heather Klinglesmith compiled from travel Web sites

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