GREY granite buildings give the city its nickname but on a cold and damp day, of which there are many, it can feel rather bleak as the wind blows off the North Sea.

But despite its relative isolation, notorious cold winds and big seagulls, visitors to Aberdeen feel a sensation of excitement when they visit, according to the nation’s tourism body.

VisitScotland surveyed 2,000 tourists to uncover which places in Scotland most people have a strong emotional connection to or special memory of and the emotions most felt in these places.

When asked which parts of Scotland they had the strongest emotional connection with, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire came out on top.

Half (50 per cent) of all respondents said they had a strong emotional connection or special memory of the Granite City and the surrounding region.

Edinburgh was in second place, with 25% claiming to have a strong emotional connection, ahead of the Highlands and Isle of Skye, with 11%.

The study was part of VisitScotland’s “Scotland is Calling” campaign, which looks to tap into the emotional need to travel post-pandemic and focuses on how it feels to experience Scotland. Some 94% of respondents said they “always have a positive experience” when they visit Scotland, while 92% said their experiences and memories of visiting Scotland make them want to return to those special locations.

While one in five people said they felt “happy” when they visited Scotland, the results show that Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen are most associated with “excitement”.

It is the same emotion visitors expressed about the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

The Highlands evoked feelings of “adventure” while Dundee is a city of “love” according to the study.

Visitors experience a range of other strong emotions in other locations across Scotland.

Tourists in Ayrshire say that adventurous is the main emotion that comes across them, putting the region on a par the Highlands and the Isle of Skye.

Apparently, visitors to Fife feel “inspired” when they visit, the same emption as people who go to Argyll and the isles.

Romantic walks along the Tay or up on the Arbroath clifftops is what many tourists come for as Dundee and Angus were most associated with “love”.

Stirling, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs give visitors a sense of “calm” despite the notorious traffic problems that can often blight the area in peak season.

Dr Carlos Galan-Diaz, an environmental psychologist at the University of St Andrews, said: “It is consistently proven that human emotions are present in every aspect of our lives, including where we choose to live or visit for a holiday. “Our time spent in these places has consequences on our feelings from the moment we visit.

“It can be as simple as being in your favourite place and feeling a sense of happiness immediately, or it can be as long-lasting as our ‘moods’ – for example, the satisfied feeling continuing when you get home from your favourite place.

“As humans, we have tendencies to bond with and be surrounded by other living things, and our favourite places can help to restore our bodies and minds.”

Pinpointing emotions and memories to specific places is a psychological concept known as “place attachment”, which explores the bond between person and place.

People use locations to paint a picture of their lives, growing emotional attachments to them.

Previous studies have shown that 92% would be upset if the places we experience our special memories in were lost. Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing and Digital at VisitScotland, said: “This new research shows the special place Scotland holds for many visitors as the location of special memories, connections and emotions, from happiness and adventure to inspiration and calm. “Our latest UK marketing campaign, Scotland is Calling, focuses on this appeal, highlighting the ways in which Scotland can fulfil a visitor’s emotional needs.

“It is not just about the unmissable things you can see and do in Scotland but how it feels to experience them here, which we know people missed during the pandemic. “We hope the campaign will inspire more people to discover the magic of visiting Scotland during the autumn and winter months, experience new places and create new special memories.”