Aberdeenshire is a county in the north east of Scotland. It’s a long way north – the coastline around Fraserburgh is further north than Newfoundland – but it’s mostly lowland, fertile and productive, having more in common with the central belt of Scotland than with the Highlands. To the west however are the Grampian Mountains, with the scenic River Dee flowing out. Time was, if you were wealthy and needed a comfortable base to collect your farm rents while impressing the salons of London with your credentials as a Clan Chieftain, then what you needed was a castle in Aberdeenshire. And there are lots and lots of them.
- 1 Aberdeen is the only city, built of grey granite. Its most interesting areas are around Union Street and “Old Aberdeen” a couple of miles north. Lots of museums, galleries and visitor amenities, and it’s the transport focus for the county. 1 Westhill is a small commuter town just west.
The county’s red sandstone reaches the coast in a line of cliffs, interspersed with small fishing ports, where whaling and herring fishing were once major industries:
- 1 Stonehaven 15 miles south of Aberdeen has the clifftop ruins of Dunnottar Castle.
- Then comes Aberdeen itself. Continuing north, find
- 1 Ellon
, Cruden Bay, 1 Peterhead and 1 Fraserburgh. Here the coastline turns west along the Moray Firth.
- 1 Gardenstown has red sandstone cliffs, rows of prettily-painted traditional fishermen’s cottages and a beach. It’s one of the most attractive villages in Scotland.
- 1 Banff, with neighbouring Macduff, has Banff Castle and Adam-designed Duff House.
- 1 Portsoy has a well-preserved old harbour and the ruins of Findlater Castle.
The A96 crosses the top of the county between Aberdeen and Elgin, through gently rolling countryside and farmland. Small places in this triangle include:
- 1 Inverurie
and 1 Oldmeldrum are commuter towns for Aberdeen. East, towards Ellon and Methlick, is Tolquhon Castle, while to the north is Fyvie Castle.
- 1 Methlick has grand Haddo House and what’s left of Gight Castle, Byron’s ancestral home.
- 1 Huntly has the ruins of Huntly castle.
The River Dee runs out of the Grampian Mountains along a scenic valley, accessed by A93.
- Near 1 Banchory are Drum Castle and Crathes Castle. To the north is Lumphanan, where Macbeth (the real one) made his last stand, and beyond that is Craigevar Castle.
- The mountains west of here are part of Cairngorms National Park. Above 1 Ballater is Queen Victoria’s rural retreat, Balmoral Castle.
- At 1 Braemar a lane continues up the valley to scenic Linn of Dee. The main road climbs south over the bleak moor towards Glenshee ski area then Perth.