High mountains, wooded glens, cityscapes, beaches, rich farmland, towering cliffs and moorland - North East Scotland has the lot. And yet it is relatively unknown by those outside Scotland, apart from the city of Aberdeen and along Deeside. The beaches are quiet and uncrowded, the country lanes are a joy to drive in, and there is history and heritage aplenty.
And always in the background are the Grampians, which reach their highest peaks here. Queen Victoria popularised Deeside, a glen that goes deep into the heart of the mountains, and it has remained firmly on the tourist trail ever since. But, as with many parts of Scotland, the tourist traps swarm with people, while other places, equally as interesting and picturesque, are by passed.
To go off the beaten track in the North East is to be rewarded with some wonderful discoveries. Nowhere else in Europe is there such a concentration of historic castles -around 1000 at the last count. The local tourist board has organised a Castle Trail, with a leaflet that explains their history and how you get to them. And then there are the distilleries. The industry is centred mainly on Banffshire and Moray, where the streams are swift flowing and the water pure. It’s amazing that two distilleries a mile or so apart can make whiskies that are totally different in character. The local tourist board has laid out a Whisky Trail and, like the Castle Trail there’s a leafletto guide you as you explore it.
The inland villages are quiet and peaceful, and the market towns, such as Inverurie, Forres and Huntly, are packed with history and charm. The coastline is as dramatic as anywhere in Britain. Yet another trail, the Coastal Trail, takes you on a tour from St Cyrus in the south to Findhorn in the west.
For more free guides in this series, visit the Travel & Holidays pages.