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Aberdeenshire stretches from “one of the last great places on earth” (the Cairngorms) to “one of the world’s top-rated coastlines”. So says National Geographic. And The Scotsman (one of Scotland’s national newspapers) calls its city of Aberdeen – where ships dock right up against the city-centre streets and dolphins leap in the busy North Sea harbour – “one of the most architecturally distinctive in Europe”.
There’s something about the scale of this place between the mountains and the sea. You can roam for miles across great estates, expanses of moorland, ancient Caledonian forests, rolling farmland, vast dunes, wide sandy beaches and expansive coastlines. History is writ large here too. Ancient sites and symbols mark this as a heartland of the ancient Picts. In the millennia that followed, no fewer than 300 castles were planted here. And of course this majestic place has long been loved by monarchs … and by the salmon that return each year to power upstream in the fastflowing snow-fed waters of the Dee and the Don. You could call this True Majesty.
It’s a place of big skies and wide horizons, loved for its fresh clear air and the quality of its light. In summer, days are near endless, sunsets stretch out, darkness is brief. In winter, nights are deep and long and starry – and on occasion spectacularly lit by the Northern Lights. Here, mainland Scotland sees its first light of each new day. Trillions of tiny crystals glint in granite walls. And ninety-nine stone circles are aligned to the standstill moon. You could call this True North.
You can still hear words from an original Scots language – Doric – and feel its distinctive culture alive in its genial “couthie” people and its “affa fine” traditions – not least the fiddle-playing, the bothy ballads and the highland gatherings. Doric is in the warp and weave of this selfreliant place … a place that’s used to being off the tourism track, known rather as a seat of learning and for its natural resources – its granite, its oil, its fish, its beef, and its whisky. You could call this True Scotland.