Aberdeenshire brings together the very best of Scotland. There are more than 62 castles including the Queen’s private home, Royal Balmoral, haunting Dunottar, and Slains, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s, Dracula. There are 14 malt whisky distilleries including classics like Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Royal Lochnagar, and more than 50 superb golf clubs including world famous links at Trump International, Cruden Bay and Royal Aberdeen. And with all this, and so much more, set against a truly majestic backdrop of snow-capped mountains and wild coastal panoramas, it’s little wonder that Aberdeenshire is now being heralded as one of the last great untapped cruise destinations in Europe.
Deep in an ancient forest, beside a fast flowing river and perched on high dramatic cliffs. These are some of the spectacular settings for the area's 300 castles: there are more here per acre than anywhere else in the British Isles. These extraordinary buildings have inspired storytellers such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Bram Stoker - who conceived the idea for Dracula at the dramatic Slain's Castle. Craigievar is said to be the prototype for Walt Disney's fairytale castles. The area's most famous castle is Balmoral, described by Queen Victoria as “my dear paradise in the Highlands”. Aberdeen City is also home to some of the most beautiful parks - it is easy to see why Aberdeen has been a “Britain in Bloom champion” so many times.
Whether it's the toasted barley from the fertile farmlands, the ice-clear mountain water from burns and streams, the smoky peat from heath and moors, or simply the sparkling fresh air – the whisky distilleries are busy bottling the essence of this beautiful place. Head north for the world famous Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Balvenie and Cardhu distilleries, amongst others. Off the tourist track you'll find “The Secret Malts of Aberdeenshire”, such as Ardmore, Fettercairn, GlenDronach or Knockdhu distilleries, out on the coast for Glenglassaugh (its fans say you can taste the sea), or into the Cairngorms for Royal Lochnagar. This is one of the world's greatest authentic whisky locations, both in choice and setting.
It feels like a deep dive into the ancient glens of the Cairngorms National Park, where the snow-fed River Dee starts its journey from the high peaked mountains to the sea. You can roam for miles across grand highland estates – beneath cathedral pines, by still, dark lochs, along crystal-clear rivers where salmon come to spawn. There are legends to be scaled – the Old Man of Lochnagar, or walk the Lairig Ghru, keeping an ear tuned for Great Grey Man of Ben MacDhui. Hiking, shooting, bird watching, riding, mountain-biking, gliding and skiing, the possibilities are endless. Tread carefully to spot the rare protected capercaillie, pine marten, and red squirrel, and herds of red deer. Scan the skyline and you may see a golden eagle.
In the birthplace of golf, some areas of Scotland are still begging to be discovered. Great dunes stretch along Aberdeenshire's coast – some of them said to tower 100 feet high. In this extraordinary sandscape are some of the world's most challenging links courses. Here the skies are vast, the light clear, the air fresh. The panoramic views and elemental power can take a golfer's breath away. Inland are dozens of parkland courses –among forests and glens, in castle grounds and alongside fast-flowing rivers. This is stirring stuff.
'Get Cruise-Ready' with VisitAberdeenshire's Cruise Business Opportunity Guide, designed to help Aberdeen & Shire's transport, retail, hospitality and visitor attraction businesses prepare for the larger cruise vessels that the city's new South Harbour will be able to accommodate. Download the Business Opportunities Guide here.