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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Grampian Region & Mountains

Grampian Region & MountainsGrampian Region & Mountains View slideshow

Grampian Region was created by the local government reforms of 1975. It incorporates the old counties of Aberdeenshire, Kincardine, Banff and a large part of Moray. The administrative center of this green and fairly flat corner of north-east Scotland is Aberdeen at the mouth of the Dee. There are a number of other smaller towns with Peterhead ranking as the second biggest, but it is only a 10th of the size of Aberdeen in population terms. The region is named after the highest mountain range in the region, the Grampian Mountains, but the hillside heathers and moors also overlap into the adjoining regions of Tayside, Strathclyde, Central and Highland. Formed as a result of glaciation, the Grampian Mountains which are separated from the North West Highlands by the Caledonian Canal include many of Britain's highest peaks such as Ben Nevis (4,397ft/1,343m) and Ben Machdui (4,265ft/1,309m). Heathers and bracken, birch and mountain ash predominate, although in recent years pine forests have been planted widely. Red deer proliferate and the region is a haven for many rare bird species.

Aberdeen, Scotland

Elgin, Scotland

Pitlochry, Scotland

Dee Valley

Castle Trail

The Castle Trail is a circular tour of castles in the Grampian Region starting from Aberdeen. White signs with blue writing refer to castles which are still intact. Blue signs with white writing refer to ruined castles.

Aberdeenshire - Castle Fraser

Castle Fraser, built between 1575 and 1636, lies about 16mi/25km northwest of Aberdeen on the A944. The huge stronghold was owned by the Fraser family until 1921 and has been run by the National Trust for Scotland since 1976. Like Crathes and Craigievar Castle, round towers, graceful conical roofs, oriel windows and decorative dormers create an impressive picture. The medieval belfry was extended in the late 16th C with a five-story wing, a square tower and a seven-story round tower to create a Z-shaped structure. Two further low-level annexs were added in the 17th C with stonemasons Bel and Leiper leaving behind their distinctive stamp.
Some alterations made during the Victorian period have been reversed by the National Trust. Inside, the Great Hall and the "Laird's Lug", a secret chamber from which a spy could hear even whispered exchanges, are particularly interesting.
Address: Sauchen, Inverurie AB51 7LD, Scotland

Craigievar Castle

Craigievar Castle is situated 10mi/16km further west from Castle Fraser. This delightful castle with small towers, crowstepped gables, round oriel windows, quaint conical roofs, ornamental stone cannons and a decorative zigzag console is proof that fairy tales can come true. The estate was first mentioned in documents dating from 1457 when it was owned by the Mortimer family. Work on the L-shaped tower house began at the end of the 16th century, but as a result of financial difficulties the castle had to be sold to William Forbes. "Danzig Willie" as the new owner was nicknamed had acquired his fortune from trade with the Baltic ports. Like Crathes and Castle Fraser, the towering seven-story residence is not only a symbol of authority and wealth but it also has a practical function. Wood for building was in short supply in the Highlands, so architects exploited every inch of space under one small roof. The plasterwork in the Great Hall, the huge Stuart coat-of-arms above the fireplace and the carvings on the wall paneling were created in Renaissance style. A secret flight of steps leading up to a small room above a window in the Great Hall forms a part of a complicated system of stairs within the tower.
Address: Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8JF, Scotland

Kildrummy Castle and Gardens

Kildrummy Castle (HS; 8mi/13km west of of Alford) dates from the 13th C. Only scanty ruins remain but, surrounded by a wide moat, they nevertheless create a striking impression. Botanists will be interested in the water garden and rare trees. Built for Alexander II c 1245, the castle has seen turbulent times. The English and Scots long disputed this strategic spot, besieging and destroying it more than once. On each occasion it was rebuilt but the edifice was finally dismantled in 1715 after the failed Jacobite uprising and the stonework was used elsewhere. The keep in the curtain wall, frequently a final refuge, possesses its own spring. The chapel's gable (1250) with three fine lancet windows is of particular interest.
Address: Kildrummy, North Alford AB33 8RA, Scotland

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle (HS) stands on a hilltop by the Lecht pass (A939) about 16mi/26km further west. The faithfully restored tower house was built in 1537 and star-shaped ramparts were added in 1738. The old Highland ballad "Edom o'Gordon" tells the tale of the tragic death in 1581 of Margaret Campbell, the wife of the laird Alexander Forbes, who perished in flames with her children and servants while the castle was under siege by the Gordons. After the Jacobite rebellion in 1748 Hanoverian troops used the castle as their barracks. They were followed by the English redcoats who had the unpopular job of putting a stop to whisky smuggling.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Huntly - Leith Hall and Garden

Leith Hall lies at the heart of a 281 acre/114ha. park and served for generations as the estate of the Leith family before passing to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945. An exhibition entitled "For Crown and Country" documents the history of the lairds who generally followed military careers. One of the exhibits is a present given by "Bonnie Prince Charlie" on the eve of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Z-shaped 17th C tower house and the 18th and 19th C wings enclose an inner courtyard. It is worth taking a quick look at the 18th C stables and then taking a relaxing stroll through the extensive parkland with its lakes, viewpoint, Highland cattle and rare Soay breed of sheep, only found here or on St Kilda.
Address: Kennethmont, Huntly AB54 4NQ, Scotland

Huntly Castle

Tower of the Huntly Castle.
The imposing ruins of Huntly Castle barely 7mi/11km further north stand on the site of the medieval Strathbogie Castle, which was until the middle of the 16th C the seat of the Gordon family, the most powerful family in the region. The first Norman castle was burnt down in 1452 by Moray, but was rebuilt by the fourth Earl Gordon of Huntly starting in 1554. Forty years later it was destroyed again. The main section of the ruin dates from the restoration of 1602 undertaken by the first Marquis of Huntly. The entrance hall is decorated with weapons and heraldic ornamentation. Above the fireplace in the palace hang two portrait medallions of the first marquis George Gordon and his wife Henriette Stewart. The 15th C tower house is the oldest part of the complex, but the bakery, east and west wings and stables were added in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Fyvie Castle

A tower of Fyvie Castle.
Five families have played their part in the history of Fyvie Castle (15mi/24km to the east of Huntly) and the five towers bear their names. In the east is Preston Tower, in the west Meldrum Tower, in the center of the south front Seton Tower, in the north Gordon Tower and in the northwest the Leith Tower. However, the word "Fyvie" does not derive from the English word "five" but from the Gaelic word for "stag's hill". Scottish monarchs stayed here at the beginning of the 12th C when it was only a wooden fort, but it was reinforced in the 14th C by stone walls and corner towers. At that time it belonged to Sir Henry Preston but it passed by marriage to the Meldrum family in the 15th C. In 1596 Alexander Seton bought the estate and set about converting it into the Scottish baronial style by adding tiny corner towers, oriel windows, conical roofs and stepped moldings. About 1683 Robert White from Edinburgh finished the ceilings with some marvelous plasterwork, but this has only survived in the Morning Room. By the middle of the 18th C the castle was in the hands of William Gordon who drained the marshy terrain outside the east wing and built an artificial lake in the parkland. Pompeo Batonis' impressive portrait study of the young laird posing romantically in front of the Coliseum in Rome was painted during Gordon's journey to Italy in 1766. Financial distress forced the sale of Fyvie to Alexander Leith, an American steel magnate, who originated from near Fyvie. He assembled many expensive paintings - 13 works by Raeburn - Brussels tapestries and a collection of weapons. The superb gallery on the second floor of Leith Tower must, however, be the castle's showpiece.

Haddo House

This mansion (10mi/16km southeast of Fyvie) was designed in 1731 for the second Earl of Aberdeen by William Adam, father of the talented Adam brothers. In 1880 Wright and Mansfield renovated the furnishings in "Adam Revival" style. The elegant stucco and delicate pastel shades are typical of Robert Adam's interiors. The valuable paintings include Batonis' portrait of Lord Haddo (on the staircase), two van Dycks (in the Saloon) and several watercolors of Aberdeenshire castles (in the Giles Room), painted by James Giles for the fourth earl as book illustrations. The Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones was responsible for the east window in the chapel.
Every year the Haddo House Choral Society stages excellent concerts and opera evenings in the Community Hall.
Address: Tarves, Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 7EQ, Scotland

Tolquhon Castle

The ruins of Tolquhon Castle.
As indicated by an inscription near the Tolquhon Castle gatehouse, William Forbes extended the 14th C medieval tower house (3mi/5km south of Haddo House) into a mansion between 1584 and 1589. Two huge round towers flank the tower house with its portal and heraldic panels. The inner courtyard and living accommodation lie ahead beyond the entrance hall.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

North Ellon - Pitmedden Garden

The foundation stone for the colorful Pitmedden Garden was laid on May 2, 1675 by Sir Alexander Seton. The gardens came under the administration of the National Trust for Scotland in 1952 and are situated 14mi/22.4km northwest of Aberdeen. The floral designs, bushes and shrubs laid out around the central fountain follow a strict geometrical pattern and are a showpiece of Baroque garden landscaping. Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh was the model for three of the four flower beds. "Tempus Fugit" is the subject of the southeast parterre, centered on a sundial, while the northwest parterre displays the heraldic emblem of Sir Alexander Seton, flanked by Scotland's saltire and thistle. The history of the garden from 1675 is recounted in one of the pavilions and the Museum of Farming Life illustrates the development of agriculture in the region.
Address: Pitmedden, North Ellon AB41 7PD, Scotland

Peterhead, Scotland

The Buchanness Lighthouse at Peterhead.
Scotland's most easterly town the busy port of Peterhead (pop. 18,000) was founded in 1593 by the fifth Earl Marischal George Keith. Now the countless oil tanks by the harbor are proof that the town receives an important share of the work supplying the oil rigs out at sea.

Fish Market

Peterhead's fishing port is the largest in the country. Earlybirds can see for themselves the bustling activity around the fish auctions on workday mornings.
Peterhead's fishing industry focuses on three species - Demersal, Pelagic, and Shellfish.

Arbuthnot Museum

Arbuthnot Museum in St Peter Street documents the history of the town's herring and whaling industry.
Address: High Street, Banff AB45 1AE, Scotland

Salmon Fish House

The oldest salmon smokehouse in Scotland (1585) is situated by the River Ugie opposite the golf course. Both fresh and smoked salmon are available here.
Address: Golf Road, Peterhead AB42 6NF, Scotland

Bullers of Buchan

Bullers of Buchan is a rocky chasm 230ft/70m deep (7mi/12.6km to the south of Peterhead). Thought to be a cave that collapsed, this open-air bubbling cauldron makes a spectacular sight particularly when the sea is rough (cliff footpath from the parking lot).

Slains Castle

The writer Samuel Johnson wrote that Slains Castle - built in the 16th century and extended in the 19th century - was the most beautiful castle that he had ever seen. Now sadly it is just a ruin perched on a steep rock. Another writer, Bram Stoker, visited the castle when it was still intact and the home of the 19th Earl of Errol. It provided him with the inspiration for his legendary Count Dracula story.

Fraserburgh, Scotland

First the A952 and then the A92 link Peterhead with the fishing port of Fraserburgh (pop. 12,000) at the northeastern tip of Scotland. In 1570 Alexander Fraser, the eighth laird of Philorth, built a fortress at the edge of the town but by the 18th century it had been converted into Scotland's first lighthouse. The nearby haunted Wine Tower, however, is Fraserburgh's oldest building (early 16th century).
Close on 4mi/6km from Fraserburgh to the south stands a burial mound that is thought to date from the Bronze Age.

Banff and Macduff, Scotland

The picturesque ports of Banff and Macduff at the mouth of the River Deveron are connected by a seven-arched bridge which makes it difficult to separate the two towns. As early as the 12th century Banff was a busy trading center in the "northern Hanse", but it did not have its own harbor until 1775. A number of Georgian houses which belonged to the Scottish gentry during the 17th and 18th centuries line the steep lanes and most of them are now protected by a preservation order. An elegant mansion designed by John Adam was built on the foundations of a medieval castle in the 18th century.
A small museum in High Street has a collection of silverware, old weapons and a display about James Ferguson, a local astronomer, who lived during the 18th century.

Duff House

Even though the money ran out and it was never finished Duff House is a jewel of Georgian architecture. Built in the style of the Roman Villa Borghese it was commissioned by William Duff the first Earl of Fife but after 13 years the work had to stop. The two-story building is decorated with Corinthian pilasters, ornate gables and four corner towers. During the 19th C some of the bedrooms were fitted out in Victorian style. Historic Scotland runs the estate and plans are in hand to convert the house into an art gallery.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Macduff Marine Aquarium

The Macduff Marine Aquarium has the deepest open-air tank in Scotland. Visitors can view diving and feeding displays by fish and invertebrates.
Address: 11 High Shore, Macduff AB44 1SL, Scotland

Delgatie Castle

Inland about 11mi/17.6km south of MacDuff stands the tower house known as the Hays of Delgatie. While parts of the castle go back to the 11th century most of it was built during the 16th and 17th centuries. The portrait of Mary Stuart in one of the bedrooms relates to the fact that she stayed here in 1562 after the Battle of Corrichie. The superb ceiling paintings (1590) merit closer inspection, while in the park the Shetland ponies will appeal to all ages.
Address: Turriff, Aberdeenshire AB53 5TD, Scotland

Alford - Brideswell Riding Stables

The stables have direct access to the foothills of the Grampians, with trails running through mature forests as well as open hills. Pony trekking, trail riding, carriage driving, dressage and instruction are all offered and local accommodation can be arranged.
Address: Cushnie, Alford AB33 8LD, Scotland

Cairngorm - Regional Park and Skiing

The ski runs in the Cairngorms are undoubtedly the best in Scotland. The slopes are situated to the west of Braemar and the Cairngorms are the highest mountains in the Grampian region.

Ben Macdui

The Cairngorm mountain range consists of peneplain with fissured moorland granite plateau, dominated by a number of huge elevations with Ben Macdui (4,300ft/1,310m) the highest peak in the Regional Park.

Cairn Gorm

One of the most spectacular high-level footpaths runs from the mountain peaks - accessible all the year round by chairlift - via Cairn Gorm to Glenmore Lodge (6.5mi/10.4km from Aviemore). Cairn Gorm has lent its name to the whole region but, at 4,084ft/1,245m, it is only the fourth-highest peak after Ben Macdui, Braeriach (4,248ft/1,295m) and Cairn Toul (4,241ft/1,293m).
The easiest route to the summits is by the White Lady chairlift. Several lochs including Loch Avon and Loch-an-Eilean lie between the pinky red granite mountains which emerged during the Ice Age. The summits of Braeriach, Cairn Toul and The Devil's Point probably offer the most impressive views. Heather moorland, partly wooded with birch trees, provides good breeding grounds for some rare bird species such as ospreys, ptarmigan, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, dotterel, snow bunting and merlins. Mammals such as the pine marten and reindeer, introduced from Swedish Lapland in 1952, can sometimes be seen in Glen More Forest.

Cairngorm - Hill Walking

This part of Scotland is very popular with serious walkers. The 30mi/48km route from Aviemore to Braemar via Larig Ghru includes some breathtaking views. Another path - about as long - runs from Braemar to Blair Atholl, while a shorter, but still very pretty walk starts in Aviemore, crosses the Revoan pass via Loch Avon and finishes in Nethy Bridge, a popular base for skiers, anglers and golfers.
The 28mi/45km Lairig Ghru trail runs from Aviemore, through the Rothiemurchus forest up to the Pools of Dee. From there it descends to Linn of Dee and then turns east to Braemar.
Address: Bowerswell Lane, Kinnoull, Perth PH2 7DL, Scotland

Aviemore, Scotland

Aviemore (pop. 2,400) is Scotland's leading ski resort. It nestles between the Cairngorms and the Monadhliath Mountains and makes a good base for excursions into the surrounding countryside. But Aviemore can offer more than just hotels, chalets, skating rinks and swimming pools.
The Allt Mhor Forest Trail is only one of the walks in Glenmore Forest Park has several walks. This 3-mile / 4.9-kilometer trail begins at the Heron's Field parking lot. From there you go through the forest, onto a footbridge, then on to join Ryvoan Pass. The trail continues along the road to Glenmore village and then back to the parking lot.
The Landmark Highland Heritage and Adventure Park is one of Scotland's most popular attractions. It features a tree-top trail, a nature center, an operating steam-powered sawmill, Clydesdale horses and a children's adventure playground.
Within walking distance of Aviemore is the Rothiemurchus Forest. Found here are Scottish Crossbills, Crested Tits, Capercaillie and Black Grouse. Birdwatchers will find the best time to visit is early summer.
Loch Garten Reserve, a protected area where extremely rare ospreys breed, can be reached via the Strathspey Railway that links Aviemore and Boat of Garden.

Loch-an-Eilean

The ruined "Wolf of Badenoch" castle rises out of the middle of Loch-an-Eileann, a secluded and picturesque lake 3mi/4.8km south of Aviemore.

Kingussie, Scotland

Kingussie (12mi/19km southwest of Aviemore) was the birthplace of James Macpherson (1736-1796). This son of a Spey valley peasant claimed to have produced the first translation of a Gaelic manuscript ascribed to Ossian, the son of the Scottish king Fingal. Fifteen years after a disastrous defeat at Culloden, he provided the Scots with a heroic epic shrouded in mysticism, a monument of literature that soon won enthusiastic acclaim throughout the whole of Europe among artists and literati. Many of the latter including Herder, Brahms, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Turner and others found inspiration in the writings of Ossian. Although Macpherson failed to produce the original manuscripts, his Ossian verses sold well and he was able to afford a mansion in the Scottish Highlands. After his death the controversial Scot was granted a place alongside Britain's most celebrated poets in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. However, it later transpired that MacPherson had been a brilliant forger. He had closely studied the Gaelic sources of the Fingal legend and combined them with his own composition.

Speyside Way Walking Trail

The 42mi/68km route runs from Spey Bay on the Moray Firth south through the river valley to Craigellachie in Morayshire. From there, the trail follows the former Strathspey railway line to Ballindachoch, to Ben Rinnes, Glenlivet and finally Tomintoul, one of the highest villages in Britain.
Address: Bowerswell Lane, Kinnoull, Perth PH2 7DL, Scotland

Aboyne - Glen Tanar Equestrian Centre

The Glen Tanar Equestrian Centre offers the opportunity trek the Grampian mountains along river-side trails and mountain tracks. Instruction is available and there are horses and ponies for riders of all abilities.

Aden Country Park

Red shed doors at Aden House.
Nature trails and well-tended gardens are to be found at Aden Country Park about 10mi/16km west of Peterhead. Films, models and tapes in the Agricultural Heritage Center bring 200 years of rural history to life.
Address: Mintlaw, Aden AB42 5FQ, Scotland

Deer Abbey

The remains of a Cistercian abbey founded in 1218 by William Comayn are located 1mi/1.6km further west from Aden Country Park. Since the 17th century the red sandstone from the Early English style church has been taken by local builders.
Address: Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Jedburgh TD8 6JQ, Scotland

Carrbridge - Grampian Highland Riding

Ride across Scotland on horseback or just follow a short local trail in the magnificent Grampian mountains. There are options for riders of all abilities. Pony trekking is also available.
Address: Queen's Chambers, 38/40 Queen Street, Penzance TR18 4BH, Scotland
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