A large triangle of land thrusting into the North Sea, northeast Scotland comprises the area east of a line drawn roughly from Perth north to the fringe of the Moray Firth at Forres. The area takes in the county of Angus and the city of Dundee to the south and, beyond the Grampian Mountains, the counties of Aberdeenshire and Moray and the city of Aberdeen. Geographically diverse, the landscape in the south of the region is comprised predominantly of undulating farmland, but as you travel further north of the Firth of Tay, this gives way to wooded glens, mountains and increasingly harsh land fringed by a dramatic coast of cliffs and long sandy beaches.
The northeast was the southern kingdom of the Picts, reminders of whom are scattered throughout the region in the form of beautifully carved stones found in fields, churchyards and museums, such as the one at Meigle. The area never grew particularly prosperous, and a handful of feuding and intermarrying families grew to wield disproportionate influence, building many of the region’s castles and religious buildings and developing and planning its towns.
Many of the most appealing settlements are along the coast, but while the fishing industry is but a fondly held memory in many parts, a number of the northeast’s ports were transformed by the discovery of oil in the North Sea in the 1960s – particularly Aberdeen, Scotland’s third-largest city. The northeast’s next-largest metropolis, Dundee, is valiantly shedding its depressed post-industrial image with a reinvigorated cultural scene and some heavily marketed tourist attractions.
North of the glens and west of Aberdeen is Deeside, a fertile, ruggedly attractive area made famous by the Royal Family: Balmoral has been a royal residence since Victoria’s time. Beyond are the eastern sections of the Cairngorms National Park, and travelling north into Moray brings you to Scotland’s most productive whisky-making area, Speyside. The northeast coast, meanwhile, offers yet another aspect of a diverse region, with rugged cliffs, empty beaches and historic fishing villages tucked into coves and bays.