More commonly known as Royal Deeside, the land stretching west from Aberdeen along the River Dee revels in its connections with the Royal Family, who have regularly holidayed here, at Balmoral, since Queen Victoria bought the estate. Eighty thousand Scots turned out to welcome her on her first visit in 1848, but some weren’t so charmed: one local journalist remarked that the area was about to be “desolated by cockneys and other horrible reptiles”. Today, most locals are fiercely protective of the royal connection.
Deeside is undoubtedly handsome in a fierce, craggy way, and the royal presence has helped keep a lid on unattractive mass development. The villages strung along the A93, the main route through the area, are well-heeled, with an old-fashioned air, and visitor facilities are first-class. It’s an excellent area for outdoor activities, too, with hiking routes into the Grampian and Cairngorm mountains, good mountain biking, horseriding and skiing.
Originally a sixteenth-century tower house built for the powerful Gordon family, Balmoral Castle has been a royal residence since 1852. The Royal Family traditionally spend their summer holidays here each August, but despite its fame it can be something of a disappointment even for a dedicated royalist – only the ballroom, an exhibition room and the grounds are open to the public.