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Although the Grampian area isn't huge, it has many different terrains. To get a real flavor of this most authentic of Scottish regions, sample both the coastline and the mountains. Near Angus and the Cairngorms, it's the most popular, and most populated, route to the north of Scotland.
If You Have 3 Days
Setting out from Aberdeen, follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and tour the castles and glens of Royal Deeside. Head southward to the fishing town of Stonehaven and the breathtaking cliff-top fortress of Dunnottar. After lunch take the A957/A93 to Crathes Castle before continuing west along the A93 for Ballater. The next morning visit Her Majesty's Balmoral Castle (note that it's open only April to July)—explore the ballroom and grounds, take a pony ride, and then treat yourself to a walk in nearby Glen Muick. Here you can find the famous climb of Lochnagar, so beloved by Victoria. End the day at Kildrummy Castle, and stay overnight. The next morning set off for Castle Country and some serious castle-hopping—Corgarff Castle, Craigievar, Castle Fraser —and a little castle relief at the Grampian Transport Museum before returning to Aberdeen.
If You Have 5 Days
Downtown Aberdeen's silver granite certainly deserves two days. Then travel into Speyside to visit distilleries in Dufftown, Craigellachie, Aberlour, and Glenlivet. Spend the morning exploring Elgin's religious sites before moving east along the coast to stay overnight in Cullen. Visit the magnificent Duff House gallery in Banff before returning to Aberdeen. On the last day see a castle or two: Crathes in Deeside or Dunnottar by Stonehaven; Haddo House or Fyvie Castle, northwest of Ellon; or loop northwest for Corgarff, the ruined castle at Kildrummy, or Castle Fraser.
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