1. Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle is one of Scotland’s finest ruined castles, a huge 9th century fortress set on a three sided sheer cliff jutting out into the sea. Once the principal fortress of the northeast, its ruins are splattered with bloodstained drama. In 1297 the entire English Plantagenet garrison were burnt alive by William Wallace, and in 1685, 122 men and 45 women Covenanters were imprisoned and tortured, an event ‘whose dark shadow is for evermore flung athwart the Castled Rock.’
2. Aberdeen Maritime Museum
Aberdeen Maritime Museum combines a modern airy museum with the aged corridors of Provost Ross’s House, and is an engrossing and imaginative tribute to Aberdeen’s maritime traditions. While large sections of the museum are devoted to North Sea oil and gas, the older industries of herring fishing, whaling and shipbuilding also have their place. View multimedia displays and exciting exhibitions then visit the museum shop and licensed Leading Lights café.
3. The Malt Whisky Trail
With its clean clear water, benign climate and gentle upland terrain, Speyside is the heart of Scotland’s whisky industry. Plenty of distilleries are located in attractive historic buildings and go to some lengths to provide an engaging experience for visitors. There are eight distilleries on the Malt Whisky Trail. All offer a guided tour which is either free or at a price which will include a voucher redeemable against a bottle of whisky from the distillery shop. All tours usually round off with a tasting!
4. Aberdeen Art Gallery
Aberdeen’s splendid Art Gallery, which opened in 1885, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. In its elegant marble-lined interior is displayed a varied collection of works of art, including outstanding examples of Modern Art, and work by the Impressionists and the Scottish Colourists. Visitors can also see contemporary craft, Aberdeen silver and a wide range of decorative art. There are regular changing displays and an exciting programme of special exhibitions, events and activities.
5. The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
The coastal town of Fraserburgh is home to the excellent Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, where you can see a collection of huge lenses and prisms. It also has a display on various members of the famous lighthouse designing Stevenson family, which included author Robert Louis Stevenson. Highlight of the museum is the tour of Kinnaird Head lighthouse, preserved as it was when the last keeper left in 1991, with its century old equipment still in perfect working order.
6. Drum Castle
Situated in the world famous castle country of northeast Scotland and standing at the gates to Royal Deeside on a ridge overlooking the River Dee, Drum Castle combines a medieval keep, a Jacobean mansion house and a later Victorian extension. The keep is one of the three oldest tower houses in Scotland, probably dating from 1290. In the castle grounds, look for beautiful medieval chapel, or enjoy one of the lovely country walks through the historic Old Wood of Drum.
7. Ballater Mountain Biking
Nestled on the Eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park, Ballater is surrounded by terrain suitable for mountain bike riders of all abilities, from easy forest trails to single-track descents. The Old Deeside Railway Cycle Route is especially suitable for families with tearooms and river-side views. The Bike Safari Route is great for spotting wildlife including Buzzards, Red Squirrel, Osprey and Highland Cattle, and the Glen Muick to Glen Girnock Route is a great adventure for the more energetic.
8. Salmon Fishing on the River Spey
The River Spey is one of the largest rivers in Scotland and is one of the classic salmon rivers. From its source at Loch Spey, 350 metres above sea level in the Monadhliath Mountains, the river travels in a northeasterly direction to the Moray Firth at Tugnet. The Spey is similar to many Scottish Highland rivers and supports fish species including Atlantic salmon, migratory sea trout and resident brown trout, European eel, Arctic char, pike, stickleback and flounder.
9. The Speyside Way
Starting at Buckie on the Moray Firth Coast, the Speyside Way follows the fast flowing River Spey from its mouth at Spey Bay south to Aviemore, with branches linking it to Dufftown, Scotland’s malt whisky capital., and Tomintoul on the remote edge of the Cairngorm mountains. At 65 miles long it can take 5 to 7 days to complete, but its proximity to main roads and small villages means that it is excellent for shorter walks or bicycle trips.
10. The Findhorn Foundation
Findhorn was founded in 1962 by Eileen and Peter Caddy, their three children, and friend Dorothy Maclean. With its emphasis on inner discovery and enlightenment, but unattached to any particular doctrine or creed, the Findhorn Foundation has since blossomed into a permanent community of a couple of hundred people, with a well developed series of courses and retreats on subjects ranging from astroshamanic healing to organic gardening, drawing another 8000 or so visitors each year.