North East Scotland

Travel Guide Europe United Kingdom Scotland North East Scotland

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Introduction

North East Scotland is the eastern region of Scotland bounded by the Firth of Forth to the south and the Moray Firth to the north; its cities are Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth. Its defining feature is that it's lowland in spite of being a long way north: the geological fault line between lowlands and highlands runs diagonally across Scotland from Helensburgh near Glasgow to Stonehaven near Aberdeen. So it has fertile farmland and good overland routes, and has always been well connected to the economies of the south. Cattle, fishing and knitwear are the traditional industries but in the 20th C the region's fortunes rose, and are now waning, with the North Sea oil & gas industries. Inland are the Grampian mountains (old, rounded granite domes, quite unlike the spiky peaks of the west) with forests and upland heaths. Queen Victoria was fond of this region and built a luxurious castle at Balmoral: she chose well.

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Cities

  • Aberdeen - Scotland's third largest city. Known for its impressive granite buildings, it is known as the "Granite City", the oil capital of Europe, and home to a large harbour and two renowned universities.
  • Dundee - vibrant city with high population of students and one of the most distinct (perhaps incomprehensible) accents you'll hear. It is known as the city of "jute, jam and journalism", and the "City of Discovery" for its history of scientific activities and the home of Scott and Shackleton's Antarctic vessel, the RRS Discovery.

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Sights and Activities

Castles: choose from Blair Atholl, Craigevar, Crathes, Dunnottar, Fraser, Fyvie, Glamis, Kildrummy, Loch Leven, and innumerable smaller battered stumps.
Palaces and grand mansions: choose from Balmoral, Culross, Falkland, Haddo House, Scone.
Old fishing villages: along the Fife coast are Elie, Pittenweem and Crail; north of Dundee find Arbroath, Montrose, Stonehaven and Peterhead.
Glens: Glendevon / Gleneagles, the Tay valley, Glenshee & Glenisla, Deeside.

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Getting There

By Plane

For Fife, Perth and Dundee, use Edinburgh Airport (EDI). It has a good range of flights across Europe, to London and elsewhere in UK; and it's west of the city so you can connect without getting embroiled in city traffic. Take the direct Jetbus from the airport to Halbeath Interchange for bus connections across Fife, or to Inverkeithing for trains north via Kirkcaldy and Leuchars (for St Andrews) to Dundee and Aberdeen. Some trains for Perth also run via Inverkeithing, but some don't: take the airport bus or tram to Haymarket where all northbound services call. With a hire car, turn west and within ten minutes you're crossing the new Forth Bridge into Fife, and Perth and Dundee are about an hour away.

You're unlikely to use Dundee Airport. It has a daily flight to London Stansted but that's all.

For Aberdeenshire and Moray, use Aberdeen Airport (ABZ). There's a reasonable selection of flights from Europe and London. Onward public transport is good towards Aberdeen and the coast, but you'll want a car to explore north.

For Elgin and the western part of Moray, use Inverness Airport (INV) which has limited flights to Europe and London.

By Train

The East Coast main line runs along the coast, spanning the Forth and the Tay by spectacular bridges, so the main cities are well connected to central Scotland and England. Trains from London Kings Cross (via Peterborough, York and Newcastle) usually involve changing at Edinburgh, but 3 or 4 trains daily continue to Dundee (six hours) and Aberdeen (7 hours). The Caledonian Highland Sleeper runs overnight (not Sat) from London Euston to Dundee, Carnoustie, Abroath, Montrose, Stonehaven and Aberdeen. It serves other stations (eg Perth, on the train portion for Inverness) but in the very early hours of the morning; you'd do better to take the Lowland Sleeper to Edinburgh then a standard daytime train onward. The return southbound times are less inconvenient.

There are frequent trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow across the North East as far north as Aberdeen; a train runs between Aberdeen and Inverness every couple of hours.

By Car

The main road from the south is motorway standard as far as Perth and Dundee. From Edinburgh the M90 leaps across the Firth of Forth (no toll) and heads north towards Perth: either stay on M90 to bypass Perth and head into the highlands on A9, or take A90 along Tayside to Dundee, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh. From Glasgow follow M80 to Stirling then A9 to Perth.

By Bus

Citylink buses connect the main cities to Edinburgh and Glasgow hourly.

By Boat

Aberdeen has overnight ferries to Orkney and Shetland.

There are no ferries from Scotland to Europe, Faroes or Iceland. The nearest continental connection is from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to IJMuiden near Amsterdam.

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Getting Around

Buses and trains are frequent along the well-populated coastal strip as far north as Aberdeen, and from Perth north up the A9 to Dunkeld and Aberfeldy. Note that St Andrews doesn't have a railway but there's a frequent connecting bus to Leuchars railway station. An hourly bus 201 runs up Royal Deeside from Aberdeen to Ballater (for Balmoral) and Braemar. Hourly bus 35 runs from Aberdeen past the airport to Banff, Buckie and Elgin. Public transport is otherwise sparse and you'll need a car.

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Eat

Over the years numerous traditional Scottish dishes have been created in North East Scotland, and no trip to the region would be complete without trying the local cuisine.

Forfar Bridies are said "to have been 'invented' by a local baker in the 1850s." The name may refer to the pie's frequent presence on wedding menus, or to Margaret Bridie of Glamis, "who sold them at the Buttermarket in Forfar." They are made from pastry filled with mince (with or without onion), steak or even chicken, with butter and beef suet, salt and pepper. Similar to pasties, but because they are made without potatoes, they are much lighter in texture. Bakers in Forfar traditionally use shortcrust pastry for their bridies, but in the rest of Scotland, flaky pastry is preferred (It is possible in butchers or even fishmongers in Forfar to find flaky pastry bridies). Before being baked, the bridie's filling is placed on pastry dough, which is then folded into a semi-circular or triangular shape; finally, the edges are crimped. If the baker pokes one hole in the top of a bridie, it is understood to be plain, or without onions. Those that do include onions have two holes. the bridie continues to be a popular snack in Forfar with many locals eating them for lunch at the weekend.

Arbroath smokies are a type of smoked haddock – a speciality of the town of Arbroath in Angus. The Arbroath Smokie originated in the small fishing village of Auchmithie, three miles northeast of Arbroath. Local legend has it a store caught fire one night, destroying barrels of haddock preserved in salt. The following morning, the people found some of the barrels had caught fire, cooking the haddock inside. Inspection revealed the haddock to be quite tasty. Towards the end of the 19th century, as Arbroath's fishing industry died, the Town Council offered the fisherfolk from Auchmithie land in an area of the town known as the fit o' the toon. It also offered them use of the modern harbour. Much of the Auchmithie population then relocated, bringing the Arbroath Smokie recipe with them. Today, some 15 local businesses produce Arbroath smokies, selling them in major supermarkets in the UK and online. In 2004, the European Commission registered the designation "Arbroath smokies" as a Protected Geographical Indication under the EU's Protected Food Name Scheme, acknowledging its unique status.

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Drink

Malt whisky: the best known distilleries are around Dufftown in Moray, but with an estimated 126 Scotch Whisky distilleries across Scotland, you'll seldom be far from one. Only a minority are open to the public, and an overlapping minority market a "single malt", but most of the output is blended into the various commercial brands. Those actively in production in 2017 just in this region alone are: Aberargie, Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Balvenie, BenRiach, Benrinnes, Benromach, Blair Athol, Brackla, Braeval, Cardhu, Cragganmore, Craigellachie, Daftmill, Dailuaine, Dufftown, Eden Mill, Edradour, Glenallachie, Glenburgie, Glencadam, Glendronach, Glendullan, Glen Elgin, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glen Keith, Glenlivet, Glenlossie, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glen Spey, Glentauchers, Glenturret, Inchgower, Kininvie, Knockando, Knock, Linkwood, Lochnagar, Macallan, Macduff, Mannochmore, Miltonduff, Mortlach, Royal Brackla, Roseisle, Speyburn, Strathisla, Strathmill, Tamdhu, Tamnavulin, Tomintoul, and Tormore. We gonna need a bigger ice-bucket.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 13:40 on Jul 3, 20 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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