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Deep in an ancient pine forest, beside a fastflowing river, on a high snowbound mountain pass, among rich rolling farmland, and perched on cliffs some 50 feet above the sea. These are some of the spectacular settings for Aberdeenshire’s 263 castles: there have been more here per acre than anywhere else in the British Isles. Most you can see, many you can visit – and some you can even stay in.
This corner of Scotland had strategic importance across centuries of turbulent history – invasions and war, rebellion and uprising, independence and occupation were all played out here. The evidence is in the remains of Iron Age hillforts, in ancient clifftop ruins, medieval fortresses, Scottish baronial castles, Jacobean mansions, and fortifications added in the 18th century.
In the centuries since, these often-extraordinary buildings have inspired famous storytellers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Walt Disney and Franco Zeffirelli. Of course Aberdeenshire’s most famous castle is Balmoral – the summer residence of the Royal Family since the 19th century, described by Queen Victoria as “my dear paradise in the Highlands”.