Give yourself a right royal treat this autumn or winter by exploring the impressive landscapes of Aberdeenshire which have enraptured the monarchy since the reign of Queen Victoria.
This north eastern county boasts the ancient glens, the towering mountains of Cairngorms National Park, the sparkling rivers Dee and Don and 165 miles of glorious coast and a population proudly maintaining its colourful Scottish heritage by speaking Doric, holding Highland Games, upholding the traditional skills of hunting, fishing, farming and foresting and protecting the rich and varied wildlife.
Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms are an adventure playground for winter sports enthusiasts, with skiing and snowboarding at two purpose built resorts, The Lecht 2090, so called because it is 2090 feet above sea level, and Glenshee, with its own snowsports school beginners onward. Aberdeen has an ice rink.
As part of its manmade heritage and a legacy of troubled times, Aberdeenshire has some 300 castles including Balmoral, bought privately by Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, in 1852 and now the private property and summer residence of the Queen and Prince Philip rather than belonging to the Crown Estate. Winter tours are available on selected dates.
Some of the best known castles like the pink and fairy tale turreted Craigievar and Braemar are closed except for special events at this time of year but visitors will surely love the clifftop ruins of Dunnotar Castle, Stonehaven with its dramatic views across the North Sea and its rich history, including having been home to the powerful Earls Marischal, and the hiding place for the Scottish crown jewels when anti-monarchist Cromwell was on the march.
Dunnottar – named TripAdvisor’s 2017 Scottish second favourite behind Edinburgh Castle – has been the setting for many films including the 2015 release Victor Frankenstein, starring Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) and James McAvoy.
Rated among the best 100 holiday cottages in Scotland, the 5 Star Harbour House overlooks the quaint harbour of Pennan, Aberdeenshire, a restful spot from which to explore the beautiful ‘Dolphin Coast’ of the Moray Firth and a haven away from workaday worries.
The traditional, stone-built property is only a few steps away from the pebble beach, which offers anything from tranquillity to high drama depending on the weather and time of year. The cottage itself is beautifully decorated and furnished and stays comfy and cosy all year round. It sleeps 6 people in 3 bedrooms, including an en suite master bedroom with a king sized bed, and is ideal for either couples or families staying for 3 nights or more, starting any day of the week.
Pennan itself is a jewel of Aberdeenshire unspoilt by age. It sits on the North East 250 road route through the whisky distilleries of Speyside, the mountain passes of Cairngorms National Park, the famous castles of Royal Deeside and the Granite City of Aberdeen, not to mention more of the quaint and peaceful fishing villages.
The Georgian architecture of beautiful Banff is only 15 minutes’ drive away. Harbour House owner Claudia Leith says: “There are a lot of shops which sell vintage, retro and upcycled items. They’re great places for rummaging around!”
Hill of Maunderlea
Luxury lodges provided at the Hill of Maunderlea provide beautiful surroundings with excellent disabled access and the most perfect location for enjoying the breathtaking scenery and diverse activities of Aberdeenshire, from whisky sampling to dolphin watching. Lecht ski resort is only an hour’s drive away and it is not uncommon to see the Northern Lights while gazing out from this cosy self catering accommodation.
The 4 Star rated Hill of Maunderlea Lodges are in a woodland near Aberchirder and are run by Lorraine & Alan Davidson. Their guests pay testament to the excellence of their standards, especially for people with mobility problems.
Lorraine said the lodges were built with disabilities in mind seven years ago. Maunderlea accommodation has no steps and each lodge has a walk-in shower, wide doorways and ground floor parking right outside.
“There are disabled friendly restaurants nearby as well,” says Lorraine, “But the big strengths of this accommodation are the stunning views and the peace and quiet. It is an absolutely wonderful location at any time of year.”
The lodges are all eco-friendly, serviced by underfloor heating and high quality, low energy appliances and entertainment sources including HD TV and Blu Ray. They have open plan living areas and upstairs a double bedroom with balcony and king sized bed, a twin bedroom and a bathroom.
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