Eastern Region (incl. Edinburgh)
The Eastern Region currently comprises of the administrative areas of Moray, Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen, Angus, Perth and Kinross, Dundee, Clackmannanshire, Fife, Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian. The flat-topped heights of the wild Grampian Mountains harbour snow-filled gullies, and are adorned by magnificent pinewood forests, while the lower slopes are thick with vibrant heather, interrupted by occasional ancient stone circles and mysterious Pictish carvings - the slopes falling eastward, level out toward lush farmland. To the north, scattered farmsteads and fishing communities border the rich land of the Moray Firth, the 'Granary of the North', and the River Spey's soft peaty waters supply a host of malt whisky distilleries, while its rocky pools are alive with salmon and trout. Spectacular cliffs around Banff and Buchan shelter secluded sandy caves, tiny hamlets and the ruins of ancient strongholds - dramatic sunsets are a feature of this northerly coastline.
Two salmon rivers, the Dee and Don, converge upon Aberdeen and within their valleys are located most of the 150 castle sites in the region - many of them 'fairy tale' castles approached by winding roads and surrounded by sumptuous gardens and waymarked walks. North of Aberdeen, undulating hillsides sweep down to shifting dunes and broad swaths of golden sands, to the south, incredible rock formations provide homes to thousands of seabirds, and rock caves reveal themselves at low tide, whispering tales of smugglers and excisemen.
North of the River Tay lies the Carse of Gowrie, a flat fertile sweep of land, stretching between the ancient cities of Perth and Dundee - the Carse lands produce most of Scotland's marvellous raspberry and strawberry crops. Further north, beyond the Sidlaw Hills, steep glens and windswept hills are framed by mountain peaks - this is Scotland's wilder side, where evidence of the country's ancient past lies in abundance - Pictish forts, cairns, Roman remains, all are here. The fertile vale of Strathmore is rich in farmland, nurturing the famous Aberdeen Angus cattle, while the west coast teems with wildlife, their habitats ranging from wooded watersides to vast marshy tracts, such as Montrose Basin. Teeside is a region steeped in history and legend - kings were crowned at Scone, the outlaw Rob Roy ranged amongst the Braes of Balquhidder, Macbeth scanned distant Birnam Wood from 'impregnable' Dunsinane, unfaithful Guinevere was imprisoned at Barry Hill, and the ghosts still stalk the corridors of Glammis Castle.
The reagion traditionally known as Lothian is in essence an agricultural county with an industrial overlay. In the 19th century, acres of rich farmland were invaded by the oil shale industry, but despite the prevalence of this industrial development along the busy Firth of Forth, much of the coastal land still maintains its sense of rural identity, solitude and historic charm. Most of the surviving farmland today is concentrated near the coast. The heart of Lothian beats in Scotland's capital city, where history and beauty harmonise; Edinburgh, dubbed the 'Athens of the North' lives up to every expectation. Lying to the south, far distant from Edinburgh's teeming mass of humanity, stretch the gentle slopes of the Pentland and Moorfoot Hills, two of Scotland's most attractive hill ranges, where rambling is a pleasure. Prehistoric remains, medieval strongholds and modern achievements provide visitors to Lothian with exceptional variety.
The Firth of Tay to the north and the Firth of Forth to the south are kept apart by a 20 mile wide peninsula, bounded to the east by the North Sea - with water lapping at it on three sides, Fife can boast one of the finest stretches of coastline in Scotland. Many small ports and villages line the banks of the Forth, and handsome 17th and 18th cent houses flank their winding streets, a genteel reminder of times past. Between the embrace of the two great rivers lies rich agricultural land and gentle rolling hills, the wooded slopes of Ochil, Loch Leven, an angler's paradise with its Castle Island, and everywhere, a rich collection of historic buildings. On the east coast is the ancient home of golf, played at St Andrews for some 500 years - the city is named after Scotland's patron saint. To the west lies Dunfermline, home of Scottish kings from the 11th cent until the Union of the Crown in 1603 - hence, 'Royal Fife'.