The main A90 runs north from Dundee to Aberdeen and passes through the Howe of the Mearns, an agricultural district so evocatively described by local author, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, in his brilliant trilogy "A Scots Quair". His home can be visited at Arbuthnott. The coastal route (A92) from Dundee runs north from Montrose and meets the A90 by the little fishing port of Stonehaven, which is close to the dramatic ruins of Dunnotar Castle, one of the area's main attractions. Other places of interest include Fasque House, family home of Victorian prime minister Gladstone.
The River Dee rises in the Cairngorms and flows down through the surrounding hills, eastwards to the sea at Aberdeen. The valley of the Dee is known as Deeside, or rather Royal Deeside, for its connections with the royal family, who have holidayed here, at Balmoral, since Queen Victoria first arrived in 1848. Originally, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were looking for an estate further west, but were advised that the Deeside climate would be better for Albert's delicate constitution. The queen fell in love with this area and its people, and following Albert's death she sought out the company of straight-talking northerners, preferring their down-to-earth honesty to the two-faced toadies she endured at court.
Today, Deeside's royal associations have made it the tourist honeypot of the northeast, but the royal presence has also saved it from mass development. There's an air of understated affluence and refinement in the villages strung out along the A93 that runs along the north bank of the Dee and, as well as the obvious attraction of Balmoral, there are many other fine examples of baronial castles. Deeside is also a great area for various outdoor activities, such as hiking in the surrounding mountains, mountain biking, canoeing and skiing.