Kincardine and Mearns
The historic county, also known as Kincardineshire, is centred on the lovely harbour town of Stonehaven and runs south to the North Esk at whose mouth you’ll find the Sands and nature reserve of St Cyrus (with puffins in season), north to the River Dee as far inland as Banchory and includes the lands seaward of the Highland Fault Line.
There is rich agricultural land here and an amazing number of castles still in occupation. They may be quite small: more a large bungalow turned in its edge but it gives a feel for how much this land was valuable, valued – and fought over.
Most famous is Dunnotar Castle just south of the town. A walk along the cliffs to it from the harbour via the large war memorial and take
time to imagine a Pictish Fort on the stack of Dunnicaer just before Dunnotar can be delightful. One of the Pictish stones found at Dunnicaer is in Marischall College, Aberdeen: I don’t know where the others are. Dunnotar castle itself is reached by a long flight of steps down and a long flight back up to the castle gate. Give yourself plenty of time for a visit : this can only be taken at a trot by the fittest!
The coast has a string of delightful harbour villages with Johnshaven and Catterline being favourites. The pubs all along the coast serve good wholesome food, often with local produce featuring.
If you knock on the door of the Tod Head lighthouse and say Debra sent you, Rohan, the owner, might give you a private tour and share the views along the coast from her lighthouse eyrie.
Inland, the North Esk will take you into Glen Esk with walks to the picturesque (and popular whitewater kayaking run) at the Rocks of Solitude and further inland very pleasant walks to Loch Lee, including ruined churches, old graveyards, tower house. Or lovers of Victoriana can visit the Queens Well. A walk to the top of Mount Keen is straightforward and gives great views. https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/angus/mount-keen.shtml
One of the great works of Scottish literature is Lewis Grassic Gibbons Scots Quair triology, set in the Mearns. A centre celebrating him is just outside Arbuthnot.
Fettercairn is a nice market village with gate celebrating Victoria’s visits, interesting kirkyard and a distillery. Take the road from here to Banchory over the delightfully named Clatterin Brig and stop at Cairn o Mount. You can very much see the escarpment runnng from north of Stonehaven that marks the Highland Boundary Fault that runs right across to the west coast by Helensburgh : geologically, the division between Highland and lowland Scotland. Stop further in at pretty Bridge of Dye and then at Falls of Feugh before reaching the busy small town of Banchory. If you were staying in Stonehaven you’d then aim to return via the ‘Slug Road’ from Crathes, perhaps after visiting the castle and gardens.
So please, don’t just head to Dunnotar, explore a little.
You might enjoy http://gallivantinggeismom.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/soaked-in-scotland.html