Aberdeenshire is one of the 32 unitary council areas into which Scotland has been divided since 1996. In terms of size, Aberdeenshire is the 4th largest council area in Scotland, covering 2439 square miles or 6317 square kilometers. It extends from the high mountains of the Cairngorms in the west across rolling countryside to the sea in the east and north, and it includes some of Scotland's most productive agricultural areas. The east coast tends to be low lying and sandy, while the north coast is rockier and home to many fishing ports, both large and small. For accommodation in Aberdeenshire and a full list of features, see our Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire area pages.
Crossed by the River Don and the River Dee, Aberdeenshire has been home to people for many thousands of years. Past residents have left many traces in the landscape, including large numbers of stone circles and many Pictish symbol stones. From a slightly more recent era, Aberdeenshire also boasts an unusually large number of castles. Some of these are amongst the largest and most evolved in Scotland, and many have been lived in until modern times: or still are.
In terms of population, Aberdeenshire is the 6th most populous council area in Scotland. More significantly its population has increased by 50% in the last three decades as a result of the economic impact of the discovery of gas and oil under the North Sea. One consequence has been a boom in housebuilding in every settlement, however small, that is within reasonable commuting distance of the industry's main centres, and Aberdeen in particular. This has not always been done, and often still isn't, with the original character of those settlements uppermost in mind.
Main roads in Aberdeenshire have a habit of radiating out from Aberdeen, with the effect that travel "across the grain" usually requires a little more planning and a map. The unusual configuration of many Aberdeenshire junctions, which means the main road you were following on the map can often turn off what seems to be the main road on the ground at an apparently insignificant junction, also helps make this an unusually tricky area for visitors to explore.
In its current form Aberdeenshire excludes the City of Aberdeen, which is a separate council area. Aberdeenshire Council is based on the outskirts of Aberdeen, and as a result is the only Scottish council whose headquarters are not within its own boundaries. It is bordered on its north-west side by Moray, on its south by Angus and at its eastern end by Highland and by Perthshire. The eastern end of Aberdeenshire also falls within the area of the Cairngorms National Park.
For administrative purposes, Aberdeenshire is divided by the council into six smaller areas. Banff and Buchan includes the settlements of Banff, Aberchirder, Portsoy and Fraserburgh. Buchan includes Peterhead and Mintlaw. Formartine includes Turriff, Oldmeldrum and Ellon. Garioch includes Inverurie and Kintore. Kincardine and Mearns includes Stonehaven, Inverbervie and Laurencekirk. Meanwhile, the final area, Marr, includes the much larger but much less densely populated areas of Deeside from Banchory to Braemar; Strathdon west from Alford; and the area around Huntly.
Historically, Aberdeenshire was one of the 34 traditional counties of Scotland, though the area it covered was slightly different to modern Aberdeenshire. For a start, Aberdeen itself was included in the traditional county: it now forms the separate City of Aberdeen. The other main differences were the presence of the traditional counties of Kincardineshire to the south-east and Banffshire to the north-west, both occupying some of what is included within modern Aberdeenshire. Finally, the traditional county of Aberdeenshire also had two stray enclaves, chunks of land within its boundaries that belonged to Banffshire. Aberdeenshire was not greatly changed by the 1890 reorganisation which reduced the overall number of counties by one, though it did regain the areas within the enclaves.
The 1975 reorganisation removed Aberdeenshire from the map. Instead the area it now covers formed part of Grampian Region, one of the 12 regions into which Scotland was divided. Grampian was in turn divided into five districts, and three of them went on to form what became modern Aberdeenshire in the 1996 reorganisation. These were Banff and Buchan, Gordon, and Kincardine and Deeside. We've talked above of the modern subdivisions of Aberdeenshire. The old Banff and Buchan District equates to modern Banff and Buchan together with the (confusingly) separately Buchan. Otherwise, the modern subdivisions owe little to the divisions between the districts which came together to form Aberdeenshire in 1996.