The two historic regions of Tayside and Grampian offer a vast array of sightseeing, even though they're relatively small. Tayside, for example, is about 137km (85 miles) east to west and 97km (60 miles) south to north. The regions share the North Sea coast between the Firth of Tay in the south and the Firth of Moray farther north; and the so-called Highland Line, separating the Lowlands in the south from the Highlands in the north, crosses both. The Grampians, Scotland's highest mountain range, are to the west of this line.
Carved out of the old counties of Perth and Angus, Tayside is named for its major river, the 192km-long (119-mile) Tay. The region is easy to explore, and its waters offer some of Europe's best salmon and trout fishing. Tayside abounds with heather-clad Highland hills, long blue lochs under forested banks, and miles of walking trails. Perth and Dundee are among Scotland's largest cities. Tayside provided the backdrop for many novels by Sir Walter Scott, including The Fair Maid of Perth, Waverley, and The Abbot. And its golf courses are world famous, ranging from the trio of 18-hole courses at Gleneagles to the Open Championships links at Carnoustie.
Grampian boasts Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city, and Braemar, site of the most famous of Highland Gatherings. The queen herself comes here for holidays, to stay at Balmoral Castle, her private residence, a tradition dating back to the days of Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert. As you journey on the scenic roads of Scotland's northeast, you pass moorland and peaty lochs, wood glens and rushing rivers, granite-stone villages and ancient castles, and fishing harbors and North Sea beach resorts.