The granite bastion of Crathes Castle is a classic stronghold: with tiny windows, bristling turrets, flamboyant gargoyles and cramped rooms laden with heavy antiques.
But what makes the place particularly special is its authenticity. Many ceilings are beautifully painted and date as far back as 1602.
The grounds are a treat too, with much impressive ancient yew-hedge topiary.
A number of craft shops and galleries have sprung up near the castle entrance along with the higher-end Milton Restaurant (Tel:+44 1330 84456) which is a fairly expensive but usually good choice for meals and an superb option for afternoon tea. The scones are amazing.
Finally a mile-long stretch of the restored vintage Royal Deeside Railway that leads alongside the pretty River Dee from Crathes and offers 20min scenic train rides (£6 adults).