There’s something about the scale of this place, the North East of Scotland, between the mountains and the sea. You can roam for miles across great estates, expanses of moorland, ancient Caledonian forests, rolling farmland, vast dunes, wide sandy beaches and expansive coastlines. History is writ large here too. Ancient sites and symbols mark this as a heartland of the ancient Picts. In the millennia that followed, no fewer than 300 castles were planted here. And of course this majestic place has long been loved by monarchs … and by the salmon that return each year to power upstream in the fast-flowing snow-fed waters of the Dee, the Don and the Spey. It’s a place of big skies and wide horizons, loved for its fresh clear air and the quality of its light. “The Northern sky is a beautiful thing” says Burt Lancaster in cult movie Local Hero, filmed along this coast. In summer, the light up here is special, days are near endless, sunsets stretch out, darkness is brief. In winter, nights are deep and long and starry – and on occasion spectacularly lit by the Northern Lights. You can still hear words from an original Scots language – Doric – and feel its distinctive culture alive in its genial “couthie” people and its “affa fine” traditions – not least the fiddle-playing, the bothy ballads and the highland gatherings. Doric is in the warp and weave of this self-reliant place … a place that’s used to being off the tourism track, known rather as a seat of learning and for its natural resources – its granite, its oil, its fish, its beef, and its whisky.