Lying between the Grampian Mountains and the North Sea which washes its north and east coasts, rural Aberdeenshire is best known for its beef cattle, its coastal fishing villages and its many historic castles. Aberdeenshire is also home to major paper, food and drink, tourism and oil-related industries. It is watered by the Dee, Don, Ythan and Deveron Rivers and its chief towns are Fraserburgh, Banff, Inverurie, Stonehaven and Peterhead which is Europe's largest white-fish port. Known as Scotland's Larder, Aberdeenshire includes 26% of Scotland's arable land producing 70% of Scotland's pork, 40% of Scotland's rapeseed and 40% of the malting barley for the Scotch whisky industry.
Aberdeenshire is administratively divided into six areas; namely Banff and Buchan, Buchan, Formartine, Garioch, Marr, and Kincardine and Mearns. There are ski resorts at Glen Shee and the Lecht. The area is also known for its numerous castles, including Balmoral Castle, the home of the Royal family, and the National Trust for Scotland properties of Corgarff Castle, Crathes Castle, Drum Castle, Duff House, Castle Fraser, Fyvie Castle, Haddo House, Kildrummy Castle and Spynie Palace. The remarkable archaeology of the region comprises hill forts, standing stones and recumbent stone circles - a type of monument unique to Aberdeenshire.
Aberdeenshire represents 4.4% of the population of Scotland, standing at 227,280 in 2002 and having seen a 20% increase since 1981. This growth has brought challenges in the provision of housing and transport infrastructure. Aberdeenshire has the second highest average house price in Scotland. The area is regularly voted as having the best quality of life of Scotland's rural area and, at around 1%, Aberdeenshire has the lowest unemployment rate of the mainland Scottish local authorities, compared to a national average of around 3.3% (2013). Like Aberdeen City, many jobs are underpinned by the oil and gas sector. The Forties Pipeline System brings oil and gas ashore from the North Sea at Cruden Bay, with gas processed at the St. Fergus Gas Shore Station and a large gas-fired power station at Peterhead.