North East 250: Scotland's 'best-kept secret' driving route enjoys surge in interest

Scotland’s latest driving route, where castles, mountains, distilleries, sandy beaches and pretty coastal villages meet, is enjoying a ‘surge’ in interest, according to tourism chiefs.

Braemar  in Royal Deeside - one of the villages on the NE250 route. PIC: Damian Shields/VisitScotland.
Braemar in Royal Deeside - one of the villages on the NE250 route. PIC: Damian Shields/VisitScotland.

The North East 250 was set up to drive visitors into Moray and Aberdeenshire with VisitScotland saying the route “might be Scotland’s best-kept secret”.

It takes motorists from Glenshee through the easterns Cairngorms to Scotland’s highest village at Tomintoul before dipping into Speyside and the Moray Coast. Drivers then drop down towards Aberdeen before heading inland once again to the Deeside towns of Banchory and Ballater.

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The route was recently ranked by Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List in the top 500 unmissable global travel experiences with the driving experience blending history, rugged landscapes, malt whisky and coastal views.

A map of the North East 250 driving route. PIC © Helen Stirling Maps 2019. Contains O.S. data. Crown copyright and Database right 2019.
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Dunnottar and Balmoral castles, the marine wildlife of the Moray Firth and the Glenfiddich Distillery have been named as highlights of the drive.

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The tourism body said that its recent campaign to promote the route had captured interest from across the UK, with a video highlighting the North East 250 being watched almost 2 million times across social media platforms Facebook and Instagram

The North East 250 website was visited almost 110,000 times.

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Jo Robinson, Regional Director, VisitScotland, said: “We knew the visitor economy around the North East 250 was already a strong proposition but now we have clear evidence of the high demand for the region.

" The marketing around outdoor and heritage worked particularly well, and this gives us great insight for future campaigns. It is also further proof of the positive impact that collaboration can have on stimulating recovery following the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and events industry.”

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The route was first devised by Guy Macpherson-Grant, owner of Ballindalloch Castle in Banffshire, to draw more visitors into the region.

Mr Macpherson-Grant, director of North East 250, said : “This has been a tremendous opportunity to partner with our national tourism organisation and Visit Moray Speyside, to promote an area of the country that has such exciting and varied attractions for visitors, both local and from afar. "

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Laurie Piper, Chief Executive of Visit Moray Speyside, said the campaign had been performing well when it was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions o travel.

He added: “What is even more impressive is that upon resuming in August the numbers were even stronger than before – proving that the Moray and the North-east hold huge appeal for visitors from across the UK and beyond.”

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The North East 250 is funded by businesses who are then included in promotional material for the route.

About 25,000 maps have also been produced by the firms to help visitors navigate their way through the north-east landscape.

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The popularity of Scotland’s driving routes have become central to the country’s tourism business.

A report last year found that the North Coast 500 through the north and west Highlands boosted the local economy by more than £22million over 12 months.

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The study, conducted by the Moffat Centre for Tourism at Glasgow Caledonian University, found that the North Coast 500 also created 180 full time equivalent jobs in the

North Highlands within the same time period

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director