A new tourist attraction due to be unveiled this spring aims to capitalise on one of the north-east’s most iconic brands to help promote the area.
While tourist trails in Scotland are not unusual, what sets the latest addition apart is that it is the first in the world to be dedicated to the famous Aberdeen Angus cattle breed.
It features ten key locations in Angus and Aberdeenshire linked to the breed historicially or which sell Aberdeen Angus beef in various forms, demonstrating why the meat is so highly prized.
The trail was the idea of Deeside farmer Ken Howie, himself an Aberdeen Angus breeder and owner of Cairnton Farm Cottages near Banchory and the Deeside Activity Park at Aboyne.
Ken felt that while the Aberdeen Angus brand was known globally, the north-east was not making the most of its potential historical heritage – especially given the rising popularity of food tourism.
He said: “I’m keen and enthusiastic and have a passion for the Aberdeen Angus breed. I breed the cattle and process its beef to use for our own restaurants, so it’s important in our business and our life.
“It’s a name that’s recognised worldwide as a byword for quality.
“Although you can get the cattle and beef in just about every country in the world, they can’t claim the same history and heritage. So I felt we were missing out on a great opportunity to promote the area as well as the breed and use that globally recognised name.
“When I was in Argentina I realised that while people knew the name they didn’t connect it with Scotland.
“I believe the name is up there with other well-known brands and we should be harnessing it a bit better.”
Ken approached organisations connected to the breed, as well as shops and restaurants to gauge their interest.
Each one is in an area of interest for visitors, meaning there should be a spin-off to the wider local tourist industry.
It also features two castles, both closely connected to the breed’s development – Glamis, near Forfar and Ballindalloch in Banffshire.
Another iconic brand to be included is the Forfar bridie, made by local baker Saddler’s using Aberdeen-Angus beef supplied by Rennie’s butchers, just a few doors away.
Ken continued: “I knew there were a number of independent operators who were making a good job of the Aberdeen Angus product and it’s trying to tie these together with places with a great historical connection.”
The inclusion of Glamis came about as it was one of the childhood homes of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
For 60 years, she was the patron of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society and owner of a pedigree herd, kept at the Castle of Mey.
Her grandfather, the 13th Earl of Strathmore, was also keenly interested in the breed and the estate was home to a prize-winning herd into the early 1900s.
Sir George Mcpherson-Grant of Ballindalloch founded his estate’s herd in 1860 and cattle there have some of the oldest surviving bloodlines of Aberdeen Angus in the world.
To mark the Angus connection, a cairn in memory of farmer Hugh Watson, who was one of the early breeders at the start of the 19th century, will be unveiled at Glamis in June.
Ken added: “I don’t think many people realised the Queen Mother was patron of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Association and bred her own cattle and the earl was very enthusiastic when I approached him about it.
“Ballindalloch Castle has had a herd for more than 160 years and Sir George Mcpherson-Grant was a great marketer.
“It was probably him who introduced the breed to north and south America.”
The trail has been given an enthusiastic welcome by tourist agency VisitScotland.
Jo Robinson, regional director, said: “The trail is an exciting addition to the area’s tourism offering.
“Not only does it serve up a tasty opportunity for visitors to discover more about one of our most famous products and exports, it also offers the chance to explore some of the area’s most beautiful historical attractions.
“Our history and culture is one of the top reasons for visiting Scotland, and food and drink remains an integral part of the visitor experience; promoting the two together is a recipe for success.”