Until 1975 Aberdeenshire was one of the counties of Scotland, governed by a county council from 1890. The boundaries of the county were adjusted by the boundary commissioners appointed under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889 that established the county council. In 1900, the county town of Aberdeen became a county of a city and was thus removed from the county. The county bordered Kincardineshire, Angus and Perthshire to the south, Inverness-shire and Banffshire to the west, and the North Sea to the north and east. It had a coast-line of .
The coat of arms of Aberdeenshire County Council was granted in 1890. The four quarters represented the Buchan, Mar, Garioch and Strathbogie areas.
In 1975 the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 reorganised local administration in Scotland into a two-tier system of regions and districts. Aberdeenshire, along with the City of Aberdeen, Banffshire, Kincardineshire and most of Morayshire were merged to form Grampian Region, with the former county being divided between the districts of City of Aberdeen, Banff and Buchan, Gordon and Kincardine and Deeside.
In 1996 Scottish local government system was reorganised a second time to form a single tier of unitary council areas. The name was revived for the council area of Aberdeenshire, which has different boundaries.
The area is generally hilly, and from the south-west, near the centre of Scotland, the Grampians send out various branches, mostly to the north-east.