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The bonnie Bennachie

The bonnie Bennachie

Postby BlackPanther » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:53 pm

Route description: The Complete Bennachie, from Rowantree

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Bennachie (Oxen Craig), Millstone Hill

Date walked: 30/09/2017

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 17 km

Ascent: 859m

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I always fancied Bennachie in autumn, maybe because its not "serious enough" for summer and too far to drive to in winter time. Saturday the 30th of September was forecast to be sunny in Aberdeenshire and cloudy everywhere else in Scotland so the choice was obvious. We knew the Bennachie group is very popular (especially on weekend days) so we didn't expect romantic solitude, but even with crowds of other walkers climbing over every single rock and boulder, it was still a lovely walk. Oxen Craig and Mither Tap remind me a bit of the Barns of Bynack from my favourite Cairngorm Munro, Bynack More.
The idea was to do the complete circuit of Oxen & Mither plus Watch Craig and Millstone Hill, as given in WH walk description. Of course, with multiple starting points and a great network of paths crossing the woods and moorlands, many combinations are possible. We liked the WH route because it starts from the north (Rowantree car park), which is easy to get to from Inverness side.

Track_BENNACHIE 30-09-17.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The car park is free, with picnic tables and toilets open from spring to the end of September. It was already busy when we arrived and many groups heading up the path - this is the shortest route to the summit of Mither Tap, the most prominent of Bennachie tops (though not the highest as one might think!). I remembered that this top has an ancient fort on the summit - an additional attraction for those interested in history, archaeology and ruins.
Indeed, a large board at the start of the path gives information about the fort:
2017-09-30 bennachie 151.JPG

The start of the path was a bit wet and eroded, signs of thousands of feet trudging up to visit the ancient site. Soon conditions improved and the climb was a pleasant walk in the woods:
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 001 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
After less than 100m of ascent the path emerges from the forest and one can immediately see the top of Mither Tap:
2017-09-30 bennachie 005.JPG

Looking back to the fields and meadows of Aberdeenshire, a bit different from the usual views we have from most Scottish mountains:
2017-09-30 bennachie 007.JPG

Zoom to the summit of Mither Tap. We spotted a few larger parties heading up so we knew it was going to be a busy place... We slowed down and allowed them to get a bigger advantage, hoping that the crowds will be gone by the time we reach the top.
2017-09-30 bennachie 010.JPG

It was a superb, sunny morning but quite chilly - definitely autumn is in the air and winter is waiting around the corner...
Panorama north:
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 012 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Approaching the Maiden Causeway, behind me, hidden in trees, Hosie's Well, according to a local legend, the spring is fed from tears of a betrayed lover:
2017-09-30 bennachie 013.JPG

If we had any glimmers of hope for a quiet time on the summit, we had to abandon them now, as we neared the top. We saw many figures moving like ants all over the rocks - a busy day :lol:
2017-09-30 bennachie 019.JPG

Hard to believer these ramparts are 7m thick! That's a lot of rock piled up!
2017-09-30 bennachie 022.JPG

According to CANMORE library: The outermost wall about 15' thick, runs round the bottom of the tor nearly 100' below the summit; several stretches of its faces can be distinguished and there are suggestions of a parapet in one place. A second wall encircles the interior of the enclosure thus formed about half-way up towards the summit. Traces of circular stone foundations, probably though not necessarily of later date than the fort, lie between the walls and above the inner wall.
The entrance to the fort is on the NE side. Here, seen as looking down from the summit tors, with yours truly in the foreground :D
2017-09-30 bennachie 026.JPG

The main entrance passage is 16.0m long and averages 3.0m wide and appears to have been paved. At its inner end on the NE side an upright stone (1.3m high) and a jut opposite on the S side have apparently been door jambs. The sides of the passage curve into the interior beyond the line of the inner wall face for about 3.0m, possibly helping to buttress an access to the wall head on either side of the entrance.
There was little chance to photograph the details of the fort without somebody's rucksack, leg, arm or bottom as a part of the composition :lol: so we gave up the idea of a detailed photo session and headed straight for the summit.
Busy, busy... Another group on the path below us:
2017-09-30 bennachie 034.JPG

Panther on the flat summit of Mither Tap, with Oxen Craig and Craigshannoch in the background:
2017-09-30 bennachie 036.JPG

View south-west from the summit, where the Cairngorms should be. Sadly the distant high mountains were in cloud today.
2017-09-30 bennachie 029.JPG

Looking north from the summit. Whoever lived here, had fantastic panoramas from their windows :lol: :lol:
2017-09-30 bennachie 038.JPG

How old is this fort? We might never know for sure...
Two fragments of oak (Quercus) charcoal were retrieved from a sample taken from the deposit beneath the cobbles and submitted for radiocarbon dating. They provided calibrated dates AD 640-780 and AD 340-540 at a two-sigma level of confidence. The dates support the interpretation of the fort as being early historic in origin.
A large group of youngsters (probably students) were on the summit when we arrived. At some point one of them asked Kevin if he could snap a group photo of them and they all gathered in one spot. It was a rare moment for me to work with my camera and no unwanted bodyparts in the frame :lol: :lol: :lol:
The summit: trig point and the view indicator:
2017-09-30 bennachie 043.JPG

Cloud gathering over Oxen Craig:
2017-09-30 bennachie 044.JPG

Looking south towards our next objective, Millstone Hill - seems small and insignificant!
2017-09-30 bennachie 046.JPG

Yours truly by the trigpoint, with the Aberdeenshire fields behind:
2017-09-30 bennachie 047.JPG

The traverse to Millstone Hill involves dropping over 200m and re-ascending, but it's all walked on excellent paths. We met quite a few people climbing up Mither Tap from Bennachie Centre car park.
A glimpse back at the old fort:
2017-09-30 bennachie 054.JPG

The paths are waymarked so navigation is easy. We remembered the spot where the descent path crosses Gordon Way, which would be our later route up Oxen Craig, but at the moment we headed for Millstone HIll.
Mither Tap pretending to be a volcano :lol:
2017-09-30 bennachie 061.JPG

View NE from the ascent path up Millstone Hill:
2017-09-30 bennachie 064.JPG

The re-ascent is only about 120m and on a dry path. For those tired by now, there is a bench about half way up, but we preferred to take our picnic break on the summit :D
The ridge of Bennachie in autumn colours:
2017-09-30 bennachie 068.JPG

Again, we met a few other walkers, some with dogs, some jogging, some just strolling and enjoying the views. We reached the summit quickly - it was our 18th Sub'2 Marylin, but we're not really fussy about collecting them. Though I must admit that Lucy was happy to bag another hill!
2017-09-30 bennachie 074.JPG

Lucy posing with Mither Tap:
2017-09-30 bennachie 078.JPG

There are lots of good, flat rocks on the top of Millstone Hill, so we sat down and unpacked our picnic basket (well, not a basket per say, but it had all the ingredients of a Saturday picnic, napkins included) and enjoyed the sunny weather. There was a cold-ish breeze but not strong enough to disturb us, yet Kevin said it would be much colder and less pleasant on a Munro summit today. Just as well we picked lower heights!
From Millstone Hill, we returned to the ascent path for Mither Tap, but left it quickly to follow Gordon Way, which winds its way through the forest, just to emerge on the higher slopes and give some great views. The colours of autumn were everywhere:
2017-09-30 bennachie 087.JPG

Millstone Hill from Gordon Way:
2017-09-30 bennachie 085.JPG

Supposedly, Gordon Way is not maintained (as a note said at the car park), but the path was good all the way, we even met a cyclist making his way down the slope... If a mountain biker can go down, we can certainly go up, Kevin laughed.
"Beware, Gordon Way is not maintained. It's dangerous for inexperienced walkers!" :wtf: :wtf: :eh:
2017-09-30 bennachie 089.JPG

In case one is lost, there are waymarks everywhere:
2017-09-30 bennachie 093.JPG

The path ascends to the main plateau and it's possible to head straight for Oxen Craig, but we took a detour to Watch Craig (behind me in this picture). I was in the "meow as much as you can" mood:
2017-09-30 bennachie 094.JPG

The path to Watch Craig is the only slightly boggy part of this whole route, but it's worth jumping over a few muddy puddles to visit this top as views are excellent. Here, looking to Millstone Hill and Gordon Way below:
2017-09-30 bennachie 101.JPG

Oxen Craig from Watch Craig:
2017-09-30 bennachie 098.JPG

Five minutes break on the top:
2017-09-30 bennachie 102.JPG

Zoom to Tap O'Noth and Ben Rinnes:
2017-09-30 bennachie 108.JPG

Watch Craig is possibly the only top of the Bennachie complex not visited by hoards of tourists, we sat here for a short time, enjoying the silence for a change :lol: , before traversing the short distance to Oxen Craig, the highest summit of Bennachie.
Watch Craig from Oxen Craig:
2017-09-30 bennachie 112.JPG

Mither Tap from Oxen Craig. Note a large group of walkers on the path to the left - our moments of solitude were over!
2017-09-30 bennachie 114.JPG

The summit cairn of Oxen Craig:
2017-09-30 bennachie 116.JPG

View north-west:
2017-09-30 bennachie 121.JPG

Zoom to Mither Tap:
2017-09-30 bennachie 126.JPG

On the summit with Lucy and a mini-windfarm :lol: :lol:
2017-09-30 bennachie 132.JPG

The descent path:
2017-09-30 bennachie 136.JPG

From the highest summit we followed paths across the moorland to the last top on our explorations, Craigshannoch. It was getting colder and the wind picked up, but we were happy to do some more lurking. Craigshannoch has some interesting tors on the top:
2017-09-30 bennachie 139.JPG

View north from the cairn:
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 144 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Ohhh, there's always one of them things in sight!!!
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 146 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
I wondered if we could return to Mither Tap for more photos of the fort, but as I had a closer look, there were still crowds of people on top so I gave up:
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 150 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
Looking back to Craigshannoch:
Image2017-09-30 bennachie 147 by Ewa Dalziel, on Flickr
The path descended from the last top to join the Maiden Causeway and our route up the hill. The main path was busy, people everywhere, mostly descending, some ascending. Well, hardly surprising, it was a lovely Saturday and Aberdeen is only a short drive away...
The whole circuit took us 5.5 hours at lazy pace and that including long stops :D What a fantastic wee group of hills to explore! I admit, they are a bit crowded but even so, well worth a visit. Highly recommended by the meowing one!
Last edited by BlackPanther on Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The bonnie Bennachie

Postby dogplodder » Fri Oct 06, 2017 4:50 pm

I'm ashamed to say I spent 4 years as a student in Aberdeen and never climbed Bennachie. Your report will be a great incentive to rectify that sometime soon. :wink:
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