One More Bennachie Trig

Sub 2000s: Bennachie (Oxen Craig), Millstone Hill

Date walked: 03/02/2024

Time taken: 4.5 hours

Distance: 19.9km

Ascent: 818m

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I hadn't been anywhere in 2024 so far, and was getting itchy feet. The forecast didn't look great, but this part of the country seemed to avoid the weather warnings for high winds - according to the website I looked at, at least. And since there were plenty of Subs I hadn't visited, I considered my options for a while before picking a rather popular duo: Oxen Craig and Millstone Hill. But rather than going for one of the northern car parks, which I felt would fill sooner, I opted to go for Donview, with a bit of an alternative route in mind.

The winds of the past few weeks also played a role in my hill choice, as I wanted to avoid walking through the woods for too long. After leaving the car park (which was still full, at least in terms of the normal places, but I managed to drive up onto a bit of grass and leave the car there), I immediately had to deal with 2 or 3 trees that had fallen across the path. But they'd be the only fallen trees I'd come across during the walk.

And further on, the path was clear,

Well signed,

And aided by steps on occasion

The summit of Millstone Hill was reached quickly, meeting quite a few people on the way. Just half an hour since the car park. But I still felt slow, and was struggling more than I would've liked throughout the ascent. No wonder; staying at home, indoors, doesn't do much to keep one in shape...

Looking NE, there was the fork in the path I'd take (though upon coming closer, I also found a sign saying the left path was heading for Mither Tap)

Speaking of, Bennachie was just ahead, from Mither Tap on the right to Oxen Craig on the left

And on the descent, there were the mesh-covered planks mentioned in the official walk description

Coming down, and taking a rather sharp left turn, I reached the woods again, as well as a more complicated network of paths. But the signage was still excellent, so the next uphill part was fast approaching.

Maybe I knew what to expect of myself by then, because the Mither Tap ascent felt a lot more pleasant, even though it was - at most - 40 metres smaller than the first one, up Millstone Hill

Just below the rocky summit, there was a junction of sorts, with a path leading uphill but the sign for the summit pointing left. I went left, and ended up tracing maybe half a circle around Mither Tap, clockwise, before finally making the final ascent. Perhaps I could've gone straight up then and taken the official path down - but only in better weather; up there, it was still quite windy. (To be fair, I'd searched for an Inverurie forecast; on Bennachie, the wind could've easily passed the warning threshold.)

Mither Tap, as mapped, had a trig

And the web of paths connecting the numerous Bennachie tops was clearly visible

Because of the wind, I quickly snapped a few pictures on the summit before crouching down behind one of the rocks and having a snack. When I looked up, ready to leave, the sight of a rather large dog standing right above me gave me a start. :lol:

Mither Tap seemed to be quite popular with dogs, either way. I can remember at least 4 that I came across just on the final bit where I retraced my steps. Further on, I took the path towards Craigshannoch: a great deal emptier than Mither Tap, when it came to both people and dogs. This whole bit - the heather, the wind, the cold, and the loneliness - made me feel strangely nostalgic for some reason, even though I'd never been to Bennachie before...

Back to Mither Tap

And ahead to Oxen Craig

Looking down from Craigshannoch, the most direct path to Oxen Craig looked suspicious, like it could be boggy, so I turned left one junction earlier. I guess I would've been fine either way, but for 170 extra metres, no hard deliberation is required.

19 minutes later, I reached the summit of Oxen Craig, and could claim I'd bagged both Subs on the day's agenda

Not sure if this counts as a trig on top of Oxen Craig

W of Oxen Craig, I had to cross a boulderfield reminiscent of Stob Ghabhar before picking up a path again. This path was worse than the previous ones, but still very much okay, so I made short work of the next stretch and found myself standing on Watch Craig, the next Top of Bennachie.

From there, I could keep Watch over River Don

By this point, I was checking my position on a phone app to make sure I'd take the correct path on each junction. (Not the WH app; a different one.) And... compared to the OS Maps, considerably more paths were marked on the app. Including the one I found there, and also IRL, that took me to the summit of Hermit Seat. It's only now that I see this path is absent from the OS maps - which is why the route shown is only an approximation.

The name is appropriate, though; sure, I could see footprints in the mud, but as far as living people went (heh), I hadn't seen a soul since Oxen Craig (the centre hill of this picture, with Craigshannoch on the left and Watch Craig on the right)

Then, I turned SW, heading for the corner of the fence (fences being something the app didn't show), and turning left to continue alongside it for a minute, before a proper track and a gate were reached

Immediately, I turned left onto a smaller path traversing Black Hill. Close to its end, I reached the other trig of Bennachie, and another reason why I wanted to start from Donview: the Black Hill trig

Further on, I reached the kind of track where calling it one wasn't being overly generous

To reiterate; I was still checking my position on the phone app. The app showed a path reaching all the way to the 363 m top before descending. I turned left before the woods to reach the place where it was meant to branch off to the right - except once there, I could still only see the woods in front of me; no path. So I turned back and went for an alternative.

The alternative: a path heading directly down along the dyke. Surprisingly, the track, shown to continue in the same direction beyond the dyke on the OS map, was absent from the app

If I'd continued all the way down on this path, I would've been deposited on a minor road I could follow to the 'major' (still unnamed) road and back to Donview. But there was another option. I'd have plenty of road walking left anyway, I reasoned, so maybe 80% of the way down, I took a faint path cutting diagonally across the slope.

The path was just about clear enough to follow, cutting sometimes through heather, sometimes through gorse (the former was definitely preferable), and sometimes bracken, which posed no issue in February. But finding my way through some large and luscious gorse bushes, I was starting to regret turning away from the road. Possibly because I was starting to feel the exhaustion again.

Ultimately, I joined a track - the one I really hadn't needed to leave? - and followed it down to the road

All that remained was almost an hour of walking on the road. At 4.5 hours at reasonable pace, I couldn't have hoped for a much longer winter walk anyway. I just really need to do something about how misshapen I am.

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Filter reports



Trips: 1
Distance: 19.9 km
Ascent: 818m
Sub2000s: 2


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Ascent: 20172m
Munros: 10
Corbetts: 2
Fionas: 8
Donalds: 5
Sub2000s: 9
Hewitts: 15


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Munros: 14
Corbetts: 6
Fionas: 8
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Joined: Jul 08, 2019
Last visited: Jun 17, 2024
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