Hill: Bennachie (Oxencraig)
Date: Friday 8th January 2016
Company: Myself, Becky and Cuillin
Distance: 4.5km, Ascent: 325m
Time: 2Hrs 35Mins

After what has seemed like an eternity of wind and rain, the forecast for today looked reasonable in North-East Scotland. The biggest problem today was actually getting to a hill as a large number of roads were closed due to flooding. Due to flooding and snow, a large number of schools across the Shire were also closed. I would therefore be walking today with Cuillin and Becky .

I gave Becky the option of a repeat ascent of Bennachie or a first ascent of Brown Muir, near Elgin. Becky opted for Bennachie; a great choice!

After a brief visit to Insch to get some change for parking, we parked in the Forestry Commission's Back o' Bennachie car park.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

Becky last walked this hill in June 2013. I last walked Bennachie in September 2015. It is a fantastic, iconic North-East hill.

We followed the over-sized signs from the car park up towards Little Oxencraig. Having walked this route dozens of times previously, I definitely had no need for a map, compass or over-sized signs.

On the forestry track a short distance above the Back o' Bennachie car park:

The walk up through the trees didn't take long albeit we had to take care on slippery tree roots which had a covering of slush.

On exiting the forest, it was great to get out into the open with blue skies above and no wind.

Above the tree line:

As we gained height, I wondered if we would see areas of flooding below as Inverurie, Kintore and Kemnay had experienced flooding during the previous 24 hours. We couldn't see any flooding from our route today.

The past two weeks have seen an unprecedented volume of rainfall in the Shire with much flooding and structural damage. I have felt sorry for those affected particularly in the Ballater and Braemar area.

Following the track towards Little Oxencraig:

Given the depth of snow, which Becky was not used to walking in, we took our time during the ascent.

Becky on the ascent towards Oxencraig:

Becky on the ascent towards Oxencraig:

Cuillin really enjoyed bunny-hopping around in the snow. The snow was often deeper than the length of his legs.


View towards Tap o' Noth and The Buck o' Cabrach:

Cuillin having fun:

Craigshannoch and Mither Tap looked great today and had I been on my own, I would have also taken in these tops. However, as Becky was already tiring during the ascent due to the depth of snow, we opted for an ascent of Oxencraig only, Bennachie's highest top.

View towards Craigshannoch during ascent towards Little Oxencraig:

Just beyond Little Oxencraig:

Becky with Craigshannoch in the background:

Beyond Little Oxencraig, the snow was even deeper, at times coming up to Becky's knees. To make life easier for Becky, I ploughed a furrow up through the snow.

Cuillin gathering sna' ba's:

Ascent towards Oxencraig:

Craigshannoch and Mither Tap:

Ascending Oxencraig:

On reaching the small crag at Oxencraig's summit, we followed an easy route up onto the crag and continued on to the summit toposcope.

Approaching Oxencraig's summit crag:

Mither Tap from Oxencraig:

We spent a good ten to fifteen minutes at the summit taking photos and enjoying the views. Despite the snow, it was not particularly cold up there.

Many believe Mither Tap to be the summit of Bennachie. It is not. Oxencraig is circa 10m higher than Mither Tap. Mither Tap is however the finest of the many tops of Bennachie.

Becky at the summit of Bennachie (Oxencraig):

Becky and Cuillin at the summit of Bennachie (Oxencraig):

Becky and Cuillin at the summit of Bennachie (Oxencraig):

Becky and Cuillin at the summit of Bennachie (Oxencraig):

Looking towards the stone shelter on Oxencraig:

Craigshannoch and Mither Tap from Oxencraig:

Mither Tap (zoom):

From the summit, we made our way back to the car exactly following our in-bound route.

Little Oxencraig during descent:

During the entire ascent and descent, we only saw seven other people on the hill. On a busy day, I have seen a hundred plus on Bennachie.

View during descent:

A really enjoyable walk up one of my favourite small hills in Scotland .