Hill: Bennachie
Date: Thursday 14th July 2016
Company: Myself and Cuillin
Distance: 9.1km, Ascent: 495m
Time: 3Hrs

On finishing work at 17:15 yesterday, I felt the need to get outdoors. With the weather due to turn to rain yet again for the weekend, I decided to head out somewhere local to get some fresh air, to walk the dog and most of all to escape all the current media coverage of politics and politicians. The political system in the UK is broken and it doesn't look fixable while party politics continue in their current form.

My initial thinking was to head to Insch for an ascent of Dunnideer hill, a very small hill I have not been up previously. However, on arriving in Insch and seeing Bennachie in the background, all thoughts of ascending Dunnideer hill were abandoned in favour of yet another ascent of Bennachie. For my ascent of Bennachie, I parked in the Forestry Commission Back o' Bennachie car park. Parking charge is £2 for the full day or less for less time.

My last ascent of Bennachie was six months previous in very different conditions: previous report. As the tracks on Bennachie are top quality, I decided to undertake the walk in trail shoes; no need for boots.

Click here to see a map of the route undertaken

From the car park, I set off walking at a nice slow pace keeping Cuillin as much as possible to the centre of the paths to avoid ticks; having removed numerous this week already following our ascent of the White Mounth hills on Saturday.

Start of track from the Back o' Bennachie car park:

Within minutes of setting off, I was stopping to photograph various plants and fungi. I soon realised though that if I carried on at my current pace, I would get off the hill around midnight! I therefore stepped-up one gear as we made our way up through the Back o' Bennachie forestry.

A Foxglove:

On exiting the forestry, it was great to see blue sky with nice wispy cirrus.

Nice filaments of cirrus during the ascent towards Little Oxencraig:

During our ascent towards Little Oxencraig, we were overtaken by a fellrunner with his dog. My pace was significantly slower than his .

Heading towards Little Oxencraig:

Aberdeenshire views:

When ascending Bennachie from the Back o' Bennachie, I almost always undertake an anti-clockwise circuit of Bennachie's tops. This time I opted to undertake a clockwise circuit visiting Craigshannoch first and Oxencraig last.

Looking towards Craigshannoch from Little Oxencraig area:

Looking towards Mither Tap from Craigshannoch:

Looking towards Mither Tap from Craigshannoch:

While stopped at Craigshannoch, I took the opportunity to give Cuillin a good drink as he was feeling the heat; trim due next week.

Cuillin at the top of Craigshannoch:

The visibility was fairly good as I could see Knock Hill and Bin of Cullen, Tap o' Noth and the Buck, Mount Keen and Lochnagar and even Clachnaben easily identifiable from its summit tor.

A distant Clachnaben (zoom):

Despite being 10m lower than Oxencraig, Mither Tap is definitely the best of Bennachie's tops and the most frequently visited. Many ascending Bennachie believe Mither Tap to be the summit. It is not.

Heading for Mither Tap:

Approaching Mither Tap:

There are two E3 climbs on the summit rocks of Mither Tap aptly named Mitherficker and Fingerficker; typical North-East climbing humour .

Rocky outcrops at Mither Tap:

Mither Tap is home to an iron age hill fort. Nearby Tap o' Noth also has a summit hill fort. The hill fort remains are substantial but do not cover a large area. The hill fort on Ben Griam Beg in Caithness is much larger but not as impressive in my opinion. The most impressive UK hill fort I have visited is on Tre'r Ceiri in Wales.

Ancient hill fort on final ascent of Mither Tap:

We spent around ten minutes at the top of Mither Tap. It was great to see so many young lads and lasses out on the hill. Reminded me of doing the same circa 25 years previous; feck I'm getting auld .

Cuillin at the top of Mither Tap:

View from Mither Tap:

From Mither Tap, we made our way back to the Back o' Bennachie car park via Bennachie's highest top, Oxencraig.

Looking down to the ancient hill fort:

Path through the hill fort:

Approaching Oxencraig:

On reaching the summit of Oxencraig, we again stopped for circa ten minutes. I was half-tempted to wait for the sunset but that would have meant waiting there for around 90 minutes. On my next visit I might take the tent with me to watch the sunset and spend the night on the hill.

Cuillin atop the Oxencraig toposcope:

From the summit, we made our way back down to the car.

Descent from Little Oxencraig back to the Back o' Bennachie car park:

Bennachie is a great hill with fantastic paths; an excellent hill for introducing young children to hillwalking. It has numerous tops which can be visited from a number of starting points and walked via a number of routes. I only wish the Forestry Commission would rethink the size and placement of their currently over-sized signs. The sign placed at the summit of Bennachie is particularly inappropriate as it is visible on the skyline from miles around.