Wednesday 26 August
Mither Tap, Bennachie (Oxen Craig) and Millstone Hill (NW of Aberdeen)
What a disappointment to look out this morning to see that we were in a cloud! There was a brief period of an inversion below us, but by the time we set out we were back in that cloud again. Mither Tap/Bennachie is such a good looking hill, and it looked awfully like we weren’t going to see anything of our walk over the tops.
Out into the mizzle we headed (which was occasionally interspersed with real rain), and up the motorwayesque path to Mither Tap. Given the weather, I was willing to omit this top, but Mick voted to visit it anyway and he was absolutely right in that decision. As hill forts go, this one was impressive even in the murk. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really the weather to take any photos to illustrate the point, although I did snap Mick at the top:
These hills are liberally scattered with signposts, which would be very handy if you knew the names of all of the car parks and their locations. Even so, that’s no excuse for me choosing the wrong turn at one of those signposts and heading off down the wrong side of the hill (yep, that’s twice I’ve done that in the murk in the space of the last three hills!). There was nothing for it but to backtrack (back up the steep bit we’d just come down).
Interesting rocks on our way up Oxen Craig
Whilst Mither Tap is the most interesting bit of this ridge (I say having seen it from other vantage points in better weather than this morning’s!), the high point is Oxen Craig, so that’s where we headed next. As you can see, we were still suffering rather poor visibility:
Handily, where I had expected to be yomping through heather, there’s a path that doesn’t exist on my map, and it sped us on to the Gordon Trail, where finally holes started to appear in the gloom. Indeed, we even had some sunny periods. It wasn’t long before our next hill (Millstone Hill) was visible ahead of us:
And, by the time we got there, our morning’s work was clearly visible behind us:
Millstone Hill was a little out-and-back detour in what was otherwise a circular walk, which saw us return via the Bennachie Visitor Centre (or, at least, we passed within 100m of it) and the Turnpike Track. Having passed dozens of signposts throughout the rest of our walk, they suddenly disappeared on the Turnpike, even though it’s one of the walks marked on the Visitor Centre maps, and even though there was only one confusing junction. I was confused, at any rate, and we did take a brief foray up the wrong track before putting ourselves back right.
I’ve noted quite consistently that almost every house in the north of Scotland, which has internet, uses BT, which is great for those of us with BT Log-in credentials, as almost all BT users host a public hotspot. Today, it was along the Turnpike Track that I saw a nearby house and thought “I wonder if their wifi will reach this far”, as I really wanted to look up some details for the next hill (Cairn William is shown on the map as having a summit surrounded by forest, and if I could glean some information from hill-bagging.co.uk then potentially it was going to save me from having to bash through a forest). A couple of minutes of loitering on the forest track later and I had the information that I needed, and another hill had been added to the agenda for the day.
This first outing had been 11.2 miles with 2800’ of ascent (As I sit and type this at 6.30pm, back in the same car park as we set out from this morning, the skies are blue; it’s almost tempting to nip back up the hill to see what we missed this morning.)