Afforsk Cross Stone (NJ 695 208)
About 40 metres into the forest from the most northerly field of Mains of Afforsk there is an eminence topped with a Bronze Age cairn. At the edge of the cairn there is a stone which attracted the attention of Mike Davidson, a former Clerk to the Bailies of Bennachie. It was covered with moss which he removed and was astonished to find a Pictish incised cross. Archaeologists discovered on its edge a line of Ogham symbols, a primitive form of writing.
Air Crashes on Bennachie
There have been two air crashes on Bennachie - in 1939 and in 1952
On 3rd September 1939 a Westland Wallace biplane, piloted by Pilot Officer Ellard Cummings with Leading Aircraftman Ronald Stewart as gunner, crashed on the south- east side of Bruntwood Tap.
The plane was a Wallace Mk II target tugplane, serial number K6028, on charge to No. 9 Air Observer School (AOS) at RAF Penhros, North Wales, formed to train observers in navigation, bomb aiming, photography and gunnery. It was on a ferry flight from 1 AOS at RAF Wigtown, which had just been disbanded, to 9 AOS. It was flying from Wigtown to RAF Evanton, Easter Ross. It was on the Dyce- Evanton leg, on the correct route but flying too low to clear the hill which was shrouded in mist. Ellard and Ronald died in the crash. They are officially recognised as the first military casualties of World War II. Wreckage of the Wallace is still there but must be left as a memorial to these brave young men.
The cause of the crash was attributed to the poor visibility prevailing at the time. Time of deaths was given as 3pm but his niece, Helen, has Ronald’s watch which stopped at 3.10pm.
Ellard Alexander Cummings, Service No. 40803, the son of James Victor Cummings and Edith Fanny Ellard, was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on 14 February, 1916 He was the oldest of a family of six, his brothers being James, Donald, Kenneth and John and sister Myrle. His brother Kenneth, Royal Canadian Air Force, died when he was shot down over Leipzig, Germany, in 1944. Brothers Donald and Clayton served in WW II in Canada.He had a wonderful childhood growing up in Ottawa and spending his summers at the Cummings cottage on the Ottawa River. He was a handsome and charming lad, always smiling and all the ladies loved him. He loved music, playing the banjo, mandolin, trombone and piano, winning musical awards along the way. Other passions were sports, his motorcycle and the family car. He liked to drive as fast as possible! Perhaps that is why he made the decision to become a pilot.He was chosen by the British Government for flight training in the RAF. What the qualifications were, what process Ellard would have had to follow is unknown. In 1938 he signed up for the RAF. Along with a small number of other selected Canadians he sailed on the Cunard White Star Andania arriving in Britain in April 1938. He trained at Sywell, Northampton. At the time of his death he was posted to No 1 AOS at Northcoates in East Lincolnshire.He was 23 when he died and is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave (grave 1949) in the Grove Cemetery, Aberdeen.
His brother John was 6 years old when Ellard died but still remembers a piano piece he taught him. John will be involved in the unveiling of the memorial cairn on 2nd September 2012.
Alexander Ronald Renfrew Stewart, Service No. 521250, the son of Alan and Elizabeth Stewart, was born in Paisley in 1915. He had two brothers and two sisters.
His brother John and his Dad visited the site of the crash shortly after it happened. John took a bit of the wooden propeller and from it carved two tiny replicas of the Wallace, one for each family. These are still treasured possessions. John’s daughter Helen hopes to come for the unveiling and with her husband Bill Riddick . We hope to add to our knowledge of Ronald. Apparently he was due to marry three weeks after the crash.
He was 24 when he died and is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave ( Sec. S. grave 391 ) in Hawkhead Cemetery, Paisley.
On 12th February 1952 a Gloster Meteor single-seat turbo-jet powered fighter crashed west of Oxen Craig with the loss of its pilot, Pilot Officer Brian Lightfoot.
The plane was a Meteor F Mark 8, Serial No. WA882 of No. 222 Squadron, RAF Leuchars. It took off from Leuchars at 9.58am to carry out a low flying and cross-country exercise. The country was covered in snow and there were frequent snow showers. The late Mrs Lottie Marr of the Mill of Tilliefoure saw and heard the plane. At 10.20am she saw on the hill a cloud of black smoke, heard a thud and then a much louder bang. It had exploded on impact scattering wreckage over a large area.
A team of seven airmen from no.44 Maintenance Unit, RAF Edzell, arrived two weeks later to bury the wreckage and spent nine days in cold and wintry conditions on the task. They didn’t find all of it and as in the case of the Wallace it must be left as a memorial to a brave and talented young man. Near the crash site there is a roughly constructed stone cairn with bits of wreckage which must have been erected by the RAF lads as a tribute to the pilot. It is this cairn which has been rebuilt to house the pink granite plaque bearing the name of the three who lost their lives
The official cause of Brian’s crash was put down to “poor definition of snow covered mountains in the prevailing conditions”
John Brian Lightfoot was the son of Thomas Monty Lightfoot and Juanita Blakey of Northallerton, Yorkshire, was born on 8th December, 1929. Known as Brian, he was educated locally then went as a boarder to Barnard Castle School from 1942 -1948. In his final year he captained the school swimming team and was Company Sergeant Major for the combined Cadet Force. He won the cross country race called the Barnard Run in 1943 and 1947. He was an officer cadet at Cranwell and was granted a permanent commission on passing out. His father had an ironmongers business, was Chairman of the Northallerton Chamber of Trade and served in the RAF throughout WW II. Brian had no brothers or sisters. His cousin Julie Blakey will be involved in the unveiling ceremony at the cairn.
At the time of Brian’s death RAF doctors were researching “the stresses and strains of flying in modern aircraft at speeds approaching the speed of sound “ and learning to fly the Meteor to gain first hand experience of the conditions which pilots encounter. Maybe it was the lack of such knowledge that contributed to the crash. In the year Brian died a Meteor was written off every two days and a Meteor pilot was killed every four days.
He was 22 when he died and was buried in a Commonwealth War Grave on 16th February at Leuchars Cemetery with full military honours.
We would ask that people do not remove or disturb any remaining wreckage on the hill but leave it as a memorial to these brave young men.
A memorial plaque, commissioned by the Bailies of Bennachie has been built into a cairn on the south side of Oxen Craig to commemorate them.
Averon Knap or Moss Grieve (NJ 666 226, 475m)
This is scarcely a top but rather an elevated mound some 0.5 km east of Oxen Craig. It is close to an area of deep peat and in the days of the peat cutters it would have been regarded as a sort of grieve (“gaffer”) looking down on them. The other name refers to the fact that averons (cloudberries) are present because of the deep peat and altitude. These are plants with strawberry-type leaves and flowers and fruits like large raspberries which are orange when ripe. They should not be eaten raw but do make a lovely jelly.
Battle of Harlaw
In 1411 there was a great and bloody battle at Harlaw which lies between Inverurie and Bennachie. On the north side of the Urie is the site of the Battle of Harlaw Monument (GR NJ 752 243). The battle was between Donald, Lord of the Isles, and Alexander, Earl of Marr, supported by the Provost and Bailies of Aberdeen. The legend of Harlaw tells a sad tale. Hosie, a local lad, and his bride were in church for their wedding when news arrived that the army of Highlanders was advancing to Harlaw. Off to battle went Hosie. He fought valiantly, chased after the retreating Highlanders rather too ardently, got himself captured and was taken away to a dungeon in the Hebrides. Escaping many years later, he came home to claim his bride, who had in the meantime married another. Hosie died of a broken heart and was buried on the slopes of Bennachie close to the Rushmill burn, where Hosie’s well can be seen. “The water that rises in Hosie’s well (GR NJ 682 232) is nothing but Hosie’s tears”
Bede House (NJ69342358)
Remains of building partly hidden under plantation trees known locally as the Bede House.
A “Bede house” was a hostelry/hospital of medieval origin for displaced men built and served by a religious house or landowner.
The Bennachie Bede House lies 500mts to the southwest of Pittodrie House (now a hotel) alongside a turnpike road at a junction with an older road that used to skirt Bennachie to the East and South.
Ref; McConnachie A I 1890. Bennachie p27
Wikipedia Bede House. Old Aberdeen
The Bennachie Centre was opened by Honorary Bailie HRH Prince Charles on 27 April 1995. It interprets both the interesting natural and social history of the hill. The Centre’s emblem is a cuckoo (see Gouk Stane).
The building was designed by Ronald Reid of the Dodds, Jamieson Partnership after a competition run by Gordon District Council in 1991. It has been designed so that it fits well into the Scots pine woodland that surrounds the centre. The building mimics the Iron Age hill fort found around Mither Tap. You can enter the courtyard at the centre via a drawbridge which aims to remind visitors of the fortresses, castles and battles of the area. The Centre was built by The Bennachie Centre Trust and Gordon District Council with funding from Gordon District Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Grampian Enterprise Ltd, Forestry Commission, Bailies of Bennachie and European Community. It is managed by the Bennachie Centre Trust but is reliant on Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service and Wardens for its day to day operation.
Bennachie Landscapes Project
A research project on The Bennachie Settlers was produced by Marcia Hendry who has been very kind in allowing us to use it on our web site.
Black Hill (NJ 635 219, 433m)
This is the most westerly point of the Bennachie range. On its summit is an O.S. Trig Point, one of two on the hill, the other being on the Mither Tap. Both, now redundant are being maintained by the Bailies of Bennachie. From the top a ridge descends SSW for over 1Km to a smaller unnamed top (363m) conspicuous from below because of a small plantation of larch trees. This part of the hill is owned by Castle Forbes Estate. The late Lottie Marr of the Mill of Tilliefoure was in no doubt that they had been planted on the birth of the present Lord Forbes so that when his 21st birthday was being celebrated there would be an abundant supply of wood for a massive bonfire visible from miles around. However when Lord Forbes was 21 he was away serving King and Country in the Second World War so the trees remain. At the time of writing, his Lordship, long time Guardian of Bennachie and in his nineties, has no knowledge of Mrs Marr’s theory!
Boghead of Tullos ( see also Esson’s croft)
On Bennachie there are several boundary stones that mark the Division of the Comonity of Bennachie in 1859. Bennachie was divided up by nine neighbouring lairds and these boundary stones mark the limit of their land ownership.
Bruntwood Tap (411m)
This is just over 1Km south east of Oxen Craig. It is difficult to access as the heather is very long and there are many hidden holes and boulders. It was on its south side that the Westland Wallace biplane crashed in 1939.
Colony and Division of the Commonty
On the eastern most side of Bennachie are small grass fields now largely colonised with rushes and surrounded by pines and spruce trees. This is Esson’s Croft, part of the colony where the settlers in the land hunger at the beginning of the 19th century made little crofts. Toil and sweat turned areas of heather moor into arable fields surrounded by substantial stone dykes. The houses were simple two roomed thatched cottages, the walls made from stones from the hillside with clay being used instead of cement. By 1850 there were about 60 people living in this township on the north of the Clachie burn. At that time Bennachie was a Commonty where anybody living around the slopes had the right to graze sheep and cattle and take peats, wood, stone and heather.
Neighbouring lairds wanted Bennachie for themselves, so they drew up a plan to divide Bennachie into nine parts. In 1859 the Court of Session in Edinburgh approved the division of the Commonty and the Bennachie Colonists discovered they no longer owned or even had any right to stay in the houses they had built, nor cultivate their fields. They had to pay rent to Fetternear Estate or leave. Some stayed on, but those unable to pay either relied on the Poor Board, their families or were evicted. It is believed that a sheriff’s officer, policeman, factor and estate employees would pull down a course of masonry so that the wall would collapse. There was a great outcry against the “Rape of Bennachie” but, as nobody took court action within 40 years of approval by the Court of Session, it became law. The lairds’ victory is commemorated in the “Thieves Mark” on the bedrock on top of Mither Tap – “B” stands for Balquhain, “P” for Pittodrie and “LE” for Logie Elphinstone and the date 1858 although Court of Session approval was not given until 1859.
The remains of many of the houses are still there as well as fruit bushes, laurel and honeysuckle which the people had planted. Over the years, Forestry Commission Scotland has removed trees around these homesteads. Please treat these ruins with respect and visit the Bennachie Centre for more details. The Bailies of Bennachie have undertaken much recent work about the colonist and have produced a free leaflet and book about this subject see section 11( references).
The last of the colonists was a remarkable man called George Esson who had returned from America and worked locally as a mason and drystane dyker. He died in 1939 in his cottage. His grave is at Chapel of Garioch churchyard across the road from the Church. On his headstone are inscribed the words “George Esson – descended from the first and himself the last of the colonists of Bennachie”. He appears to have been very strong and well educated as some of his remaining letters prove. In the dykes around his house are recesses for hens’ nests.
Colony Surveying June 2010
A short version of this article was printed in our 2010 Newsletter, to read the full article click here.
Craigshannoch (GR NJ 672 232, 418m) & Harthill’s Cave (GR NJ 672 233)
Craigshannoch means “hill of the foxes”. This is an interesting top with a rocky summit and a line of cliffs descending to the north in what is almost an arête Here there is some fine rock scenery. About half way down the rocky “arête” is Harthill’s Cave. It was here that the notorious Leith, laird of Harthill, hid as he watched his Castle burn having set fire to it to spite his creditors. The entrance is low but inside a number of people could be accommodated in deteriorating weather conditions. A steep, vestigial path descends to Nursery Cottage, but is only recommended for the sure footed.
English Quarry ( see also Quarries)
This quarry lies just above the tree line, due south of Garbit Tap. It was opened and worked by an English company. The granite blocks were shipped to build the docks at Sheerness and part of the Thames Embankment. Production ceased around 1820. On the east side of the quarry next to the Gordon Way is the ruins of the quarry smiddy. Eccentric Willie Jamieson
(“Heedie craw o’ Bennachie”) stayed in the smiddy from1850 for several years.
Esson’s Croft (GR 693 220) also known as Boghead of Tullos
This is the area of small fields surrounding a ruined cottage, barn and byre about 0.5Km (600 yards) north west of the Bennachie Centre. This was the home of George Esson, the last of the Bennachie Colonists, who lived there for many years. He was a mason and drystone dyker, cultivated the croft and died there in 1939. It is privately owned and no longer used for crop production or animal grazing. There is an access route through it linking the Colony Trail with the Mither Tap Timeline Trail.
Fog House (NJ69372342)
Fog: “Moss” :CSD
Fog House; small garden summer house lined (or possibly roofed) with turf :CSD
Standing on the banks of the Rushmill Burn below the Linn (waterfall) in a semi ruinous state, due partly, according to the Banffshire Journal dated Aug 1864, under the heading of Bennachie and Excursionists “they broke the windows, and took the door off the hinges, and, throwing the furniture into the burn below, left it in a ruin!”.
According to McConnachie “Bennachie” 1890, the Fog House was built “a good few years ago”
CSD; Concise Scots Dictionary
With special thanks to Mr John Jessiman for the newspaper article
Garbit Tap (468m)
This is 1km south of Craigshannoch and has some fine cliff scenery on its south side but there is no proper path to it.
Gouk Stane (NJ 693 217)
The Bennachie Colonists believed that when a cuckoo returns to Bennachie in the spring it perched on this stone to proclaim its arrival. Adults arrive in late March or April and depart in July or August, with young birds leaving a month or so later. In the wall beside it look for the hatching cuckoo egg and try to decipher the inscription. The cuckoo (Gouk) is used as the symbol at the Bennachie Centre. This large stone is next to the ruins of a colony house and was a Commonty boundary stone.
Harthill cave ( see Craigshannoch)
Hermit Seat (GR 644 229,478m)
In “Bennachie” by Alex Inkson McConnochie 1890 it is said that a “hermit” used to frequent this part of the hill.
Hosie’s Well (NJ 681261)
Situated beside the Rowan Tree footpath and used for generations as a resting and picnic spot on the way up to Mither Tap, Hosie’s Well sits also beside the Maiden Causeway (see below under M).
The Battle of Harlaw took place in 1411 on the sloping land to the west of Inverurie. Here the Earl of Mar and his men fought the Highlanders in a bloody battle. Hosie, a local man, was on his way to marry his bride when he was persuaded to fight in the battle instead, postponing his wedding. After the battle, he was imprisoned in a Hebridean dungeon for several years. Eventually he escaped and went to find his bride to be. While he was in prison she had married someone else.
Hosie was heartbroken, and with nothing to live for, he died and was buried on the hill overlooking Mither Tap. The well near where he was buried is called “Hosie’s Well” because it was believed that the water in the well is “nothing but Hosie’s tears”.
Although it must be said McConnachie (Bennachie p50) appears to be unaware of him “who Hosie was has not been handed down by tradition, nothing but the name and the well remain”. What he does say though is “That some fifty years ago one William Gilmore built himself a hut there, the remains of which are still visible, close to the well, and lived in it with his family for about two years”. It does seem strange that McConnachie with his vast knowledge of Bennachie is totally oblivious to the Hosie legend.
The enigma is that on p79 he included the ballad of Hosie’s Well which he must have read. Curious!
Although Hosie is a Scots name ; Hose or House with the diminutive -ie: ending (Scottish Names, Waverley Books) this could be an alternative name from William Gilmore’s “hut”.
This is the name given to the 1km (approx) northern spur of Watch Craig. The word “hummel” is used in various connotations e.g. “hummel doddies” are gloves without fingers, a hummel stag is a stag without antlers so Hummel Craig presumably is so named as it has no outstanding features.
Jock o’ Bennachie
On the northeast corner of Bennachie rising from Berry Pot to the west, The Brow to the north and Stay Know and The Maiden Causeway to the east is a finger of land on top of which is a bed, laid out between two rocky tors. This bed, it is said was the resting place of a giant by the name of Jock, Jock o’ Bennachie.
The two tors are 800ft apart which by all accounts makes Jock a sizeable fellow, big enough to lob rocks as far as Tap o’ Noth by Rhynie 12miles distant as the crow (or in this case the rock) flies at another giant, also known as Jock, Jock o’ Noth, who in turn threw rocks back at Jock o’ Bennachie. The reason for this incredible feat of ping pong was not for sport but for love, for love of a Maiden, the same maiden, who sadly for our Jock, (Jock o’ Bennachie), decided she preferred Tap o’ Noth to Bennachie.
Jock (o’ Bennachie) is now believed to have taken himself off to a cave somewhere beneath Bennachie until the key can be found to release him.
There are many variations of this tale and the best place to find them is in Alex Inkson McConnochie’s “Bennachie” Chapter IV, Page 61.
Kewlie Well and Cup and Saucer Stone (NJ 697 219)
The Bennachie Centre takes water from what is believed to be the Kewlie well. It is recorded that the Laird’s wife from Tullos used to visit it for water for her tea. Close to the well is a stone with a cup size hole in it. Legend has it that the devil when in a rage threw his tankard from the top of Mither Tap and it left its impression in the stone!
Little John’s Length
This is the area between two small tors (NJ 678 234 and NJ 679 235) to the east of Craigshannoch and with a distance of 200m between them. According to legend it is the bed of the giant Jock o’ Bennachie
Little Oxen Craig (NJ 663 232, 425m)
This not a separate top, but a rocky eminence about 1KM (0.6 mile) north of Oxen Craig. As you climb Oxen Craig from the Back O’ Bennachie Car Park it is worthwhile to make the short diversion to the west to view the beautifully cut lintel stones left here as well as the quarry face(note the drill holes) from whence they came. A local builder, Fordyce by name, quarried the stone here in the 19th century. Imagine having to climb up to that height each morning to start work, have no shelter from the elements and be paid by results. A road from the quarry enabled the stone to be taken to Oyne but in August 1891, what has been described as a waterspout hit the hill in this area washing away the road and leaving a massive ravine. The dressed stones could not be removed and have remained here ever since.
Several juniper bushes have been planted in this area by the Bailies of Bennachie to commemorate a founder member, Mr Algy Watson MBE.
Macaulayite (GR 693 244), close to Rowan Tree Car Park
A red, earthy, monoclinic mineral. It was discovered in the 1970s by Dr Jeff Wilson and named after the Macaulay Institute (now know as the James Hutton Institute) Aberdeen. This is the only known source of macaulayite in the world and is formed from granite which has been weathered by tropical climates prior to the last Ice Age. The substance is currently being studied by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) as it is believed that this gives the planet Mars its colour possibly proving that life on Mars can be sustained.
Maiden Castle (GR NJ 694 244)
Close to the Rowan Tree Car Park, is a Pictish fort standing on a rocky outcrop surrounded by a ditch and a circle of mature trees. Excavations at the site have confirmed settlement in the area from 7,000BC up to mediaeval times. During excavations in 2009 a rare Iron Age cobbled road, a stone pendant, and a 1,000-year-old sparkling glass bead were discovered. It would have provided early inhabitants with a panoramic view of the Garioch, the neighbouring ancient hilltop forts on Mither Tap and Dunnydeer, and the Glens of Foudland, gateway to the Highlands. Maiden Castle was a very high-status residence, probably home to an ancient prince or king. There are only three or four sites like this in Aberdeenshire. The excavation have now been filled in to preserve the site.
The path from Rowan Tree Car Park to Mither Tap closely follows the line of an ancient roadway called the Maiden Causeway visible on aerial photographs in places. Some years ago digs in a couple of small areas revealed the actual existence of the Causeway. It is possible that it is the same age as the fort on the Mither Tap summit and could have been constructed to facilitate carting the enormous quantities of stone required for the fort’s construction. The legend of the Maiden Stone has the devil as its builder – believe that if you wish!
The Maiden Stone belongs to a slightly later period (around 700 – 800 AD) and has the symbols standing out in relief. It stands almost 3.5m (11 ft) high and has beautiful art work all over it. On the east side are four panels, the bottom having two figures, a mirror and a comb. The next panel has a representation of an “elephant”; above that a two legged rectangle and Z rod, and at the top four- legged beasts too faint to identify – some think the lower one is a centaur. The west side of the stone has sadly become very difficult to decipher due to the impact of weathering. The lower figure is a pattern of circles and Celtic knot work which is continued in what must have been a fantastically beautiful wicker –work pattern on the sides, this pattern probably being based on the extensive use of willow by early inhabitants in the construction of houses, boats, shields, baskets and so on. Above the circles stands a Celtic cross over 5 ft high, but the detail of the figures above the cross has disappeared. This stone is covered for protection during the winter months.
A famous legend probably gave the stone its name. The legend of the lovely Maiden of Drumdurno, tells of a rejected suitor who met the Devil in Pittodrie Woods and in exchange for his soul bought his revenge. It was the eve of her wedding when the maiden was baking oatcakes, singing at her work, when she looked up and there was a handsome stranger who wagered her that he would build a causeway right up to Mither Tap before she had finished baking her firlot of meal. “It sets ye weel to bake lass, gin ye had ony mair speed at it”. Thinking this but idle banter, she lightly promised her hand and heart would be his reward if he won. At twilight, her firlot was nearly all baked, she looked up and saw a causeway finished right up to the hill top and the handsome stranger whom she now recognised as Satan himself, coming to claim his reward. Terror-struck she ran to Pittodrie Woods, but the Devil caught her and as she cried for help, she was turned to a pillar of stone, known to this day as the Maiden Stone. The Mirror and Comb carved on this Pictish sculptured stone were pointed out by the superstitious as the maidens girdle and baking board, and the crack near the top as the mark of Satan’s hand.
Millstone Hill (NJ 676 692, 407m)
This hill is normally accessed from Donview Car Park and is a very worthwhile climb. The view from its summit is quite superb including the whole of the Bennachie massif from which it is separated by the watershed (at Heather
Brig) of the Clachie Burn flowing east and the Birks Burn going west. When the Forestry Commission first planted it there was a hut on the summit with a telephone cable running all the way downhill to the Forestry Houses (now privately owned). Every weekend and at times of considerable fire risk the hut was manned by a fire watcher. Apparently granite millstones were quarried on the hill but there is no record of the location of the quarry
Mithergarth (NJ 700 211) Scheduled Ancient Monument Iron Age
This is a group of four well-preserved late prehistoric ring-ditch houses and is less than 1 km south from the Bennachie Centre The site has considerable potential to enhance our understanding of late prehistoric roundhouses and the lives of the people who occupied them.
Mither Tap (GR 682 224, 518m)
Although not the highest point it is the most prominent and spectacular of all the Bennachie tops (the Fujiyama of Aberdeenshire!). The views from the summit are superb. A mountain indicator designed by the Bailies of Bennachie and near to the Ordnance Survey trig point is useful to identify the various landmarks including the high tops of the Cairngorms. Also on the summit carved in a square into the ganite bedrock are the letters “B”, “P”, “LE”, They stand for Balquhain, Pittodrie and Logie Elphinstone, indicating the meeting at the summit of these three estates on the division of the Commonty in 1859 (the lairds must have been confident of the outcome of their case in the Court of Session as the date carved is 1858!). Most people who climb the Tap will approach the final ascent through an entrance corridor in a massive but ruinous wall – the remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort (c. 500 BC-500AD but nobody is very sure). This massive rampart surrounded the summit except where the very steep cliffs on the north side rendered it unnecessary. These same cliffs mean that it is potentially very dangerous place so be careful especially in a strong wind. At the lowest point of the rampart (SW) look for the remains of the well with steps leading down to it (filled with stones, no water now)
Moss Grieve ( see Averon Knapp)
This “triangle” is a relatively recent name coined by the Bailies of Bennachie to identify that part of Bennachie allocated to Monymusk Estate at the Division of the Commonty in 1859. The north –east part of the triangle is marked by a stone just west of the Mither Tap. The north- west point is marked by a three sided stone a few hundred metres east of Garbit Tap on a direct line between Garbit Tap and Mither Tap. The southernmost point is the Heather Brig, long since disappeared and at the watershed of Birks Burn and Clachie Burn.
Oxen Craig (GR 663 227, 529m)
This is the highest point of the Bennachie range and a very fine viewpoint. An indicator designed by the Bailies of Bennachie enables you to identify all the visible summits, Clach na Ben, Lochnagar, Morven etc. The summit rocks have small potholes (some people think they are cup marks). Not far from the indicator look for a rectangular hole cut out of the rock. This was the socket of a memorial stone erected by the people of Oyne to commemorate the sad death of a local lad with learning difficulties, Robert Dawson, who went missing from home in November 1856. He was found sitting on this stone 16 days later having died from what we would now call hypothermia. Robbie’s mother, however, objected to the wording on the stone, knocked it down and broke it into pieces.
Quarries on Bennachie
There are many redundant quarries on the hill, the largest being the English Quarry, due south of the Garbit Tap and the Lintel Quarry on Little Oxen Craig. The “English Quarry” is known by that name as it was worked by an English Company that sent the granite blocks to Sheerness to build the docks and part of the Thames Embankment. It ceased operation in 1820. Close to this quarry is the ruin of the quarry smiddy. Little Oxen Craig Quarry was opened by Andrew Fordyce in the mid 1800s and operated as a granite lintel quarry for 40 years. In August 1891 quarrying stopped overnight when floods washed away some of the access routes to the quarry. The lovely granite lintels are still there.
Tillymuick (GR NJ 649 245, 254m) Scheduled Ancient Monument
This is a hill fort and is the largest enclosed site in North East Scotland. It is situated to the west of the Back O’ Bennachie Car Park. The low rounded summit is enveloped by a stone bank approximate 4m in width and 0.5m in height. It is difficult to trace the entire circuit but a gap is apparent on the west side and may be the original entrance. Within this stone bank are 8 huts, each 7-8m in diameter. It is now surrounded by forest.
Totem pole (behind The Bennachie Centre)
This pole was carved by first nation people from British Columbia (Squamish nation) in 2002 as part of Forestry Commission Scotland’s Treefest 2002 celebrations. The carved pole is a Douglas fir donated by Balmoral Estate. There are three other totem poles that were created in the same year from the same tree, these can be found at Coluqohhine Hotel, Bellabeg , Strathdon and Chapel of Garioch Primary Schools. Each pole was carved by local people with help from the first nation carvers using local designs and legends.
It is unknown why it is called Watch Craig. There are good views from this top of the Don valley. At the rocky top carved into the bedrock are the letters A, A, P standing for Ardoyne, Auchindoir and Premnay referring to the land allocation to the three estates on the division of the commonty of Bennachie
A research project on The Bennachie Settlers was produced by Marcia Hendry.
Colony Surveying June 2010
A short version of this article was printed in our 2010 Newsletter.