Lindsay Boyd's Trip Reports


Sub 2000 Marilyn - Section 21
Strathspey to Aberdeen

Waughton Hill
Waughton Hill
Cairn William
Cairn William
Coiliochbhar Hill
Coiliochbhar Hill

Section 21 Index

Section 21A
Tomintoul to Banff

Section 21B
Fraserburgh to Dee Valley

Ben Aigan Benaquhallie
Ben Newe Bennachie - Oxen Craig
Bin of Cullen Brimmond Hill
Carn Daimh Cairn William
Craigendarroch Coiliochbhar Hill
Fourman Hill Craiglich
Knockan Hill of Fare
Knock Hill Hill of Foudland
Little Conval Hill of Tillymorgan
Meikle Balloch Hill Lord Arthur's Hill
Meikle Conval Millstone Hill
Tap O'Noth Waughton Hill
The Bochel  

Section 21 Trip Reports

Oxen Craig

25 December 2015

slide show

Map - OS Landranger 38. Time - 3.5 hours. Distance - 13 kilometres. Ascent - 515 metres.

The road was a bit icy as I drove north from Blairdaff towards the Chapel of Garioch and the Esson’s Car Park, the starting point for my ascent of the Sub 2K Marilyn, Oxen Craig. Despite being Christmas Day the car park was fairly busy as it was a fine bright morning and calm amongst the trees. The Forestry Commission charges for the privilege of using the car park but as it was Xmas Day I decided it should be free.

On leaving my car I passed the Bennachie Visitor Centre which was obviously closed and walked west along a good track, part of the Gordon Way Trail, on the north side of the Clachie Burn meeting a few walkers returning to their cars. On reaching the path that went south to the Sub 2K Marilyn, Millstone Hill, I headed north on the signposted route for Mither Tap. This path was in reasonable nick with manmade steps on steeper sections making for steady progress. Higher up there was a chilly wind blowing with a thin covering of snow on the paths which were slippery in places.

I by-passed Mither Tap to the west then headed along the paths for Oxen Craig. Up here there were less folks, probably around half a dozen, including a mountain biker.The final approach to the summit of this Marilyn consisted of a few snow covered rocky steps and this took me to the large cairn and shelter with views of the surrounding Aberdeenshire countryside. Nearby there was also a viewpoint indicator.

From Oxen Craig I descended west through some rocks then followed the path to Watch Craig an area of Bennachie I hadn’t visited before. Once on its summit I briefly retraced my steps before making a short descent south on a peaty path to the Gordon Way Trail. This trail wound its way east before descending through the forest to the point where I left it earlier that day then the final couple of kilometres back to the car park.

previous ascent

Oxen Craig third ascent 528 metres

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The Bochel

4 November 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 36. Time taken – 50 minutes. Distance – 3 kilometres. Ascent – 200 metres.

The Bochel was the only Sub 2000 Marilyn that I hadn’t climbed in Section 21 of the Relative Hills of Britain list and as I was heading to Inverness I decided to leave early and make a slight diversion to climb this hill.

At Tomintoul I headed for Knockandhu then along the road to Chapeltown of Glenlivet. Just east of the passing place beside the access road to Bochel Farm I managed to get my car off the carriageway.

It was a mild afternoon as I set off on a decline along the tarred road towards Bochel Farm. Once over the Crombie Water the road was quite rough as it climbed out of the dip and towards the farm. Just before the buildings I followed a right fork and almost immediately turned left up another track, passing a storage shed. This led to a set of gates which were open. Beyond them I passed through a wide gap in the trees and onto the open hillside.

I stayed well east of the trees as the ground was a bit marshy with a several small holes which made for awkward walking. Higher up the hill was heather clad and the lanky heather slowed me down slightly. However with a bit of effort I was soon at the summit cairn where I had good views of the surrounding countryside, including the Braes of Glenlivet and the Ladder Hills.

After a few minutes at the summit I returned to my car by the ascent route.

The Bochel first ascent 491 metres

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9 October 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 28. Time taken – 1.5 hours. Distance – 5 kilometres. Ascent 180 metres.

The sub 2000 Marilyn, Knockan, was located to the south-east of Ben Aigan, which I had climbed earlier that day. My plan was also to ascend Knockan from the A95 but I wasn’t sure of the exact route. While on the summit of Ben Aigan I studied possible routes to Knockan and decided to climb it along the field edges just south of the Braes of Auchlunkart forest.

I drove south on the A95 and noted that the ground to the east appeared rather wet and marshy so I dismissed my original plan and parked on the grass verge just south of the access road to Knockan Farm. I walked up the farm road and passed the south side of this property with the intention of continuing along the track shown on my map. However I noticed cattle were obstructing the route so I decided to use the adjoining field.

At that point the local farmer approached so I stopped and spoke to him. He had no problem with me accessing the hill and when I mentioned the cattle he also suggested using the adjoining field. We spoke about the windfarm which he was in favour of although they weren’t being constructed on his land. He headed off along the track on his quad bike with his border collie perched on the rear.

The suggested route along the edge of the field was followed as the cows, their calves and the bull went a bit wild. I wasn’t sure if this was due to my presence or the farm dog so I was pleased to be on the other side of the fence, although I didn’t think it would stop a stampede. As the farmer rounded up his sheep I continued along the edge of a second field, still bounding the field of cattle.

I walked across a third field where a crop had been harvested and beyond there was a set of fences to cross, both topped with barbed wire. Once on the other side I was in long heather with a brief respite when I crossed a vehicle track. However the awkwardness of the long heather was short lived as I soon came to areas where the heather appeared to have been cut which made for easier walking as I meandered towards the top, avoiding the wind turbines. Two had already been constructed while a third was in the process of being put together. Sections of others were lying across the hillside. Apparently 21 turbines are to be erected here.

A small cairn was reached but apparently the highest point was 30 metres to the north so I paced out this distance and came to a tuft of heather that could possibly be described as being slightly higher than the surrounding ground. I then headed back to the cairn where I sat and ate my lunch with views of the turbines. The return was by the ascent route with the cattle still showing an interest, probably protecting their calves.

Knockan first ascent 372 metres

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Ben Aigan

9 October 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 28. Time taken – 2.25 hours. Distance – 7.5 kilometres. Ascent – 280 metres.

I still had a couple of hills to climb in the Keith area so with the forecast of improving weather I set off up the A96. However as I passed through the Glens of Foudland the cloud lowered and it started to drizzle so I briefly wondered if I should continue. At Keith I left the A96 and headed along the A95 through Mulben as the cloud lifted off Ben Aigan and I soon reached the Forestry Commission sign for its car park.

The parking area was actually further into the forest than I expected and here there were notices and pamphlets about the various mountain bike trails within Forestry Commission property in Moray. On leaving my car I followed the vehicle track and mountain bike trail as it headed south-west. The track later swung round to the north as it gradual gained height.

I had read on Scottish Hills that there was a firebreak, which could be used to cut a couple of kilometres off the approach route, and located it beside a vehicle passing place. I followed the short cut, which was a bit wet and boggy with a couple of fallen trees obstructing the route. I came to a firebreak crossroads where I possibly could have gone left but decided to continue straight ahead. There was evidence of a shod horse having been along this route.

The vehicle track and cycle route was soon rejoined and I followed it until clear of the forest. A sign erected by Arndilly Estate asked for respect of rare wildlife and no noise. I wondered if they abided by their request when shooting grouse. Paths were followed to the summit trig point where it was quite windy. I had views to the nearby village of Rothes and in the distance the Moray Firth. I also observed my next hill, Knockan, with its wind turbines under construction.

After a cup of coffee sheltering behind the trig point I returned to the car park by the ascent route.

Ben Aigan first ascent 471 metres

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Meikle Balloch Hill

4 September 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance - 3.5 kilometres. Ascent – 165 metres.

My final Sub 2000 Marilyn on Sunday 4 September 2011 was Meikle Balloch Hill, which was accessed from Keith town centre along a minor road to just beyond the Water Works near Wester Herricks. Here there was a small car parking area with a map showing routes around Balloch Wood.

I followed the blue route, a new path which climbed through the woods, crossed a forest track, and continued uphill. It deteriorated as it passed through an area of felled timber, but improved again when I re-entered the mature forest. The path steepened considerably, but the hard work constructing the path had in places been undone as some of the edges had been washed away and formed a deep ditch.

The gradient eased and I cleared the forest where the improvement to the path ended. It was then a wet and boggy stroll to Meikle Balloch Hill’s summit cairn which was a metre higher than the nearby trig point. I had a late lunch beside the trig point, with views of the hills I had climbed earlier that day, before returning to the car park by the ascent route. The end of a fairly successful day in the North-East, with four Sub 2000 Marilyns climbed.

Meikle Balloch Hill first ascent 366 metres

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Bin of Cullen

4 September 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance – 5 kilometres. Ascent – 215 metres.

The third Sub 2000 Marilyn on my wee tour around the North-East of Scotland was the Bin of Cullen, located to the south-west of the Moray Firth coastal village of Cullen. To access the starting point at the south end of Shirralds Wood, I drove to Deskford, then Braidbog Farm, where the single track public road entered the woods. There was limited parking at the start of the forest track so I found some verge parking further east.

I walked back to the start of the forest track and followed it as it descended to and crossed the Glen Burn. Immediately thereafter I took a left fork and this track wound its way through the woodland towards the col between Little Bin and Bin of Cullen. The hill was obviously a popular walk for family groups and dog walkers, as I passed several.

Higher up the trees thinned and I was able to get some views of the surrounding countryside. There was a rather rocky looking shortcut heading towards the summit but I opted to remain on the track which eventually cleared the forest before it reached the summit viewpoint and trig point.

I was fortunate to have the summit area to myself as there were quite a few folks ascending and descending the track. I had good views of the Morayshire and Banffshire coasts and across the Moray Firth to Ben Wyvis and the Sutherland and Caithness coastlines. After a few minutes at the summit I returned by the ascent route.

Bin of Cullen first ascent 320 metres

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Knock Hill

4 September 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance – 2.5 kilometres. Ascent – 235 metres.

The second Sub 2000 Marilyn on my wee tour of the North-East of Scotland was Knock Hill, located to the west of the A95 Keith to Banff road at Glenbarry. A narrow single track road led passed the house at Swilebog where there was parking for two or three cars.

On approaching the parking spot I could see the route up the heather clad hillside of Knock Hill. Firstly I had to negotiate the woodland below so I walked north for a few metres before locating a track through the forest and along the edge of a small field, where the grass had recently been cut. A path then led to a gate with the open hillside beyond.

The path through the heather was quite badly eroded and was like a small trench in sections. It was a tougher ascent than I expected so I was happy when I reached the top gate. Beyond was the summit cairn and trig point. On exploring the area there was a memorial cairn to Martin, apparently the founder of the stone race, and a stone circle created by runners bringing stones to the summit.

I had been in two minds whether to take my rucksack, containing my flask, with me on this short ascent but was pleased I had as I sat at the summit in the sun drinking coffee and taking in the views of the surrounding countryside.

The return was by the ascent route.

Knock Hill first ascent 430 metres

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Fourman Hill

4 September 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1 hour. Distance – 3.5 kilometres. Ascent – 165 metres.

The forecast was good so I planned a tour round the Huntly, Cullen and Keith areas of the North-East of Scotland to allow me to climb a few of the Sub 2000 Marilyns. The first hill on my list was Fourman Hill, which appeared easier to ascend from the east. However a westerly approach meant a shorter drive to my next hill.

I drove from Huntly to the village of Milltown and onto the public road that ended at Redhill Farm. There were no parking facilities here but I spotted and spoke to the farmer, in fact we chatted for well over twenty minutes, before with his permission I parked at the side of an outbuilding.

Once booted up I set off for the track that ran below the north side of Fourman Hill. I soon crossed a gate, but what was shown on the map as a track was more like a path with over grown bushes at the side. The path was also used by cattle, as an extension to their field on the north side, and was muddy and churned up in sections.

A second gate was reached with a sign indicating the route to the summit. I opted to pass through the gate before heading uphill following the fence line to avoid grazing sheep. I was pleased to note that I had selected the correct side of the fence as higher up there were lots of cows and calves on the other side.I reached a boundary stone and fence junction where there was a hole in the fence. I crawled through this gap and made the short climb to the summit trig point and cairn, which were surrounded by gorse bushes. It was still a lovely sunny morning so I had good views across the Banffshire countryside towards the Moray Firth and my target hills. After taking a few photographs I returned by my ascent route.

Fourman Hill first ascent 344 metres

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Tap O’Noth

14 July 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 1.5 hours. Distance – 5 kilometres. Ascent – 300 metres.

Earlier in the day I was in Duftown climbing The Convals with a plan to return via Rynie to add the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Tap O’Noth, to my day’s tally.

As I approached Rhynie, on the A941 Dufftown Road, an obvious sign indicated the route to the car park, which was up a narrow road. On leaving my vehicle I continued along this track which soon came to an end just beyond a stile. A short section of grassy path, which was a bit overgrown, was followed before I reached a new deer fence with appropriate gates. Beyond, the hillside was a bit of a mess as the gorse had been cut down but I later realised the reason for this was that tree planting was in progress and this accounted for the new fencing and gates.

I walked along the hard packed muddy vehicle track, which ran alongside this new fence, until I came to a second set of gates where I changed direction and followed another vehicle track uphill, still within the confines of the fenced off area. This led to a further set of gates and beyond the open hillside.

The ground steepened but a vehicle track, which had been improved in sections, led up the hillside then round the south side of the hill, just below the summit. From here I could see Rhynie and across the Aberdeenshire farmland to Bennachie. As the track swung round to the east side of Tap O’Noth I had views of the Hill of Noth and the town of Huntly. It was at this point that I entered the summit area, an old fort. I followed a path to the trig point and onto the actual summit, located beside a concrete plinth.

I returned to the trig point to eat my lunch. While seated there, looking out over the surrounding countryside, I was contemplating what an ideal location it was for a fort with its extensive views in all directions.

After my contemplations and lunch I returned to my car by the ascent route.

Tap O'Noth first ascent 563 metres

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Little Conval and Meikle Conval

14 July 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 28. Time taken – 2.75 hours. Distance – 9.5 kilometres. Ascent – 515 metres.

The plan had been to go out at the weekend, but with a forecast of wind and rain, this was abandoned for better midweek conditions. It was a sunny morning when I set off for Dufftown and on arrival parked in their Golf Club car park on the B9009 Tomintoul road. Parking here may not always be possible, especially in the evenings and at weekends, but on my arrival the car park was almost empty.

I walked south along the B9009 for around 300 metres before following a vehicle track up the side of the forest and a field, passing a game bird enclosure. The track improved when it joined the one coming in from Home Farm, that section of track not showing on my map. Work had obviously been carried out in the area with new fencing, gates and an upgrading of the track which left a bit of a scar but once the vegetation grows some of the disturbance should be concealed.

The improvement in the track came to a halt at the bealach beside Glach-en-ronack, where I had intended climbing Little Conval from. A path led up the south side of this hill on a direct route crossing a vehicle track several times as it took on an easier gradient. The path skirted the summit so I climbed to the top, marked by a few stones. Thereafter I returned to the path and followed it to the trig point on the north side of the hill where I sat in the sun taking in the views towards Rothes, Ben Aigan and below me to the village of Dufftown.

After my break I returned to the bealach and commenced the ascent of Meikle Conval. The path, and in places vehicle track, were a bit wet and churned up compared to the dry conditions on its little brother. However the ascent was similar with a slightly steeper section before the gradient eased. The summit area was reached and it was a pleasant stroll to the cairn, located at its south end. Ben Rinnes was now very close being just across Glack Harnes, with its fellow Corbett, Corryhabbie Hill, on the opposite side of Glen Rinnes. In the distance the Cairngorms were visible.

Once again I returned to Glach-en-ronack before following the vehicle track back to the main road.

Little Conval first ascent  552 metres
Meikle Conval first ascent 571 meters

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Hill of Tillymorgan

22 May 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance – 4.5 kilometres. Ascent – 195 metres.

Earlier that morning I climbed the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Hill of Foudland, north of Colpy, so it was only a short drive across the A96 to Kirkton of Culsalmond.

I got permission to park beside the old church and kirkyard before heading north along the track that ran between fields of sheep and lambs. This route led to and through a forest where at the north end it changed direction and headed east. My map didn’t show this as it had the track continuing north. That is no longer the case as that part of the track was overgrown with heather.

It soon became obvious that this easterly track wasn’t going to take me towards the Hill of Tillymorgan. I therefore left this track and crossed some rough ground, where timber had been forested, to a double fence. One was easily crossed as it was old, rusty and partially collapsed while the newer barbed wire fence was a bit more difficult.

Once beyond the fences there appeared to be a trail that led along the edge of the forest and I followed it until the old quarry workings came into view. On reaching the stone, which was used for roofing slate, I walked over it to the summit trig point. The weather had brightened up and I had good views of the Aberdeenshire countryside.

On my descent, which was by the upward route, a small bird flew out of the grass and I spotted its nest which contained four eggs. I took a photograph and think it was a Wheatear’s nest.

Hill of Tillymorgan first ascent 381 metres

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Hill of Foudland

22 May 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 29. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance – 5 kilometres. Ascent – 215 metres.

It was a sunny morning when I set off from Aberdeen but as I headed north towards Colpy it began to cloud over, although the base was well above the summits. From Colpy I drove along the tarred road to Jericho then a further kilometre on a rough track which deteriorated the further I went.

Just before an unlocked gate at NJ624336 I parked my car and continued on foot. The track skirted a field containing cows and calves but thankfully the animals kept their distance. It was an easy climb towards another gate where a ‘welcoming’ sign said ‘Foudland Hill Private.’ Beyond this second gate the track followed the edge of a small plantation onto open ground and a couple of telecommunication towers.

Beyond these towers the track was rougher as it continued west across the heather moorland. There was a slight dip before it regained the lost height and passed the summit trig point just to the north. From the summit I had views of Bennachie, Tap o’North, Ben Rinnes and Knock Hill. I also had a look at the nearby old quarry workings where the stone was used for roofing slate.

On my return, which was by the upward route, there were a few spots of rain and some of the cattle were now close to the track but they moved away as I approached.

Hill of Foudland first ascent 467 metres

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6 February 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 1.25 hours. Distance – 4.5 kilometres. Ascent – 190 metres.

I drove from Glenbuckat, where I had climbed Ben Newe, to Tarland and onto the B9119 where east of the Coull junction I located a large parking area on the north side of the road. Here there was a picnic area but my sights were set on the opposite side of the road where a track headed south towards the forest.

The main road and the locked gate were crossed before I walked along the track, which swung west before reaching another gate, this time with a stile. Once over the stile I was into the forest where recently trees and bushes at the side of the track had been cut down. It was a bit unsightly with the track covered in small cuttings. However it gave me clearer views westwards to Pressendye, Morven and Lochnagar.

Despite the cuttings and small areas of ice it was an easy walk through the forest gradually gaining some height. At the second junction on my left, marked by a cairn, I took a left turn and followed the track through the forest onto the open hillside. The track continued over the heather to the summit trig point and a partially collapsed beehive cairn.

In addition to the hills already mentioned I could now see Bennachie, Benaquhallie, Hill of Fare, Kerloch, which I planned to climb later that day, Clachnaben and Mount Battock. I found some shelter behind the cairn from a cool breeze for lunch before returning by the ascent route.

Craiglich first ascent  476 metres

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Ben Newe

6 February 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 2 hours. Distance – 5.5 kilometres. Ascent – 365 metres.

I parked in the car park at Buchaam, just off the A944, south of Mains of Glenbuchat, and followed the ‘yellow route’ through the trees. There were several marker posts to assist in route finding and the track eventually emerged from the trees on the north side of the forest. A couple of roe deer were spotted crossing the track.

The summit of Ben Newe was now in view above the end of the track which had a light covering of frozen snow. The ‘yellow route’ soon re-entered the forest and as the path through the fir trees was snow free I followed it, which turned out to be a mistake. Beyond the fir trees there was no obvious route to Ben Newe so I left the ‘yellow trail’ and followed a track through an area of cut timber.

This route was still taking me away from the summit so I left the track and climbed through the well spaced trees where there was some fallen timber. I eventually came to a ‘blue route’ which took me between some fir trees, onto the heather hillside. The path continued to the summit cairn and trig point where I found some shelter for a coffee break looking down on Glenbuchat and across the Ladder Hills to the top of the snow covered cliffs of Beinn a’Bhuird.

On my descent I planned to follow the fence east to join the track on the north side of the forest. This involved walking through the heather but I soon came to an area of hard packed snow. I attempted to avoid it by heading north but eventually fitted my microspikes, although not a fan of them on gradients, crossed the snow and cut back to the track. I rejoined the route used earlier in the day and followed it back to the start.

Ben Newe first ascent 565 metres

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22 January 2011

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 37 or 44. Time taken – 50 minutes. Distance – 2.5 kilometres. Ascent – 195 metres.

Craigendarroch is located between the village of Ballater and the Pass of Ballater. I have driven through the village and along its bypass on numerous occasions over the years but wasn’t aware this hillock was a Marilyn or even of its name. Climbing it doesn’t justify a specific journey unless you are staying locally, or in my case returning from other hills.

I parked in the village and located the street Craigendarroch Walk with its signposted route to the hill. An alternative circular walk was also indicated. A few metres along this road the marked route led through a gate and into oak woodland.

Here I took the left path which gradually gained a little height as it made its way round the hill in a clockwise direction. At a junction of paths I took the uphill route which continued through the oak trees. Higher up the gradient increased and the oaks were replaced by Scots Pine and Silver Birch. It is obviously a popular hill with the locals as on arriving at the large cairn and summit indicator there were quite a few folks around, including some children.

I took a few photographs before returning to Ballater by the upward route.

Cragendarroch first ascent 402 metres

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Millstone Hill

16 January 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 38. Time taken 3.5 hours. Distance – 11 kilometres. Ascent – 730 metres.

The start for this walk was the Donview Car Park on the Lord’s Throat Road that runs from Monymusk to Keig.

It was sunny, and a bit milder that of late, when I set off from the car park and followed the marked route for the Millstone Hill Trail. This took me into the forest, across an icy section of path, and onto a vehicle track.

I followed this track until another of several signposts directed me onto a path. Here the gradient soon increased and steps had been created to make for easier progress. Higher up there was a gap in the trees where I had views of the River Don and across to another Marilyn, Cairn William.

There was some more snow and ice to contend with as the trees became sparser and the path continued through the heathery hillside. Forty five minutes from leaving the car park the summit cairn of Millstone Hill suddenly came into view.

My initial plan was to return to the car park and drive to the Glens of Foudland and climb one or two Marilyns there but I was enjoying the outing, and the weather conditions, so I decided to continue across to the Mither Tap on Bennachie.

I descended the path on the north-east side of Millstone Hill, making a slight diversion to the summit of the 387 metre knoll. The path, which was still well signposted, led to Bennachie Forest where a sign indicated restrictive access due to forest operations. This was the first indication that the path was closed. From my vantage point there didn’t appear to be any work ongoing so I continued to a vehicle track where there were piles of logs and a parked piece of machinery.

The route along the forest track only lasted around hundred metres before I came to another path signposted Mither Tap. This path crossed the Gordon Way and was soon onto open ground where lower down there was more snow and ice. Once beyond the snow it was a steady climb towards the granite tor of Mither Tap.

It was now quite windy as I followed the path round to the more sheltered north side of the hill and through a gap in the old fort wall. A short easy scramble, made awkward by the strong wind, led to the summit trig point and indicator. It was quite difficult to stay upright here and several folks arrived from the trade mark north and east routes. The Mither Tap is not the highest point on Bennachie, Oxen Craig further to the west is and subsequently the Marilyn.

I descended towards the old fort wall and some shelter for a coffee break looking over the Garioch area of Aberdeenshire, before returning by the outward route.

Millstone Hill first ascent 409 meters

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Waughton Hill

9 January 2011

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 30. Time taken 2.25 hours. Distance – 8 kilometres. Ascent – 205 metres.

I hadn’t been to the Buchan area for several years so on studying the Relative Hills of Britain book I decided to climb the Sub 2000 Marilyn, Waughton Hill, the most easterly Marilyn in Scotland.

I parked in the village of Strichen and walked up the snow and ice covered road to beyond Bransbeg Farm where a track, with evidence of recent snowdrifts, continued north and then east to the ruin at Pluckhill. A couple of gates and fields were crossed before I reached a barbed wire fence with gorse bushes beyond.

There was no obvious route through the bushes so I followed the fence north, crossing a couple of other fences en-route, before I found a suitable gap. Once over the barbed wire fence I climbed through clearings in the gorse to the edge of a quarry and onto an icy track that led passed a copse of firs.

Another track led to the ruin of Hunter’s Lodge where I took shelter, from a cold wind, for a coffee break looking across to Peterhead Power Station and the North Sea beyond. Once refreshed there was a slight dip, where disused electric fencing could trip the unwary, followed by a short climb to the summit of Waughton Hill. There was no cairn here but I considered somewhere close to a small triangle marked by three fence posts was the summit area.

I wondered around the top for a few minutes looking north to the fishing town of Fraserburgh and west to Banffshire before returning to Hunter’s Lodge and the trees beyond. I then made my way through gorse bushes to the snow covered stones laid out to look like a horse and known as the White Horse due to the stone colouring. From here a path led through the gorse to a wicket gate and a signposted route for Strichen.

The path followed the edge of a field before a track led to Bransfarm and the road back to Bransbeg Farm and Strichen.

Waughton Hill first ascent 234 metres

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12 September 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 0.75 hours. Distance – 3 kilometres. Ascent – 195 metres.

This was my third and final Sub 2000 Aberdeenshire Marilyn for the day. I was en-route home along the B9119 Tarland to Aberdeen Road and west of Tornaveen drove up the single track road that led to Upper Broomhill Farm. At the end of the tarred road I parked at the side of the access road leading to Upper Dagie, where it appeared renovations were in progress.

I walked the short distance to Upper Broomhill Farm then along the west side of the farm buildings which led to a gate in an electric fence. Once through the gate I crossed a field, initially following grassy vehicle tracks, to a wall and a few trees, which led to the top fence. Here I found all four strands of the fence were electrified. I didn’t notice until the descent that slightly to the west there was a short section with rubber tubing round the wires to facilitate a crossing. In the process of climbing the fence I did discover that it was in fact live.

Beyond the fence there was deep heather to contend with as I continued the ascent. I reached a large cairn and a short distance further north the summit trig point, where I had views of Craigievar Castle, the Howe of Alford and Aberdeen.

The return was by the ascent route crossing the fence where the rubber tubing protected me from another electric shock.

Benaquhallie first ascent 494 metres

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Coiliochbhar Hill

12 September 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 2 hours. Distance – 6.5 kilometres. Ascent – 210 metres.

The start of this walk was the unclassified Cushnie to Kildrummy Road, just west of Upper Minmore. I parked my car on the verge before passing through a gate and following a vehicle track along the edge of a field. This led to another gate which was tied at both ends. I climbed over this gate and continued along the track, across a field, to second tied down gate. The crossing of this gate was a bit awkward as it was in poor condition and the lower section was covered in wire netting.

Once over this third gate the track led through a forested area where new trees had been planted to replace those harvested. At the upper end of the forest there was no gate so I continued along the track, over heathery moorland, towards a cairn.

Beyond the cairn I came to another forested area and thought of walking round the edge but opted to follow a fence through the wood. The fence wasn’t easy to follow as there was quite a bit of fallen timber although in a strange way it was quite pleasant wandering through the old forest. Eventually I reached the northern edge of the wood and followed the fence to a cairn marking the summit of Coiliochbhar Hill.

It was quite breezy here so I returned to the edge of the forest where I had my lunch before returning by the ascent route.

Coiliochbhar Hill first ascent 533 metres

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Lord Arthur’s Hill

12 September 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 37. Time taken – 2.25 hours. Distance – 8 kilometres. Ascent – 350 metres.

I decided to climb this hill from the east as it made for a slightly longer and easier walk than the approach from the south. Dubston Farm was my starting point, reached from Tullyneesle on the single track road leading to Tullynessle Castle. Near the end of this tarred road there was a rough area of ground where I parked my car.

It was a bright and slightly breezy morning when I set off along the farm road leading to Dubston. I walked round the back of this farm onto a vehicle track which soon entered a fenced off area where new trees had been planted. A sign indicated that I was on the ‘Quarry Walk’ and that responsible walkers were welcome.

Beyond the fenced area the track followed the south side of the Esset Burn before it later split. The ‘Quarry Walk’ appeared to head north towards an old quarry and onto the Correen Hills while my route continued in a westerly direction following the track shown on the map as Fouchie Shank. Higher up the path passed through some larch and Caledonian Pine trees before crossing more heathery ground to reach Lord Arthur’s Cairn.

The summit trig point was slightly further to the north so I visited it where I had views of the Correen Hills and The Buck. I returned to the shelter of the cairn for a coffee break looking out over the Howe of Alford and to Coiliochbhar Hill.

The return was by the ascent route. Near Dubston Farm I met a group, who with the availability of two cars, were walking to Mossat.

Lord Arthur's Hill first ascent 518 metres

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Hill of Fare

15 August 2010

photos taken on walk

Map – OS Landranger 38. Time taken – 3.5 hours. Distance – 12.5 kilometres. Ascent – 400 metres.

It was a sunny morning when I set off, from my home in Aberdeen, for the short journey to the start of this walk at Raemoir, near Banchory. I drove west along the B9125 and at its junction with the A980 turned right to the Raemoir House Hotel. Here I enquired about parking and was directed to a triangular area of grass at the rear of the Hotel.

Once geared up I walked along the vehicle track, through Spy Brae Wood, and on towards the vacant buildings at Burnhead, passing through a gate with a warning sign regarding wildlife management and firearms in use. From Burnhead the gradient increased as I climbed through Craigbeg Wood before emerging from the forest below The Skairs. It was cloudier now but with very little wind the flies were a real nuisance.

The track continued below the south side of Craigarth before heading almost to its summit. This was followed by a gradual descent to a swath of ground where electric cables had been buried. Hopefully in a few years it won’t be so noticeable. A lockfast wooden hut was passed as height was regained and a roe deer stood and watched me then ran off.

Hill of Fare consists of a number of tops but the highest point was at 471 metres, just off a bend in the track. To reach this point, which was marked by a boulder and a couple of stones, involved wading through some long heather. I did make a search of the area before I was satisfied that I had reached the highest point. The flies were still a nuisance and I returned by the ascent route.

Hill of Fare first ascent 471 metres

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Carn Daimh

3 May 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 36. Time taken - 2.75 hours. Distance - 8.5 kilometres. Ascent - 340 metres

I was en-route to Aberdeen from Inverness and planned to stop and climb the Sub 2000 Scottish Marilyn, Carn Daimh. I drove along the B9009, Tomintoul to Dufftown road and on the northern outskirts of Tomnavulin took the unclassified Gallowhill Road and parked in a signposted car park, which was in fact the bellmouth of an access road into the forest. The car park was a bit muddy but I suppose they could be excused due to the hard winter we have encountered.

Once booted up I set off into the forest and soon came across the signposted route for Carn Daimh Circular Walk. The route continued through the forest where sheep were roaming and along the edge of a field where a sheep was in the process of giving birth, although looked in a bit of trouble.

The path joined a vehicle track which by-passed Eastertown Farm and led to Westertown Farm with several sheep and their lambs loose on the track. One of the fields looked just like a mud bath with sheep feeding from feeders. It wasn’t the ideal weather for lambing.

Beyond Westertown Farm the signposted route took me across fields and to a forested area where it started to snow. I tried to walk round these fallen trees but soon gave up and returned to the edge of the forest. I crossed a fence topped with barbed wire and climbed up the edge of the forest through deep heather. Here I met a couple who had abandoned the walk due to the falling snow. They had in fact done the hard work having negotiated the fallen trees.

After a short climb through the heather I came to a gate and the route of the Speyside Way, duly marked. However the path at this point was concealed by lying snow but fortunately by this time the snow shower had eased.

I followed the line of the Speyside Way and once beyond the tree line the path was clear and I followed it to the summit of Carn Diamh. The winter weather had obviously caused a lot of damage to trees, fences and gates. The viewpoint indicator was missing its face but I managed to find some shelter behind it for lunch. While there I could see the weather fronts passing over Ben Rinnes, the Lecht Hills and the Cairngorms.

Once fed I descended the north ridge of Carn Diamh and met a couple on their ascent. Lower down I followed the signposted route for the Smugglers Trail which took me across a heathery hillside, through some trees and rejoined the track at Westertown Farm. I then returned by the outward route. The sheep I thought was having problems had given birth to her lamb which was making its first few faltering steps.

Carn Diamh first ascent 570 metres

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Bennachie – Oxen Craig

4 April 2010

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 38. Time taken – 4.25 hours. Distance – 10.5 kilometres. Ascent - 575 metres

The plan had been to head west for the weekend but with road closures due to snow this idea was abandoned for a walk nearer home. I also decided to avoid the higher hills as it would be hard going underfoot in the wet snow. The decision was made to head to this local hill, a drive of around forty minutes.

There are a few access points available to climb the several tops of Bennachie but I chose the Rowantree Car Park which was reached from the hamlet of Chapel of Gairich, north-west of Inverurie. There were already several cars parked there so at least a trail had been created through the snow. I set off up the track, signposted to Mither Tap and marked ‘Rowantree Footpath’, which led through the forest, initially on a wet surface from the melting snow. However I soon reached patches of snow covering the path which was still easy to follow.

Higher up, I had my first view of the Mither Tap, as it was cloud covered on my drive from Aberdeen. The trees were sparser now and there was some deep snow on the path along the Maiden Causeway. In fact the snow was around three feet deep in places and some walkers had gone into these holes, as I did a couple of times.

At the top of the Maiden Causeway a runner and his dog passed me heading downhill. A stepped area led to the rocky summit with trig point and viewpoint indicator. At this time the indicator wasn’t much use to me as the cloud had lowered again and it was now snowing. The Mither Tap is an old fort, undated, and part of the wall was still evident. There were also inscriptions on the rock dated 1850.

As well as snowing there was a cold wind so it was time to move on as Mither Tap isn’t the highest point on Bennachie, it is Oxen Craig some two kilometres further west. I left Mither Tap, and in the low cloud followed snow covered paths as I descended to the col with Oxen Craig. Only a few folks had been this way and on a couple of occasions I had to break trail as the paths were not easily followed, although a few signposts appeared out of the low cloud. From the col the route was more obvious and several people were going in the opposite direction. Just below Oxen Craig there was a large party sheltering behind rocks partaking of lunch.

The summit of Oxen Criag was marked by a large cairn and nearby was another viewpoint indicator. However there were no views due to the cloud so I also sought shelter for lunch. Fortunately, during lunch, the cloud began to lift and I could now see Millstone Hill, Cairn William and across towards Lochnagar. After lunch I returned to the viewpoint indicator and had views of Ben Rinnes, The Knock and towards the Cairngorms.

I returned to the Mither Tap, the snow on the paths having been well trodden now, and climbed to its summit, this time with views. Afterwards I descended by the Maiden Causeway and the runner and his dog passed me going back uphill. A short time later he passed me again on his descent and advised me that he had ascended Mither Tap three times from the Bennachie Centre and was doing the same from the Rowantree Car Park.

On the descent there were several folks, including family groups, heading uphill and near the car park, the runner passed me returning back uphill, this time with the expression he was ‘cream crackered’. He looked it.

Bennachie - Oxen Craig second ascent 528 metres

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Brimmond Hill

16 March 2010.

photos taken on walk

Map - OS Landranger 38. Time taken – 45 minutes. Distance – 2.75 kilometres. Ascent - 110 metres.

I have run over this hill on a few occasions but only recently became aware that Brimmond Hill was a Marilyn. My running route covered the south and west side of this hill so I wanted a different walking approach. I therefore drove to the fairly large car park on the Bankhead to Clinterty Road, which is within the boundaries of the City of Aberdeen. (Grid Ref. NJ8602810138) This was less than 4 miles from my home and took me around fifteen minutes to drive there so it has to be my nearest Sub 2000 Hill and Marilyn.

On leaving the car park I passed through a gate and followed a tarred road uphill. The start was rather disgusting as it is obviously used as a dog’s toilet. When I wasn’t looking where I was placing my feet I had views of Bennachie and Cairn William, fellow Marilyns, and Aberdeen Airport.

Higher up a stile, at the side of another gate, was crossed before I followed the path to the right which led through some gorse bushes to the summit of Brimmond Hill where there were a few radio masts and ancillary equipment. There was also a trig point and large cairn from where I could see Westhill, Kingswells, a large part of Aberdeen and beyond to the North Sea. Nearby there was also a direction indicator which was classed as a war memorial.

After spending a few minutes taking in the views I followed the road back to the car park.

Brimmond Hill first ascent 266 meters

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Cairn William

17 January 2010

photos taken on walk

 Map - OS Landranger 38. Time taken - 3 hours. Distance – 6.5 kilometres, Ascent - 425 metres

A study of the internet led me to believe access to Cairn William was possible from near Pitfichie Castle using a downhill mountain bike trail. This Castle is situated north-west of the village of Monymusk, which is just off the B993 Tillyfourie to Kemnay Road. There is limited verge parking between the Castle and Pitfichie Cottage. Before parking here I did drive as far as the end of the public road near Rorandle but there didn’t appear to be any other suitable starting point.

On leaving my vehicle I walked up the ice and snow covered private road, to the east of Pitfichie Cottage, which led to Royhall. At the bend in the road I followed a path through the forest which crossed a vehicle track, ran alongside it for short distance before climbing steeply through the trees. This was part of the downhill mountain bike trail which would be pretty hazardous in the ice.

The forest ended and it was a short walk, still following the MB trail which was covered in ice and snow, to the summit of Pitfichie Hill marked by a large boulder. Here I had views of the Don Valley, Bennachie and my target hill, Cairn William. I made a direct descent to the col with Cairn William which was a mistake as lower down the area, as well as being covered in snow, had gorse bushes which I found difficult to get through. I should have followed the MB trail which was slightly to the south.

Once through the gorse and onto a vehicle track I noted from a sign that the MB trail over Cairn William was closed due to a landslide. This wasn’t obvious due to the snow cover so I followed the trail and worked my way onto Cairn William. Higher up the trail was completely covered by snow which I crossed to reach the summit cairn where I took a coffee break looking out over the Don Valley.

On the descent of Cairn William I continued over the snowfield and only joined up with the MB trail lower down. On returning to the col I headed south down a forest vehicle track which led to a ‘T’ junction where I took a left. I was now back in the forest and the track eventually came to the downhill MB trail which I had accessed earlier. It was then a short walk back to my car.

A few mountain bikers were now en-route to test the conditions so for walkers care would be required on the MB sections some of which are narrow and steep in places, as this MB trail is only recommended for the experienced bikers.

I would expect that in normal conditions the time taken could possibly be reduced by an hour or so.

Cairn William first ascent 448 metres

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