Bennachie overnight tourcamping, mountain bike, trail running

My previous overnight trip had been back in March, the day before lockdown, when I’d stayed in a snow cave. Covid summer had discouraged me from camping but I was determined to do something while the weather held. A planned trip to the cairngorms was botched by missing an early morning alarm, but I could retrieve the day by travelling somewhere closer; a hasty scramble to hop on a train had me out in Inverurie, with a cunning idea.

Back roads towards bennachie

I took the folding bike (I’d maybe not return on the Inveruruie train but possibly a bus) and headed out. After some sunny backroads, I briefly stopped at a hotspot of old and new stonework

Rear side of the maiden stone
Over 1000 years old
nearby statue of persephone from the 1960s

I’d seen a discussion on a facebook photography group around the maiden stone – I’d suggested the Persephone statue as worth a look nearby – another local chipped in and stated there were more sculptural points of interest nearby, although a search of the web offered no information. He’d supplied a rough map, so I set off to investigate.

The first was at the top of the hill of knockollochie, and the most direct route would be to go up the drive of Crowmallie house, a big mansion, but big mansions often have snooty grumpies; I thought a more tactical approach better. A road to the west of the hill had a scrape of a track in a tree belt between two overgrown fields, I dumped the bike and headed into the woods, and then as the ground steepened headed uphill, having to thrash through a lot of bracken (which as I found on the way back could be avoided further east)

Bracken thrashing up the hill

It’s a small hill covered with trees except a small opening at the top. Strange shadows loomed high against the trees, I had found my prize. These are “3 Celtic Kings” by the same sculptor as Persephone – Sean Crampton.

Strange shapes aloft the hilltop

An impressive abstract work in a fantastic surrounding, albeit perhaps neglected. I noticed that Crowmallie house was for sale; perhaps the owners had moved or passed on, and the estate was left to fend for itself.

Three Celtic Kings – Sean Crampton
Iron and concrete

I went for a wander to the foot of the hill, finding an old trail and an underpass for the railway that might also be a worthwhile way in to go look.

An old path near the railway
Railway underpass beside the A96
Back through the woods
A cosy kitchen once cooked country fair, now only an echo of bygone times lost in the trees

First exploration complete, onwards to tonight’s residence – up on Bennachie

Sweat and low sunlight adorn these slabs
Winding upwards from Rowantree
Autumn beginning to colour the stunted pines
Hosie’s Well, today muddied, probably by dogs
Parking up at Craigshannoch
Exploring crannies..
..and nooks

I bumped in to an old mate out for a stroll and showed him the cave where I’d be sleeping (he probably thought me a bit mad) after dumping my kit, to kill time before nightfall I decided to go for a run around the top of the hill.

Time to chase the sunset and go for a run
First stop Oxen Craig, the highest point on Bennachie
Over to the main (though not highest) top, Mither Tap
Round the side for a clamber
Just in time sun away to set
Heading back through the fortifications
Back at Craigshannoch
The ‘cosy’ abode for the night, Harthill’s cave
View from inside. Foil sheet deployed as ground sheet, a bit muddy
Harthill was apparently fond of a drink, he’d have liked this ale
Ptch of some unusual flat leaved primitive-looking plant
Night view 2020, above an emulation of a less light-speckled view back in the day

Fair to say, not the most comfortable night’s sleep ever; the floor shape isn’t quite flat. Having said that it was roaring with wind outside and was well sheltered from that.

A chilly sunrise approaching. Looking a bit cloudy to be a good one
Clearing as I head over to Oxen Craig
Sun’s up
Pastel hues breaking through the clouds against the dark lump of Mither Tap
Stopped to soak it up. A great panorama
back on the move bumping down the last part of the Gordon way
It gets pretty lumpy. This would normally be too busy to consider cycling down. Today, only limited occasionally by the smaller-diameter wheels of the airnimal rhino
Back on to smooth path and whizzing through the trees
Heading west across a bridge across the Don
Autumn morning country road
Quite a feat of topiary beside the entrance to Paradise Woods
A bright and unexpected shape in the land adjoining the path
Beautifully restored carriage
Another shape catches my eye in the foliage towards the river
A quick explore along the mill’s water channel
Some very large and fine old trees here
Small wheels meet big trunk
The Don running clear. Looks trouty
The path fizzling out to a scrape
Ending in a field. Signs of passage further, but as far as I go here today
A fine stand of trees on the far bank
In the shade, the valley holds the chill. Freezing fog lies on the water
I love a trail with Komorebi
These trees have rested their bows, freed of leaves, through many autumns
Pitfichie castle lit by the morning sun
Fields are usually square or round, but here are square and round.

I headed back east, next stop the impressive ruin of Fetternear house but found some distractions on the way

I can’t resist a tree lined path offshoot. It climbs up a hill.. to a fine kirk
kirk plaque
A nosey around some old outbuildings and walls, now crumbling
Oh Fuck off. And fuck off some more. The direct route and a fine looking track blocked by some pompous cunt. It’s one thing locking a gate, another creating a military-style barbed-wire eyesore. What a poisonous cunt lies somewhere beyond this gate.
A stylish old farmhouse. It looks abandoned, but on approaching there is activity, still occupied
Round about route to the ruined mansion
Interesting sign. The track to Burnhervie looks nice. May have to return
Fettercairn House. A fine ruin
Somebody around here doesn’t like access

Normally I’d have went in for a nosey whether welcome or not, but the surrounding field has sheep and there was nowhere to hide the bike nearby, plus I couldn’t be arsed having a barney with “Mr Barbed Wire” if seen.

Festooned with indignant and obtuse resentment. Probably the same grumpy arsehole that did the gate. The surrounding area reeks of puffed-up ‘horse & rangerover’ snooty-rah-rahs
Back at the Burnhervie track. A good choice. Leafy and lush

Beside the main track a few side paths tempted me to meander.

Some unmapped offshoot paths explored
I randomise along a windy one heading downhill. It’s sweet
Out at the main track. Old stairs show this was once a more formal path
Back on the main track

At the end of the track a footbridge spans the Don

The Shakin’ Briggie
Does it shake? No, actually very solid. It’s predecessor decades back was likely a more fragile structure.

At Burnhervie I was back on tarmac for a few km, intending to head up to see East Aquhorthies stone circle, but came across another locked gate with some bullshit about health & safety, there was a farmer nearby so again couldn’t be arsed with an argument, but one I’ll likely report to the access officer. Having to reroute, I passed some woods near Newbigging and found an unmapped track and was lured in

Another tempting trail
Uhm what. Some signs presumably for shooting folk

Now on the last stretch, maybe 5km to go to get back to Inverurie. Still a few things to see.

Back at Chapel of Garioch
Balquhain Castle – only a shell of 2 walls remains
Balquhain stone circle amid a field. At least I get to see one circle, albeit from a distance
Handy underpass under the A96
Drimmies pictish symbol stone beside a nearby farm gate

Heading in to Inverurie, and feeling pretty dehydrated having ran out of water ages ago (won’t forget my water filter again) and also famished I stopped at Edwards for a meal and a drink (nice wee place) before the train home.

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