Bennachie is a large hill that can be seen from many places in Aberdeenshire. Its craggy peaks seem to loom out of nowhere as you drive round twisty corners of country roads. I once climbed it three times in one day for charity. This, and the climb detailed below, were both done some time ago, obviously.
The top of Harthill Castle, which was owned and restored by the late American writer Ann Savage, is just visible over the trees in the photo above.
Bennachie in my writing
“Ethereal and spellbinding….” Historical Novel Society
The start of any Bennachie climb – we took the easiest ‘Rowan Tree’ route – starts with a misleading forest stroll.
Then you’re out into the baking sun (sometimes; you are equally as likely to emerge to a dense Stephen King-esque mist) and views expand.
Parts of the path are pure exposed rock. It feels like standing on the bare face of the planet. I like to kneel and kiss the stone. You do see some strange people on Bennachie…
The ascent gradually gets steeper, the sun gets hotter, and the Mither Tap nears.
Big cairn, little cairn:
There’s a Pictish hillfort near the top. You pass between its ancient walls…
And then you cling, terrified, to the side of the uppermost rocks as the strong wind threatens to knock you over. That bit passes quickly. The landscape soon owns your attention.
A Pictish Beast
The Maiden Stone stands near the foot of the hill, a ninth century Pictish stone displaying a good example of the mysterious, much debated, ‘Pictish beast’. Swimming elephant? Dolphin? Kelpie?
A Stone Circle
A few miles further on is Loanhead of Daviot Stone Circle, the first recumbent circle I ever visited.
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More Historical Fiction from me
Set in an Aberdeenshire castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR features the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, a stone circle, and a love story.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 18th century kidnapped children of Aberdeen and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.