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  • Writer's pictureLilly

Camping on Top of Bennachie

I had such lovely evening hike up Oxen Craig and Mither Tap on Bennachie last night. I’ve been up on Bennachie multiple times, via different combinations of trails, but never at night! It was a beautiful evening for a hike, and the last few people on the trails were clearing off as I was headed up. For continued immersive research into my Pictish novel, I wanted to camp on Mither Tap which is capped by the ruins of a Pictish fort. But knowing there was little by way of non rocky ground up there, I scouted Oxen Craig and the ridge between for ideal spots as well. The place I had in mind where I usually stop for my lunch and a bit of writing was just too steep, so I kept exploring and was delighted to find a small patch of grassy earth in between the inner and outer walls of the fort. This meant I could sleep inside the fort, my hope all along!

It may look flat in the photo but it wasn’t - I found the least slanty spot there was and set up the tent. Luna and I had our dinner, enjoyed the sunset, and relaxed in the tent until about midnight when I put on the headlamp and we went for a walk around the fort. What a different experience it was in the dark! The wind was steady enough that I couldn’t really hear anything in particular. But there were a couple of sounds, seemingly carried on the wind which I couldn’t put a finger on. A howling, and a light bell tinkling. Both will work their way into the novel I’m sure! There was an eerie feeling about, especially at the entrance to the fort, but it wasn’t a bad feeling. I didn’t feel spooked, but I did feel in tune with something other than the present. I believe immersion is the best way to really gain perspective on things, and this experience did just that.

It was a bit of a cold night, but the tent kept the bite from the wind off us. I got up at about 4:45, and we wandered around the top some more, waiting to see if the sun would put on a display but it was quite muted. So we headed back across towards Oxen Craig and then down to the Back O’ Bennachie carpark. As we walked across the ridge, the world was still asleep down below, save for one lone cuckoo calling in the distance which was really special. The cuckoo, known in Scots as the gowk or gouk, is the symbol of the Bennachie center. There is a stone called the Gouk Stane, believed by the people of the colony at Bennachie to be where the cuckoo perched to announce its arrival in the spring.

Having gone up and down the top of Mither Tap about 4 times last night, my legs were feeling the burn. I was also tired from little sleep. And yet I couldn't resist the urge to pop over to the nearby Hill of Dunnideer, which I've been wanting to get up - it has a great ruin on top of it and also the remains of a vitrified hill fort. It isn't a long walk but it is a steep one. I literally said to myself "you're so annoying!" as my tired legs tried to battle with my intrigue and thirst for adventure. Adventure won though ;) I'll post those photos tomorrow!

I’m quite tired today, so I’ll write a full length blog another time. But for now here are some photos from the little adventure ❤️

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