Start your adventure at Bennachie Centre
The distinctive shape of the hill called Bennachie is a landmark that’s meant ‘home’ for thousands of years. People have lived in a fort carved into the hill top, and in radical farming settlements on its slopes. They’ve quarried its stone to build houses, and spun yarns about devils and giants who built its tracks or threw its giant boulders in fits of anger.
Bennachie Centre is the perfect place to start exploring this much-loved hill and the forests that surround it. Trails vary from a gentle route though the woodland to demanding treks in open country, and in the visitor centre you can find out all about Bennachie’s history and wildlife.
The centre is one of four sites around Bennachie, each with their own distinctive character and different trails to try. Our guide map of Bennachie (5MB) shows them all, with details of the trails you can follow. You can also download our guide to all our forests in Aberdeenshire.
Major upgrade work will be taking place on the Discovery and Colony trails for four weeks, beginning February 6. Sections under repair will be closed and diversions in place, however the trails will be open at the weekends.
The car park is open at any time, all through the year.
The visitor centre is open daily April-October 10am-5pm, and is run by Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger Service and the Bennachie Centre Trust.
For more details, contact the centre on 01467 681470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can get simple refreshments at the Visitor Centre and there’s a range of places to eat in Inverurie. Toilets are available in the centre when it’s open, and during daylight hours in the winter, otherwise the nearest public toilets are in Inverurie.
Car parking charges
Please note, parking charges are as follows:
- £1 for up to 1 hour
- £2 for up to 3 hours
- £3 for all day
- £12 for minibus and coach all day
Season passes are also available. For more information please contact us.
Please note, the Discovery and Colony trails will be closed on weekdays throughout February and March for essential upgrades. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
A gentle wander through the forest. Wildlife rubbing posts are dotted along the trail; collect paper and crayons from the visitor centre.
A smooth firm trail, with short gentle slopes and no obstacles.
½ miles / 1.0 km ½ hours
Check the Bennachie Discovery Trail Phototrail for full details about access along the route.
An easy-going trail winding through attractive open woodland and the ruined houses and fields of the Bennachie colonists.
Firm and generally smooth, with some uneven areas. Generally moderate slopes, with some short fairly steep parts. Includes steps, roots and rocky areas.
2 ½ miles / 4.0 km 1¼ hours
Find out more about the colonists who lived and worked on Bennachie in the 1800s along this route.
Mither Tap Timeline Trail
Climb to the rocky granite top of the Mither Tap, with its superb views and impressive Pictish fort.
A very steep, rough trail with roots, rough rock steps and drains. Narrow in places. The summit is slab rock and can be slippery when wet.
3 ¾ miles / 6.0 km 2¾ hours
The trail will take you back in time, through forest planted in the 1950s and into a landscape formed over 10,000 years since the last Ice Age.
Mountain biking trails
Get to the top
Many visitors want to climb the Mither Tap, the most distinctive of Bennachie’s nine summits. The shortest route is the steep Timeline Trail from Bennachie Centre, but there are plenty of other ways to the top. From Rowantree car park a popular route follows an ancient trackway, and from Back O’Bennachie there’s a longer trail that’ll take you through an old quarry. From Donview you can climb Millstone Hill, a remote, less well-known summit, and continue to the Mither Tap for a really big day out.
For more adventure, try the Gordon Way, an 11 ½ mile (18.5 km) route through forests, farmland and moorland that starts (or ends) at Bennachie Centre. All of these trails cross open country and hill ground, where the weather can change quickly. Check our advice on hillwalking before you set off.
Bennachie is home to a great diversity of wildlife, including the charismatic red squirrel, and many different species of birds.
Come and watch these fascinating forest animals from our new wildlife viewing area near the Bennachie Centre. We’re planting wildlife-friendly trees here and putting up information panels to help you identify the birds and animals you spot.
A colony in hard times
In the 1800s there was little ground for local folk to farm, so a small group of people set up a community on the lower slopes of the hill. They worked hard to create workable farming land, burning the heather to make fields and building stone dykes and simple two-room cottages. They kept pigs, sheep and cattle, taking them to graze on the hill: anybody living around the slopes had the right to feed animals there and to take peat, wood and stone. By 1850 there were about 60 people living in the Bennachie Colony, as it was known.
But local landowners didn’t like this system of commoners’ rights. They divided the land up between them, and the Colonists had to pay rent or leave. Today the Colony Trail passes the remains of several houses and fields: poignant traces of this fascinating part of Bennachie’s story.
On top of the Mither Tap there’s evidence of a much older settlement: the summit is surrounded by the ditch and walls of a Pictish fort. It was probably built about 1,400 years ago, but it’s likely people first settled here as much as 1,500 years before that.
Bennachie’s special friends
The Bailies of Bennachie is a voluntary society, formed in 1973 to look after the hill, study its history, wildlife and folklore, maintain the paths and encourage people to enjoy and take care of it. The Bailies run events throughout the year, including work groups every month where you can help to conserve this wonderful place. They also have a library in the Visitor Centre, which you can visit by prior arrangement.
In 2013, the Natural Bennachie project commissioned four artists to work with the hill and its forests, making work that responds to its fascinating history and nature.
How to get here
From Inverurie, take the A96 north towards Huntly. After about 3.5 miles (5.5 km) on the A96, take a road on the left signposted to Chapel of Garioch. At the t-junction in Chapel of Garioch turn right, then first left, signposted to the Bennachie Centre. Follow this road for about 2 miles (3.2 km) to reach the car park at grid reference NJ 698 216.
AB51 5HX is the nearest postcode.
The nearest point for public transport is the village of Pitcaple, about 3 miles (4.8 km) away on the A96. It is served by buses between Huntly and Aberdeen. Alternatively, you could take a taxi from Inverurie, about 6.5 miles (10km) away, which is served by buses and trains. Check Traveline Scotland for details.
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For questions and complaints, please contact us directly.