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The place to start exploring a landscape of stories and legends

Bennachie Centre

Start your adventure at Bennachie Centre

The distinctive shape of 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 shows them all, with details of the trails you can follow.

Parking (charge) Toilets Picnic area Walking Easy-access trails Mountain access Ancient monument

Opening times

The car park is open at any time, all through the year.

The visitor centre, run by Aberdeenshire Council’s Ranger Service and the Bennachie Centre Trust, is open at the following times:

April to August term time: 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays.

April to August, school holidays: 10am - 5pm, every day.

September and October, closed Mondays except during school holidays.

November to March: weekends only, 10am - 3pm.

For more details, contact the centre on 01467 681470 or email bennachie.warden@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

Life’s essentials

You can get simple refreshments at the Visitor Centre and there’s a range of are places to eat in Inverurie. Toilets are available in the centre when it’s open, otherwise the nearest public toilets are in Inverurie.

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 Moray’s 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.

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.

Creative Bennachie

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.

Contact Name : Moray and Aberdeenshire Forest District

District Office Name : Moray and Aberdeenshire Forest District
Address : Portsoy Road
  Huntly
 
Postcode : AB54 4SJ
Telephone : 01466 794161
Email : morayaberdeenshire@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

How to get here

From Inverurie, take the A96 north towards Huntly. After about 5 miles (8 km), take a road on the left signposted to Chapel of Garioch. At Chapel of Garioch turn 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.

Using SatNav?

AB51 5HX is the nearest postcode.

Public transport

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 4 ½ miles (7.2km) away, which is served by buses and trains. Check Traveline Scotland for details.

Nearby places

The other forests that surround Bennachie have plenty more trails to explore. For some exciting mountain bike routes, try Pitfichie, near Monymusk.