Follow the tale of Rowantree
Rowantree is the starting point for a popular trail up the Mither Tap, the landmark hill that dominates Aberdeenshire’s countryside. Many local folk reckon it’s the best choice for your first trip to the top. Our guide map of Bennachie (5MB) will help you explore.
The route follows an ancient track called the Maiden Causeway, which was probably the main approach road for the Pictish fort at the top of the hill. Legend tells how the track was built by the devil to win a bet for a maiden’s hand. Not surprisingly, the maiden tried to run away – and was turned into stone!
The toilets here are open from Easter to September. There are places to eat in in Oyne, Chapel of Garioch and Inverurie.
Mither Tap Maiden Causeway
A walk of legends to the impressive Pictish hill fort. The Maiden Causeway itself is named after a local girl who bet the devil that she could bake a batch of oatcakes before he could build a road up Bennachie.
Steep, rough and uneven rocky trail with steep rock steps. Some parts are narrow and can be wet and muddy after rain.
3 ½ miles / 5.6 km Allow 2½ hours
There are other stories along the way too: look for ‘Hosie’s Well’, which springs from the tears of a heartbroken soldier. You can also see ‘Little John’s Length’, a long ridge that’s the bed of Jock o’Bennachie, the giant who guards the hill.
Mountain biking trails
Onto the hill
The climb to the Mither Tap makes a great outing, and for such an impressively craggy summit it’s very accessible. But this is open hill country where the weather can change quickly, even in summer. Check our advice about hillwalking before you set off.
Stories in the stones
Bennachie is a landscape of legends, and there are two intriguing tales around Rowantree. The Maiden’s Causeway gets its name from the daughter of a local laird, who made a bet with a stranger that she could bake a week’s supply of oatcakes before he could build a road to the top of Bennachie. But the stranger was the devil in disguise and of course he finished the road – the Maiden’s Causeway – in a trice.
When he came back to claim the girl as his prize she tried to run away, crying out to God to save her. The Almighty answered her prayer by turning her into stone. The stone is there to this day: you’ll find it just ¾ mile (1.2 km) down the road from Rowantree towards Chapel of Garioch. It’s a tall granite slab, beautifully carved with Pictish symbols. Look for the deep notch in the side: some say that’s where the devil caught the lass by the shoulder as she ran.
Whether the story is true or not, the Maiden Stone is a fine example of the more than 300 carved stones left by the Picts all across north east Scotland. To protect it from frost damage, it’s covered from mid-October to Easter.
The well of tears
Along the Maiden Causeway itself you’ll pass a well with a sad story to tell. Hosie, a local man, was on the way to his wedding when he was persuaded to fight in the Battle of Harlaw, which took place in 1411 on the sloping land to the north of Inverurie. Here the Earl of Mar and his men fought the Highlanders in a bloody battle.
Hosie was captured and imprisoned in a dungeon on the Hebrides for several years. Eventually he escaped and came back to find his bride-to-be, but while he was in prison she had married someone else.
Hosie was heartbroken. With nothing to live for, he died and was buried on the hillside. A well near his grave is called ‘Hosie’s Well’ because, it was said, the water is nothing but Hosie’s tears.
How to get here
Follow the A96 north from Inverurie for about 7 miles (11.2 km). Turn left onto a minor road signposted to ‘Maiden Stone’, just before the turning to Oyne. After about ½ mile (800 metres), take a right turn signposted ‘Rowantree Forest Walks’. The car park is about ½ mile (800 metres) along this road, at grid reference NJ 692 244.
AB51 5HZ is the nearest postcode.
The nearest point for public transport is the village of Pitcaple, about 2 miles (3.2 km) away on the A96. It is served by buses between Huntly and Aberdeen. Alternatively, you could take a taxi from Inverurie, which is served by buses and trains. Check Traveline Scotland for details.
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