Bennachie makes for a short but energetic winter walk.
The popular hill has a number of tops and this route visits the highest, Oxen Craig (1,733ft), before reaching Mither Tap (1,699ft). This pointed rocky peak, with a Pictish fort below the summit, is what most people think of when Bennachie is mentioned.
The views are extensive with the Cairngorms to the south of west, Lochnagar to the south west, Mount Keen (the most easterly Munro) is further south and going round to south east is Aberdeen with the North Sea beyond.
DISTANCE: 5½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED: 1,590ft.
TIME: 3½ to 4½ hours.
MAP: OS Landranger 38.
PARK: Drive about six miles north of Inverurie on the A96 and turn left, onto the B9002. A mile and a half later you pass through Oyne and half a mile further turn left, following a brown sign for the Back o’Bennachie car park which is a mile down a single track road.
IN SUMMARY: Follow a path at the top of the car park, entering woods. After a couple of hundred yards go right at a track then, 20 yards later, turn left to follow a path further up into the woodland.
A little further on ignore a path going off to the right, then two going left and continue up through the woods. The path leaves the trees and goes right before zig-zagging up to Little Oxen Craig. Just after a level section of the path you can go right and follow a signpost to visit the old quarry at the top of this outlying summit. For the main route, continue straight on, ignoring a path going left.
Once at the base of Oxen Craig go straight along a path over rocky outcrops past a signpost to reach the summit.
Return to the signpost and go right, down stone steps and along an obvious path. Ignore a path going right and then one to the left. At a junction go right and then right again on reaching another junction.
Ignore a smaller path going left but a little higher go left at a signpost, on a path which bends around the base of Mither Tap. Go right at a signpost and then go up stone steps to the top.
Retrace your steps to the signpost and go left, then go right at the next signpost. At the next signpost go straight ahead ignoring the path on the left, taken earlier.
At the next junction continue straight on, ignoring a path to the right. The path swings left to Craigshannoch – you can make a short detour to the top by taking a path on the right.
Otherwise, continue round to the left and down to a signpost where you go right. The next junction (next to Little Oxen Craig) was passed earlier. Go right to retrace your steps back to the car park.