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  • Writer's pictureBrooke McKinnell

"Bennachie Bonanza: Where Hills, Legends, and Giant Love Stories Collide!"

Hold onto your sporran, folks, because we're about to dive into the enchanting world of Bennachie, a range of hills in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, that's practically in my backyard, just a stone's throw from the lively city of Aberdeen.


Now, Bennachie isn't your run-of-the-mill hillscape – it's a spectacular playground with galore peaks, each offering panoramic views that make your Instagram followers jealous. The main headliner of this hill extravaganza? Mither Tap stands at 518 meters (1,699 feet) above sea level. I've lost count of the Sundays I've conquered this peak, courtesy of frequent outings with my grandpa. We were hill conquerors even before the Thainstone Sunday market opened its gates. Early doors, indeed!

Picture this: Grandpa and I at the summit of Mither Tap, enjoying a wee piece and sipping tea from our trusty flask. And for Grandpa, a cheeky wee whisky to spice things up. Rain or shine, my grandfather was the ultimate hills whisperer, guiding me through the ups and downs – literally.

But wait, there's more to Bennachie than a grandpa-grandchild Sunday saga! Mither Tap, with its distinct flat peak, is a geological wonder shaped by forces that make it easily identifiable. With several paths leading to various peaks, you can choose your adventure – strolling, hiking, or just soaking in the breathtaking scenery.

Hold onto your hiking boots because the Bennachie range isn't just a pretty face. Rich in historical and archaeological wonders, the hillfort at the top of Mither Tap tells tales from thousands of years ago when humans first called these hills home. Flora and fauna abound, making it a haven for naturalists and ecotourists alike. And like any excellent spot, Bennachie has its own folklore and local legends.


Now, let's talk about the real magic – the folklore! My grandpa, a local legend himself, spun mystical tales that whisked me away to places like Hosies well, the cave of the king, and my personal favorite, the Maidstone. Fast forward to today, and with each new archaeological discovery, I'm more intrigued than ever, connecting the dots between folklore and actual history.

Enter the Maiden Stone, a historical and cultural landmark near Bennachie. An ancient Pictish symbol stone with intricate carvings, it's like the ancient version of a blockbuster movie. Christian crosses, serpent symbols – it's got it all. What is the exact meaning? That's the beauty of Pictish symbols – open to interpretation, just like a good plot twist.

The tale of the Maiden Stone is straight from my dear grandpa's epic yarns.
Now, imagine this: At the foothills of Bennachie lived a lass named Mary, a baking extraordinaire with a heart as sweet as her treats. She pined for her war-bound love, dreaming of his return. One Sunday, as she strolled out of church, you might say a tall, dashing figure caught her eye – love at first sight. The following Sunday, the mysterious stranger reappeared, and her father, ever the inquisitive one, struck up a chat. This fella, Mr. Black, had migrated from the south, claiming land on the other side of Bennachie. Plot twist: he wasn't much into church vibes but fancied escorting Mary home.
Cue the romantic strolls home and Sunday dinners, where secrets unfold. During one such meal, Mary's father, with a wink and a dropped knife, discovered something eerie beneath the table. Face pale, he declared a dinner emergency and spilled the beans to Mary – Mr. Black was no ordinary suitor; he was the deil himself, the devil incarnate!
Mary, her face as pale as a ghost, sought refuge in her father's protective arms. Mr. Black, ever the cheeky devil, claimed Mary's promise to wed him. Our brave lass, however, retorted with a resounding 'never!' In a surprising turn, the devil proposed a deal – a wager to break the engagement spell. His challenge? Build a road from Bennachie's summit to Mary's humble abode by sunrise, and if Mary baked a hundred bannocks before he finished, she'd be free.

Challenge accepted! As the first rays of light danced over the hills, Mary, armed with baking prowess, fired up the griddle. Her parents, eager spectators, peered out to witness the showdown. Mary breezed through batches, hitting 94 bannocks like a baking maestro. But just as victory seemed within reach, a hero returned – Mary's betrothed, back from war!
Ecstatic, Mary dropped the last batch and rushed to her love's embrace. The reunion, however, took a chilling twist. At the doorstep stood Mr. Black, devilish grin intact. Panic ensued as Mary sprinted, the devil hot on her heels. His hand rested on her shoulder in a sinister touch, and lo and behold, Mary turned to stone.

And there you have it – a baking wager, a devilish romance, and a stone-cold ending to the Maiden Stone saga!


But that's not all, folks! Meet Jock o' Bennachie, the gentle giant who once called these hills home. Giant love triangles, thrown boulders, and enchanted keys – Jock's saga plays out like a blockbuster fantasy film. Did anyone find those keys and free the gentle giant? The answer is lost in the mists of time.

Let me whisk you away into the whimsical world of Bennachie, where legends unfold like a grand theatrical performance! 🎭✨
Once upon a time, in the enchanted land of Aberdeenshire, a colossal character named Jock o' Bennachie took center stage. Picture this gentle giant as the guardian of Bennachie, hosting a creature carnival with a guest list that includes every critter in the hills. Jock, with his calm demeanor and friendly vibes, had even carved out a colossal bed on Bennachie – we're talking a 200-meter-long masterpiece aptly named "Little John’s Length."
Now, let's talk about giants and love triangles because what's a good tale without a dash of drama? About thirteen miles away, on the majestic Tap o' Noth near Rhynie, lived the colossal Jock o' Noth. Enter Lady Anne, a giantess so charming that both Jocks decided to vie for her hand in marriage. The gossip mill started churning, suggesting flirtatious antics on Bennachie's hill. Outraged, our Jock, fueled by heartbreak, did what any lovelorn giant would – he hurled a boulder toward Tap o' Noth.

Plot twist! Jock o' Noth, with impeccable reflexes, used his foot to deflect the boulder, sending it careening back and causing a bit of mayhem on Mither Tap. As the giants were gearing up for a boulder-flinging showdown, tragedy struck. Caught in the crossfire, Anne met a rock-solid demise against the mountainside.
Cue Jock o' Bennachie's heart-wrenching remorse. Amidst his sobs for Lady Anne, he fell into a giant-sized slumber. But here's where the tale takes a fantastical turn – Anne's voice woke him! Turns out, it was all a surreal nightmare, and Anne was very much alive, embracing Jock in a fairy-tale ending.

But, oh, there's more! A furious fairy woman, enraged by Jock's shenanigans, slammed the door on him and cursed Scotland for his wickedness. Until someone found the elusive keys of Bennachie under a juniper tree, the nation was doomed never to be rich. A one-eyed boy was prophesied to be the key master, but did he ever emerge from the folklore shadows? Nobody knows! The poor gentle giant, Jock o' Bennachie, remained enchanted, locked behind the door, waiting for a savior.

Now, let's give a round of applause to the real MVPs – the Bailies of Bennachie! These dedicated volunteers are on a mission to preserve and manage the Bennachie range, ensuring the environmental, historical, and cultural heritage stays intact.
From practical conservation work to guided walks and talks, the Bailies are the unsung heroes keeping the magic of Bennachie alive. So, if you're planning to hike into legends, Bennachie is the place to be – where hills have stories to tell, giants have beds to make, and folklore comes to life. 🏞️✨ #BennachieBonanza #HillHoppingAdventures #LegendsUnleashed #visitaberdeen #visitscotland #picts


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