(047) Back o’Bennachie-Oxen Craig-Watch Craig Circular (Aberdeenshire)

Route Summary
The first half of this walk involves an unrelenting ascent on well-maintained paths though pine forest and then heather moorland to the peak of Oxen Craig. The traverse to Watch Craig and return leg, in the lee of Hummell Craig, are on less well-known paths. Great hilltop views.

Duration: 3 hours.

 

Route Overview
Duration: 3 hours.
Transport/Parking: No bus service to the Back o’Bennachie car-park. The signposted turn-off for the car-parking area is about 1 km west of Oyne on the B9002 road to Insch. There is a Forestry Commission car-park. Charges apply.
Length: 6.770 km / 4.23 mi
Height Gain: 384 meter
Height Loss: 384 meter
Max Height: 511 meter
Min Height: 171 meter
Surface: Moderate. There is a fairly relentless initial ascent to Oxen Craig, but on good paths. After Oxen Craig the less well-used route with un-maintained paths is likely to be muddy in places.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Difficulty: Medium.
Dog Friendly: Yes, keep dogs on lead in car-parking area.
Refreshments: Lil’ C’s Bar-B-Q cafe and American restaurant in Oyne (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Options in Insch and Inverurie.

Description
Despite the proximity to rolling farmland, this feels like a real hill-walk, taking in pine forest, heather moorland and rocky granite tors. The initial ascent is fairly unrelenting, but the scenic rewards are soon manifested. On the way up to Oxen Craig there is an opportunity to visit the 19th C quarry at Little Oxen Craig, a rocky knuckle on the hillside where there is an information board and some abandoned examples of the granite lintels produced there. A road from the quarry was washed away in 1891 when a waterspout hit the hill. The partially dressed stones could not be removed and have remained ever since. Oxen Craig is the highest point of the Bennachie range and provides a fine viewpoint. The nearby tors of Craigshannoch, Mither Tap, Millstone Hill, and Watch Craig are prominent, and a viewfinder enables you to identify more distant visible summits. On a clear day you can readily pick out the following hill-tops: Clach na Ben; Mount Keen; Lochnagar; Morven; Ben An; Buck of Cabrach; Tap o’Noth; Ben Rinnes. From Oxen Craig we leave the popular and well-maintained route going east to the Mither Tap to instead go west to the summit of Watch Craig, about 1 km away. There are tremendous views from this top of the Don valley and the Vale of Alford. At the rocky top, carved into the bedrock, are the letters A, A, P, standing for Ardoyne, Auchindoir and Premnay, and referring to the land allocation to the three estates on the division of the commonty of Bennachie in 1859. The return route, between Hermit’s Seat and Hummell Craig provides ample opportunity to appreciate the rolling Garioch countryside below you.

Links:
Photos from walk
Download Route Guide  (PDF with illustrated Waypoints)
Download GPX file  (GPS Exchange Format)
Access Walk on Viewranger
Access Walk on Wikiloc  

 

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