Friday, 25 July 2014


Bennachie - Beinn Na Ciche

Someone asked me what the mountain was in my blog and website header. It's a photograph of the Mither Tap, part of a range of hills in Aberdeenshire named Bennachie. Bennachie is the contemporary spelling associated with the name but in Scottish Gaelic it is Beinn Na Ciche - meaning the hill of the breast. Mither Tap being the name for the most distinctive peak is pretty appropriate.

When people from the area look at my header image, they would all recognise it as Bennachie and yet many of them might not be able to name the highest point of the range. The highest peak is actually named Oxen Craig, around ten metres higher than the Mither Tap yet the Mither Tap is the one which seems to be the highest. Why is this?
Wikimedia Commons

The photo on the right shows the range of hills taken from the River Don, close to the Monymusk area. From this angle it's clear that there are actually a number of summits but it seems as though there is only one real peak- the one on the far right- due to the pointed nature of the summit.

The range as seen on the right is not the usual view that a traveller would get if they were journeying north in north-east Scotland. Travelling north from the city of Aberdeen today, what you see would be more like the image immediately below. After you crest the hill named the Tyrebagger, just north-west of the city, you see the distinctive knobbled peak far across the valley floor. From that angle it appears there is only one pointed hill in the distance, though that is not actually the case. It se4ems as though it is the only high hill for miles around, but appearances can be deceptive.

The summit of the Mither Tap has a distinctive knobbly shape, partly due to natural geological formations but it’s also largely affected by the ruins of a Celtic Hillfort that used to dominate the highest levels. The tumbled stones of the hillfort give the peak a distinctive bumpy frill.

The range isn’t high compared to other Scottish peaks, the Mither Tap only being 518 m (1,699 feet) as opposed to Ben Nevis - the highest peak in The British Isles - which is 1,344 metres (4,409 ft). However, the Mither Tap seems high due to the largely flat lands around the range. From the top of the Mither Tap, there is an astonishingly good view of the surrounding area all the way west to the Grampian Mountains and east to the North Sea. It’s a superb vantage point and one which I intend to write more about very soon in Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures.

It's those stones of the hillfort which make the irregular bumpy shape to the peak, seen differently from all angles across Aberdeenshire, but how old the hillfort is is questionable. Some experts have put it at around 400-800 AD or perhaps earlier. I veer towards the earlier but it's a question that many people, like me, would love answered.

The end of Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series - After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks – takes place in AD 84. At this point in history, I'm not sure that there was a fort at the top of Bennachie but I’m beginning to believe there were good reasons for local Celtic tribes to begin to build the stone fort soon after this point.

The photograph above that is taken from Monymusk is an area mentioned in both Book 3 of my series and I'm presently writing about it in Book 4. Look out for more on Beinn Na Ciche in my novels but also in posts coming soon about the contemporary Bennachie.

I'm not a born and bred Aberdeenshire quine (girl) but the area's history has certainly inspired me for all of the 26 years that I've lived here. Where am I talking about? Maybe this map will help explain where the Bennachie range of hills lies in Scotland.

Keep tuned becasue Book 4 of my series might just have some conjectural theories about the hillfort on the Mither Tap!

My Celtic Fervour Series, from Crooked Cat Publishing, are available from AMAZON and are a snip at less than £5 pounds for the 3 full length novels. Yes - that is Bennachie behind the books.

Amazon US author page
Amazon UK author page 
They're also available from SmashwordsBarnes and Noble and  Crooked Cat Bookstore



  1. Nancy, Your love of the land and willingness to educate readers about your country is inspiring and certainly peaks (pardon the pun) my interest! I've read Monogamy Twist and loved being in the country side. Which one of your books would you suggest for my next read?

    1. Hi Paula! I would recommend 'The Beltane Choice'-Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series- for a real feel for the ancient land of Britannia. However, the series starts in what we now call northern England and it's only in Book 3 that the action gravitates to Aberdeenshire. In Book 3 -After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks- you'll find there's a huge battle between the Ancient Roman armies and amassed Celtic warriors on the slopes of Bennachie! The novels in the series are meant to be stand- alone but a reader will gain much more from them by following on from having read Book 1.


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