Friday 1st April
The weather forecast for the day was for low cloud and rain coming in from the south west and strong winds. We decided that we needed to find somewhere a little more to the north of Portlethen and maybe we'd avoid the worst of the showers. Tap O' Noth seemed to fulfil these requirements, almost, so we set off around 10 o'clock. This was a new walk for us and I knew very little about it. Added to this was the fact that anytime I heard people speaking about it I assumed they were saying Tap O' the North! Anyway I've now corrected this mistake, although I still find it difficult to say Tap O' Noth because it doesn't quite trip off the tongue.
The start of the walk is just outside Rhynie and has its own sign posted carpark.
The hill itself is the site of a Pictish fort, the second highest of its kind in Scotland, (so far I haven't been able to establish what the highest one is, but I'm working on it). This makes the hill very distinctive because it looks as if the top has been flattened with a circle of vitrified rock defences surrounding it.
The beginning of the walk starts uphill, so no gentle walk in, and through some marshy fields and a small clump of trees. This was bad enough but after about ten minutes we were confronted with yet more timber clearing activities and we had twenty minutes or so battling our way along a very muddy bulldozed track that ran parallel to the side of the hill, hoping we were still on the right path. As it turned out we were and eventually we came out onto a well marked track that finally turned towards the base of the hill.
The path wound its way steadily up and around the side of the hill, which was quite good because we got some fantastic views of the Aberdeenshire countryside from different angles. The weather was still bright but there were one or two clouds rolling in and the wind was picking up. The walking was pretty straightforward and the path easy to follow but as we neared the top the wind definitely became a factor and it made for uncomfortable, if not difficult, walking.
The fort itself is still very distinctive with a deep bowl in the centre surrounded by the rubble of what must have been very impressive walls. Contained within this rubble are large chunks of vitrified rock caused by the intense heat of a huge fire. Whether this fire was the result of a battle or some other reason appears to have been lost in history, but whatever the reason it must have been an impressive sight. Tap O' Noth info
We had our coffee sheltered within the bowl at the top then a very windy walk around the walls but with a touch of rain now in the wind we decided that a swift descent was the wisest move. We took the same route for a while then cut down through the heather on a faint track in the hope of coming across some remains of earlier defences, but if they were there we couldn't pick them out amongst the general rubble and rocks. We picked up the path at the base of the hill and made our way back through the mud to the carpark. All in all we were out for about three hours, so maybe not as far as we would have liked but it was a new walk for us and had a stiffish climb in the middle so content enough.