Friday, 30 March 2012

The Buck of Cabrach (and The Tap 'o Noth to fill in the day!)

Sunday 25th March,

After no posts for a couple of weeks this is the second of this weekend! The weather left me with no real choice and after a quick battle with my conscience, (the garden needs tidying up and I should have been cutting the grass), I set off up Donside towards Alford. Mo had decided that after Friday's walk she would prefer a quieter day probably in the garden so this gave me the opportunity to get a bit of height under my boots. Although the weather was lovely there was still a bit of sea har near the coast this early and although I was sure it would burn off later, I headed inland towards the blue skies. My thoughts turned to a hill we'd driven past in the days when we travelled back and forth to Inverness more regularly and fancied a trip through the hills rather than the shorter but less interesting A90. The Buck of Cabrach, (a great name if you say it out loud in a thick Scottish accent), is a conical shaped hill that can be picked out from most of the high points on Deeside and Donside, (for "baggers" it's also Graham number 63) and the most popular approach is from the B9002 a couple of hundred yards from where it joins the A941.

The Buck
On my way!
Now as walkers we've all made mistakes. You know the kind of thing; you get to the top and realise it's going to be dark by the time you get down and you never thought to pack the head torch; or you run out of water on the hottest day of the year; or, worst of all you get to the top and realise you've left the sandwiches in the car!. Well the mistake I made today was that as I stood on the little hill just off the road called Meikle Cairn, (I'd wandered up here to get some photos), I realised that the walk up to the summit of The Buck wasn't going to take very long! The thought of being back home in time to cut the grass wasn't pleasant.

The Buck from Meikle Cairn
Well there wasn't much I could do about it except take my time so I set off back down to pick up the faint track that headed across the peat bogs towards the start of the uphill section. This track quickly turned into a quagmire of peat and moss and I found myself walking through knee deep heather in an effort to stay dry. Anybody reading this that fancies following this route I recommend making your way across to the line of fence posts that run all the way up to the summit as soon as you can. The path is heading there anyway but it's easier walking if you cut across early as I found out on the way back. As the path starts its way uphill it quickly dries out and it's a comfortable climb with good views on either side.

Looking North East

Tap 'o Noth and the beginnings of an idea
It was as I stopped to look around and take some photos that I began to think that, if I was finished early, I could maybe add in another hill rather than go home and cut the grass. Tap 'o Noth is a hill with a the remains of an iron age fort on the top that Mo and I climbed at this time last year and since it was only fifteen minutes in the car from where I was parked I decided that I'd head there after The Buck. Having made the decision I set off with fresh resolve ot the large summit cairn.

Nearly there!

The Buck of Cabrach (721m)

Great views from the top
It had only taken about an hour and a half from leaving the car to sitting having a bite to eat at the top, so not a long walk by any means. I also know that somewhere on the top there is a rock with carvings but, as usual since I'd done almost no research, I didn't know where to look. As the photos show there are a lot of rocks on the cairn! Anyway I had a look about but decided in the end that I'd be better prepared when I came back with Mo in the summer. I retraced my steps back down, this time following the fence posts a little further towards the road before cutting across to the waterlogged track and the short stroll back to the car. In all it had taken me just over two hours up and back with a stop at the top.

Tap 'o Noth,

I decided to have the rest of my food at the car park before heading off; it was nearly lunchtime after all. The car park was busy since it's an obvious short walk relatively near civilisation and with a good track right to the top.

Tap 'o Noth
There are in fact two routes up. The most popular follows an estate road that sweeps its way up and around, following the contours of the hill. The other is a more direct path through the heather crossing the estate path near the top and heading directly for the summit. With a couple of families in the distance making their way slowly up the track I decided on the more direct path. Call me anti-social if you like!

The steeper of the two routes

Crossing the estate track
The last 50m or so is a little bit of a scramble over the vitrified rock of the old fort before I dropped down into the bowl of the summit. A quick internet search threw up this history of where I was now sitting:

"The Iron Age hillfort on Tap O' Noth is one of the largest in Scotland, consisting of 21 ha enclosed by a stone rampart. More than 100 house platforms have been recorded between the rampart and a massive wall that further protects the hill's summit. This stone and timber wall, more than 6m in width and 3m high, is vitrified in places - the stones have fused together through intense, prolonged heat. The extremely high temperatures generated by the burning timbers causes the surrounding stone to melt, and this phenomenon has been observed at many forts. On the summit there is a rock cut well or cistern."   Cabmore

Whatever it was and whatever happened to it I can only take the writer's word for it but what I can say is that it's a very pleasant spot for lying in the sun for an hour until those families I mentioned earlier finally turned up!

Vitrified walls

Tap 'o Noth summit (563m)

Looking back to The Buck from Tap 'o Noth
I took the easy estate track back down and tried to be sociable to the several groups making their way up. The weather had stayed beautiful all the time I had been out although the haze hadn't done my photos any favours - at least that's my excuse! The views from both tops had been fantastic and I was glad to have decided to do both.

On the way down
In the end I was back at the car just after 2 o'clock, so not a long day even though I felt I had achieved a fair amount. And for the record I cut the grass on Tuesday!!

More Photos

1 comment:

  1. Grass cutting is like dusting – they were invented by the upper classes to keep the lower orders occupied during periods of idleness. I cut mine last Friday and it kept me out of mischief. That vitrified fort is fascinating. I’ve heard of them but never actually visited one. I read about one in Galloway many years ago and have meant to get along there for a look. Someday, perhaps. When the grass has been cut.
    Cheers now, Alen McF