27/10/2013 - Standing on top of Hill of Barra, looking out over the impressive ramparts to Bennachie and its own hillfort on Mither Tap, I gave myself a telling off for not coming here sooner. Really nice walls surrounding large summit area. The views all round are fantastic. The view down the corridor between Bennachie and Hill of Foudland to Dunnideer and Tap O' Noth being particularly good. Started from Oldmeldrum and walked over Hill of Barra to Kirkton of Bourtie stone circle and back. Signposts all the way. Great stuff.
I decide to approach from Oldmeldrum - although, in retrospect, Drew's Bourtie route is probably a better alternative. Not that the northern ascent is dodgy.... oh no, far from it, a initial walk through woodland leading to a well marked stroll across the green hillside. It's just the vibe at the start will no doubt be better. I park in Millburn Lane (near the roundabout) and walk up the 'private road' to Redhouse Farm, just before which a signed footpath leads through the aforementioned woodland to the left. Stiles will keep you on track thereafter across the fields. A point to note, however, is the 'Hill of Barra Closed to Public for Lambing' sign. However it is late May and, since locals are out and about walking dogs, I decide to join them and go ahead with my plans. Needless to say the only sheep I see are in the distance, but there you are... a restriction of such duration a trifle OTT, perhaps, particularly bearing in mind this is an ancient monument, and a rather fine one at that?
So... as I approach the summit of Hill of Barra I'm suddenly confronted by a fine, tri-vallate enclosure. Not what I was expecting, to be honest, but all the more welcome for that. The inner rampart is actually very susbstantial, the defences extending around all the circumference save the western flank - simply no need there since Nature has thought fit to create a natural, craggy defence line.
As for the views... Oldmeldrum and its industrial estates need to be factored into that to the north; the rest of the points of the compass need no such caveats. Yeah, the hill is a fine viewpoint, indeed. What's more the stone circles of Kirkton of Bourtie and (the utterly wondrous) Sheildon can be seen in their landscape settings either side of the former's nearby farm. It is a nice touch. Tap O'Noth is also conspicuous.... but then of course it would be, wouldn't it?
The vibe is one of peace rising above a hive of activity to the north, an oasis of calm so near to, yet completely detached from, the modern world. Consequently I choose the southern arc for lunch and drift off for a while. Gazing across to the Bourtie RSC a wave of timelessness washes over me. It can't last, of course.... time waits for no Gladman.... but at least I'm off to find the Deer Park 'circle. Not exactly a drag, it has to be said.
The community of Bourtie have a path that leads to the summit of the Hill Of Barra. I parked beside the old kirk and made my way thru various stiles and fields to reach the the summit. A walk of about 800 meters. This walk isn't so popular as the Oldmeldrum (the Blankets) side, but I would advise it's use, the stone circles at Bourtie and Shieldon are close by as well as the ring cairn on the Hill Of Selbie.
This was a well positioned fort with truly tremendous views over the Garioch area of Grampian. This path approaches from a south easterly direction, the first views being the three ramparts and the entrance. Nature did it's job for the northern defences. Within the fort is Wallaces Stone. Robert the Bruce used it as a base to subjue the Earl of Buchan. Check the 1308 site. Why don't they teach this stuff in schools?
As is usual up here the weather changed instantly and the customary drenching happened on the way down. Don't let that stop you from coming here as this is the heart of rural Aberdeenshire. So a good starting point for anybody's adventures!
A British fortress on Barra-hill in Aberdeenshire.. deserves notice. It is built in an elliptical form; and the ramparts were partly composed of stones, having a large ditch that occupies the summit of the hill, which as it is about two hundred feet above the vale, overlooks the low ground between it and the mountain of Benachie. It was surrounded by three lines of circumvallation. Facing the west the hill rises very steeply; and the middle line is interrupted by rocks; while the only access to the fort is on the eastern side where the ascent is easy; and at this part the entry to the fort is perfectly obvious.
This Caledonian hill-fort is now called by the tradition of the country, Cummin's Camp, from the defeat which the Earl of Buchan there sustained, when attacked by the gallant Bruce.
From 'A History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans' by James Browne v1 (1849) - which you may read on Google Books.
Legend has it that William Wallace, the legendary Scottish freedom fighter, picked up this stone and flung it at Robert The Bruce, the Scottish King. Wallace believed that the Bruce had killed to much men in the North East and in anger heaved this at the King. One problem--Wallace wasn't even here. Nice story though.
Another legend tells of the story that the giant Jock O Bennachie had caught the Tap O Noth wooing one of his girlfriends. In anger this stone was flung, in completely the wrong direction, as the Tap O Noth is northwards, Barra is to the east. Thank goodness he didn't play darts as the Grenago Stone at Oldmeldrum is reported to be another bad aim.