06/01/2013 - Last time I was here was 5 years back. Unbelievably windy day that had us hiding behind the trigpoint in case our sandwiches blew away. Today, though still pretty windy, we managed to have a better look at the ramparts that make up the fort. I wonder why it was never completed? As Drew writes in his fieldnotes, the views all round are great. We parked at the start of the Ben Rinnes path (NJ 2847 3596) and made our way round the track on the west side of Meikle Conval to the col between it and Little Conval. A short climb up a path took us to the fort. Back over Meikle Conval is a nice way back to the car. Fine day out.
This uncompleted fort must have been a massive place as it measures 600ft by almost 500 ft. Two lines of stone ramparts surround the top of the hill except on the northern side where ditches seem to take over. It seems that stone defences were never finished. The views to Dufftown are stunning, Tap O Noth can be seen to the east, Durn Hill in the far north with Ben Rinnes to the south and to the west, The Highlands. So massive was the fort that some agricultural uses have been recorded.
There must be an easier route than my one as there is a path of sorts at the top which seemed to go north towards Dufftown. I stopped at the second farm track heading west south of Dufftown on the B9009. From here walk the track thru nice woodland, past a quarry, some ruined farmsteads until the tracks end at the 7th hole of the local golf course. Seeing golfers prepare to drive up the hill, I waited, only to see balls come over my head from behind me. Obviously the 7th is uphill. Over the back of the green into the woods and head straight up jumping over a couple of burns. This is very steep in parts and if an easier route can be found use it. Still the views are astonishing, I've never been here before and to see Tap O Noth just appearing over the hills in the east is magical. Ben Rinnes, which I've climbed several times, looked majestic, and very shapely. As is usual going back downhill is easier, and this time I was ready for the 7th hole.
The fort up here is only one of a variety of things you can point to around Dufftown to illustrate the undoubtedly true tale that follows. The writer was clearly very proud of his local legend.
Battle of Mortlach:-- In the year 1010, Malcolm II. obtained, in this parish, that signal victory over the Danes, which has ever since given the place a superior degree of fame, and makes it respected as classic ground. Human nature is inclined to regard, with a peculiar reverence, the very spot of earth on which was of old transacted any remarkable event.
Malcolm had been beat the year before by the Danes, and was obliged to leave them in possession of the lands of Moray. Anxious, however, to expel such intruders, he now returns upon them from the south, with a powerful force; and the Danes, having intelligence of his motions, came forward to give him battle.
It's excitingly written but rather lengthy - you can read it here in the 1796 statistical account. http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/link/1791-99/Banff/Mortlach/17/442/
Essentially three of the Scottish generals get themselves killed in their enthusiasm, and the home side fears that the game's up. But the sensible King pops over to the church and has a quick pray. This perks him up and after a rousing speech to the army he 'throws Enetus, one of the Danish generals, from his horse, and kills him with his own hand.' After this the Scots rally and see off the Danes. There's the cunning idea that the river could have been dammed to flood the Danish while they slept, but the author can't quite fit that into the story convincingly, so attributes it to another occasion.
As traditional and pretty sure memorials of this famous battle, are pointed out;
1. The vestiges of an intrenchment, very distinct at this day, on the summit of the little Conval-hill, called by the neighbourhood the Danish Camp.
2. A number of tumuli, or cairns, supposed to have been collected over the bodies of the fallen.
3. A huge and irregularly roundish stone, formerly, it is said, on the grave of Enetus, but now rolled a few ells from its station over the corpse, and made a part of a fence about a field of corn; where it is denominated the Aquavitae Stone. To account for this appellation, and to prevent antiquarians from puzzling their brains with dark and learned hypotheses in time to come, it may not be improper to tell, that the men, whose brawny strength removed this venerable tenant, finding it rather a hard piece of work, got, as a solace for their toil, a pint of whisky, out of which, immediately, around the stone, they took a hearty dram. Every body knows, that, in Scotland, whisky and aquavitae are the same.
There are numerous other 'proofs' as well, including (possibly) a gold torc.
The stone, according to the RCAHMS record, was broken up c1860, and before being moved was originally at NJ32314072.