The hill-fort on top of Dunideer near Insch is well worth the sweat & potential tears ascending it. The biggest warning I would give to any going there is watch yer feet for rabbit holes. Once at the top the views are stunning around the site, not to mention the medieval remains. As well as portions of vitrified walling stretching back to the Iron-Age.
Photos and a couple of videos of my visit to Dunideer at the following url:
Driving up from Banchory to the North Aberdeenshire coast - via Tomnagorn - I just had to stop off at Stonehead..... and Dunnideer sort of insists you pay a visit, too.
My first 'vitrified' hillfort, as it happens. This is apparently a process - intentional or otherwise - whereby the stone rampart is transformed into a very hard glass-like substance through intense heat.
Crowned by a large fragment of an early medieval tower, both Dunnydeer and - just - Stonehead RSCs are visible from the summit. To be honest it's too much for the brain to take in all at once!
Note that it's a sharp climb to the summit except if approaching from the direction of the Dunnydeer RSC. I'd therefore recommend parking at Dunnydeer Farm and ascending via the circle.......
We were staying in Insch for the night, so after a long drive up from Lancashire, stopping en-route to pick Vicky up in Glasgow, we finally saw Dunnideer around 7pm.
As we drove by this most beautiful of sites, a herd of red deer came running down the hill, following a huge stag. We pulled the car over and just watched, amazed by it all. There was just the railway track between us and them. The stag looked across at us, sniffed majestically into the wind and set off again, followed by the hinds. The most Scottish of moments I have ever witnessed!!
The B&B was pretty ropey but the setting was amazing - our room had a wee bench and table outside and we sat and watched the sunset and dusk fall over the hill. It was still light enough to read our maps at 11pm, with a bottle of wine and some bread and cheese to finish it off - just perfect.....
Next day came down to the castle of Dunadeer: from its eminent situation on the top of a high circular hill, it is observable at a great distance.
Lessly, bishop of Ross, whose history of Scotland was printed at Rome in the fifteenth century, says that this hill was called Dun d'ore, the Golden Mountain, on account of its abounding with gold; that it was owing to this, that the teeth of the sheep which feed upon it, look as if overlaid with gold; and a large circle of stones on the hill, give a brazen sound.*
And the common people have still a tradition current among them, that persons skilled in magic, by performing certain ceremonies at sun-rise, will see the shrubs assume the appearance of gold, on those parts of the hill that most abound with it. From whence these fables derived their origin must be uncertain: but as to the last, one could easily conceive, how the whole summit of the mount would have a golden hue, when receiving the warm glow of the morning, before the sun-beams reached the plain.
*Lesslaei, Hist. Scotiae, 29. The bishop observes, that tradition said, the great circle of stones had composed the temple of an idol:- it may be superfluous to remark, that more probably the stones were druidical, and the fable of the sound they gave, calculated to inspire votaries with greater awe.
.. the Hill of Dun-o-Deer, in the parish of Insch: a conical hill of no great elevation, on the top of which stand the remains of a vitrified fort or castle, said to have been built by King Gregory about the year 880, and was used by that monarch as a hunting-seat; and where, combining business with pleasure, he is said to have meted out evenhanded justice to his subjects in the Garioch.
It has long been the popular belief that this hill contains gold; and that the teeth of sheep fed on it assume a yellow tinge, and also that their fat is of the same colour. Notwithstanding this, no attempt at scientific investigation has ever been made.
From Notes and Queries, September 24th, 1853.
The New Statistical Account says ".. only one wall [of the tower] remains entire, and this having but two windows, one above the oteher, and the upper one very much enlarged by the crumbling of its sides, has a curious effect seen at a distance, and is known by the name of "Gregory's wall," from a tradition that King Gregory had resided here."