Everyone has somewhere special. For me it’s Bennachie. And I’m going there today.
A fairly modest hill in the North East of Scotland near Inverurie, Bennachie was the first thing I saw every morning when I opened my curtains.
As kids, my brother, sisters and I were force marched up it by our parents. It felt like a punishment. But as we grew up, our relationship with the hill changed.
It became important to us. We learned about ghosts, mysterious plane crashes and what one of its summits, ‘Mither Tap’ actually means (more later).
Then we got involved in our own bit of Bennachie history. Our next door neighbour, Maitland Mackie, the very embodiment of big ideas and eccentricity, hosted a birthday party for his son Mac high up on the hill.
We were all given our own kites to fly. Colourful, chaotic and fun. Like Maitland. As the sun set, we made our way down the hill. Everyone apart from Grant Mackie .
Exhausted by the day he became detached from our bunch of adults and 8/9 year old kite fliers. And when we got to the bottom of the hill at dusk he had vanished.
An overnight search by Police and local men including my Dad, and Grant was found fast asleep, under a tree. He still had his kite.
As teenagers we searched in vain for crashed planes on Bennachie.
On the very first day of the Second World War in September 1939 an RAF biplane crashed on the hill. Sadly it’s Canadian pilot and a gunner from Paisley lost their lives. They are now recognised as this country’s first military fatalities of that war.
We were desperate to find that plane or failing that, bits of the other crashed military plane, a jet which came down in the 50’s.
And when we got older, we’d go on midnight climbs organised by our school, smuggling hip flasks and trying to be nonchalant and cool as we tripped over rocks in the dark.
Now? Bennachie is a fantastic annual run, usually done on the morning of Hogmanay with my brother, mates and my not very bright but tremendously enthusiastic dog, Rolo.
From Mithers Tap (because it’s shaped like a breast) I can see the farm where I was brought up, the fantastic Aberdeenshire patchwork countryside, the sea, and the pub where tonight I’m meeting some mates.
It’s a special place and if you’re ever in that area, go!