After a pleasant traverse among the pine woods Allan showed me the former Corennie Quarry - despite having lived in the area for many years I wasn't aware that this was concealed on a rocky hillside within the woods. Now filled with water, it made a great reflecting pool on this still and clear morning. The quarry was active in the late 19th century and was quite a hive of activity, there was a smithy and steam powered machinery in place and a trackway linking to the railway which linked Alford to Aberdeen. Granite from the quarry was used both locally and much further afield - some being exported as far as Australia.
After exploring the quarry we climbed out of the forest and onto the open hillside. Straight away the views begin to open up....
...especially out over the Howe of Alford , across the village itself and beyond to the Correen Hills. I could just make out where my house is in the view too!
This last day of the year was bright with a low winter sun. We'd chosen a route to put the sun at our backs and were glad of it. Ahead the moor dips slightly before heading over to Cairn William. We enjoyed striding out on a good path with wide views.
We were soon at the great domes of granite which form the summit of Cairn William. At 448m/1470ft this isn't a high hill at all but does have good views, and as a bonus it's on our doorsteps!
The view across to Bennachie is really fine, the distinctive shape seen from much of Aberdeenshire is one I instinctively look for in any skyline view. We didn't loiter on the summit because a chilly breeze had started up, so we headed to the bealach between Cairn William and Pitfichie Hill to have a rest stop. A quick climb up to the summit of Pitfichie Hill had us warmed up again - and at early afternoon we started back, the sun already low in the sky.
The low winter sun through the trees of the forest was creating some lovely light and shade patterns. Lorna had walked out to meet us and found us taking a half step left and right to get the best image - as anyone who spends time with me on the hill or water will know, taking photos can take eat hours over the course of a day!
Walking back across the fields near Allan and Lorna's house we were treated to the most delicate of sunsets. The last day of the year had started gold and blue, it would end in pink and lilac.
We stood until the cold moved us on, the colourful sky enhanced by a soundtrack of thousands of Pink Footed geese heading to Loch of Skene for the night. What a superb way to end the year!