I've driven past the sign on the A96 road near Huntly which points to the Bin forest car park literally hundreds of times and yet not visited - feeling that a walk close to a busy road would be spoiled. I'm pleased to say I was totally wrong.
On a really windy Sunday morning we parked and headed out on one of the waymarked trails which climbs steadily up through the forest.
The Bin was originally planted for timber using seeds brought to Scotland by the great plant collector David Douglas, and while still worked partly as a commercial forest there's much more to it. It's been a long time since I've visited a forest with quite some much variety; open areas alternate with denser woods and mixed stands of wood are much in evidence. In this image there are Spruce, Scots Pine, Birch and Rowan all within a few square metres.
There was plenty of interest in the small scale too, miniature forests of lichen and mosses with just as much variety as the big stuff.
We saw the first frog spawn of the year in a pool beside the path, possibly laid the previous week in the very warm (for February) conditions. Whether this spawn will survive is questionable with sub-zero temperatures and some snow forecast for the first week of March.
A small group of Ladybirds, probably 7 Spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septemunctata) were sunning themselves in a sheltered spot on an old pine branch. We've seen a lot of these bright little creatures this winter, our Christmas tree proved to have large numbers hibernating among the branches which we carefully took outside and placed in similar spots in the garden!
Near the top of the forest the view opens up and our attention switched from the small things at our feet to the wider landscape - this is a view to the Buck, a prominent hill above the Cabrach.
The high point of the Bin forest is the hill after which it's named, the Bin is 313m/1026ft. "Bin" is probably a variant of "Ben", the Gaelic term for hill or mountain - there's another so named close by, the Bin of Cullen, which is almost exactly the same height. There top is an outcrop surrounded by trees offering good views through breaks in the canopy. A nearby pool is known as the "Gallon of Water" and was supposed to have healing powers, especially for children with Whooping Cough. The walk to the summit followed by a "dook" in freezing water probably would have some effect, one way or the other!
We descended back down to the main track through a wood which little ones would recognise as good habitat for Gruffalo, and half glimpsed a strange creature through the trees....we're still not sure, but it may have been?
Other strange sights were present in this part of the wood - great mushrooms of mosses........
....and a split boulder through which the path winds. Our route took the Yellow and White trails through the forest, the longest of the options and circling the hill to arrive back at the car park. In total our walk was 10km and has around 200m of ascent, mostly on good forest rack with some smaller path sections. For variety and interest the Bin has lots going for it - and is certainly not rubbish! As a bonus, the nearby town of Huntly has a number of places to eat.