Wednesday, 2 January 2013

"First footing" on the Correen Hills

"First footing" is the term given to the tradition of visiting a house early in the New Year. The 1st January dawned bright and cold - a good chance to first foot some local hills.

The Correen Hills form a broad horshoe ridge separating the Howe of Alford and Strathbogie.  The ascent is relatively gentle and the going underfoot good on grassy tracks and short heather - perfect to do some distance on a winter day.

20 minutes walk from home and I started the climb up Contlach Shank, a broad spur leading to an old quarry site.  The view back down to the valley shows the bleached winter grass of the farmland contrasting with the spruce plantations of Knockespoch forest.  A thin veil of cloud had appeared, but not for long.

Up on the ridge near Badingair Hill the northwesterly wind was bitingly cold and was discharging volleys of snow and stinging hail.  To the north is the distinctive hill of Tap o' Noth which has a large Pictish hillfort on the highest point - which must have been a cold place on a day like today!

Near to here I got a nice view of a Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis).  Not common locally, they are sometimes seen at valley level in hard winter weather.  The small bird was a brave sight and seemed perfectly at home amid the wind and hailstones.

A few stunted pine trees dot the ridge between Brux Hill and Edinbanchory Hill, clearly showing the way the prevailing wind blows.

The day's highest point, Lord Arthur's Hill (at just 518 metres/1700 feet) looks a long way from Edinbanchory Hill, but the walking is easy on a grassy track and the distance just reels off - a feature of the Correen Hills as a whole really.

I was glad to turn south east and put the wind at my back - the tears were streaming out of my eyes it was that strong and cold.  Looking straight south east, the backdrop is Bennachie and Millstone Hill.

From the summit of Lord Arthur's Hill, the start of the ridge at Contlach Shank was lit by shafts of sunlight in an almost stroboscopic effect.  The light was deceptively warm looking where it touched the russets of the heather.  The quarry spoil heaps are clearly visible, and the dotted lines up the hillside are grouse butts, concealment for grouse shooters.  Both aspects of the former use of these hills.

I'd been the "first foot" for three hills, but a couple of walkers descending Lord Arthur's Hillhad enjoyed the year's first ascent of that hill.  No matter; first, second or whatever number, this was a fine way to start the new year.

Already the sun was getting low, just skimming the southern horizon at a visible rate. 

My descent from the summit goes across the heather dome of Black Hill and on down towards the Howe of Alford, which seemed to have been in sunshine most of the day.

A good hillwalking start to the year with 21 kilometres walked and some great views just a short walk from home.


  1. the summit of Lord Arthur's Hill looks out of this world!

    thanks for sharing

  2. Hi Lee,

    The summit cairn is in fact a horshoe-shaped shelter with its back to the wind and a view down over the farmland of the Howe of Alford. Normally it's a nice place to sit and enjoy the view, but mighty cold on New Year's Day!

    Kind regards