Tap O' Noth Hillfort, Aberdeenshire
Rhynie, South of Huntly
Tap O Noth is Scotland's second highest hillfort at 1,848 feet high, is its largest and arguably its most stunning.
A low grass and heather covered wall and boulders are all that remain of the the Dark Age hillfort that surround the summit, lower down on its slopes covering about 50 acres.
Up to 800 round houses have been excavated, which would have been home to some 4,000 people within this massive enclosure, making it by far the largest Pictish settlement in all of Scotland.
Of much more obvious interest, though, are the massive 20 feet wide heavily vitrified walls of the smaller and earlier hillfort located further up on its summit. In its day it would have made for a formidable sight. In ruin it is nothing less than spectacular.
Sherds of amphora, decorated Roman containers, used for storing oil or wine have been found within the hillfort. What is really unusual is that these have only been found at a few dozen sites anywhere in the country, including Tintagel in Cornwall and a number of important Royal sites in Ireland, and never as high up as this hillfort. Tap O Noth was clearly an important center of power within Pictland. There is also evidence from its vitrified walls how this magnificent hillfort met its end, by fire in battle - a dignified end to this once mighty fortress.
There is a small car park off the road that runs beneath the shadow of this spectacular stronghold. From here take the path that winds it way through gates uphill to the summit. Good walking boots are a must. It took me approximately 40 minutes to climb to the summit with a few stops along the way to take in the wonderful views. Once at the top the view is simply breathtaking, especially on a clear day in good weather, where you can see the Aberdeenshire coastline, plains and spawling hills in all directions. Tap O Noth was a location I had wanted to explore for many years and it certainly did not disappoint.
A very special experience well worth the climb.