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Chapter 4. Surface Features

In the northern part of Banffshire there are hills that serve as useful landmarks at sea, while the southern possesses some of the highest mountains in Great Britain. One characteristic height in the north is the Bin of Cullen (i o5o feet), with its neighbours the Little Bin and the Hill of Maud. From the top of the conical Bin the spectator has a fine panorama of sea and land. To the south the prospect stretches to Cairngorm, to the west are the mountains of Inverness-shire, to the north the coast land lies at his feet with headlands and bays, villages and towns, while across the Firth his eye rests on the Sutors of Cromarty, Ben Wyvis and other hills of Northern Scotland. Even lower heights are interesting watch-towers. From the Hill of Alvah (578 feet) we may see a large tract of Buchan, its somewhat monotonous aspect relieved by the bold headlands of Gamrie and Troup; to the south thriving woods and fertile lands with Benachie in the distance; the Buck of the Cabrach and Ben Rinnes in the south-west; to the north the wooded park of Duff House and the town of Banff; and beyond the sea the fantastic forms of the Caithness Hills.

The Knock Hill (1409 feet) dominates a large area in the lower part of the county. Ben Aigan, looking down on Banff and Moray and swept by the Spey, rises to 1544 feet. Further up the valley, Ben Rinnes rears its head to a height of 2755 feet, with its less exalted neighbours, the Meikle and Little Convals, while the adjoining Forests of Glenfiddich and Blackwater have heights well over 2000 feet. Eastward the Buck of the Cabrach (2368 feet) stands sentinel, while to the west, in the direction of the Braes of Glenlivet, are the Ladder Hills (2475 feet), over which runs the mountainous road to the upper valley of the Don.

From this point southwards is an extensive spur of the Grampians, peak upon peak rising in view amid the waste of mountains. Many of them are between 2000 and 3000 feet. West of Inchrory is Garravoun (2431 feet); in the Forest of Glenaven is the Bruach (2338 feet); between the Gairn and the Aven, Ben Aven towers to a height of 3843 feet; the Cairngorm group on the confines of the county with Inverness is itself dominated by Cairngorm (4084 feet) and where the county meets Aberdeen is the mighty mass of Ben Macdhui (4296 feet). Among these hills are the infant waters of the Dee, the Don, the Aven and many smaller streams, some reaching the North Sea at Aberdeen; others flowing to the Moray Firth.

In these wild regions, winter tarries long. From Tomintoul one may see extensive patches of white at midsummer,

and autumn is not gone when the hills around have got the covering of a new winter's snow. It is the land of the ptarmigan, the white hare, the lordly buck, and the peregrine; and in its lower altitudes the rifle takes its toll of the fox in his predatory tours among the flocks of hardy black-faced sheep that here find their summer home. The eagle is not yet extinct in the immense Forest of Glen Aven. The "beat" of the single policeman at Tomintoul includes the Cairngorms, but probably he does not very frequently take so wide a circuit. The same uninhabited area appertains to the ecclesiastical parish of Tomintoul, which must surely be one of the most extensive quoad sacra parishes in Scotland, including as it does about nine miles in length of the inhabited part of the civil parish of KirkmichaeI, and the twelve or fifteen uninhabited miles that stretch into the Grampians.

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