This moorland was not meant to be lived on. It was a commonty; common land shared by the neighbouring landlords. People were allowed to use this land for free to graze sheep or cattle. They could also draw on its natural resources of wood, peat, stone and heather. It was not land for growing crops.
A plan of the commonty undertaken in 1845 by Alexander Smith. The original document is held at the National Archives of Scotland.
In 1801, while people were being forced off land elsewhere, one man decided to live on the rent-free slopes of Bennachie. Other families soon joined him and a farming community grew. In 1859, however, the landlords divided the ownership of the commonty and began to charge rent. Some families could not afford to stay, others were evicted, but a few remained and continued to farm.
This plan was drawn in 1858 by James Forbes Beattie and used by the eight landlords to divide the commonty between them.
You can see the remains of the houses that belonged to this short-lived community by following the Bennachie Colony Trail.
Visiting Bennachie Colony
The exact location of Bennachie Colony is grid reference NJ 698 216.
The best place to start your visit is the Bennachie Visitor Centre.
All sites managed by Forestry and Land Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.
Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.
Excavating the house at Bennachie
The excavations of the Bennachie house revealed a small, rectangular building, only 8 metres long by 5 metres wide. The walls only survived to a low height. In the west end of the building, they found a fireplace with the remains of the last peat fire burnt in the house remaining.
Finds included; 19th century pottery, two leather shoes and a metal belt buckle. They also found the bowl of an old clay pipe, used for smoking tobacco.
Carefully placed trenches on the outside of the building shows that this house had a small enclosure, as well as its own garden. In addition, two fields were associated with the house. The people who lived there would have grown their own vegetables and crops as well as keep some livestock.
Mixed within the interior rubble they discovered a small amount of burnt material. It is possible that the roof was burnt and the walls pushed in to force the house to collapse.