Location: Bin of Cullen, Moray

Grade: Short hillwalk

Distance: 3.5 miles/5.5km

Time: 1.5 hours

If you like Cullen Skink, the curiously named soup made from smoked haddock, milk and onions, you may be interested in comments made by the infamous Dr Samuel Johnson.

In his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides he and his travelling companion James Boswell reckoned Cullen had a “comfortable appearance…and the houses mostly poor buildings”. Apparently Dr Johnson was disgusted by

the sight of “dried haddocks broiled” when they were served for breakfast.

He refused to eat them. I wonder what he would think of Cullen Skink now being served in some of the country’s poshest restaurants.

The village lies on the Moray coast, an area of north-east Scotland that enjoys one of the mildest climates in the UK. The village is dominated by vast railway viaducts, two of which are now part of the Sustrans national cycle network. Apparently they were built because the owners of Cullen House didn’t want the railway too close to their home.

To the south-west of Cullen, rising dramatically from the surrounding forestry, lies the 320m Bin of Cullen.

Bin is a corruption of the Gaelic word for hill, “beinn”

and the hill offers a short but pleasant walk up through the woods to its impressive summit and far-flung views.

To reach the start of the walk, follow the A98 east out of Cullen and take the first right onto the B9018. After about 3km turn right (signed Hill of Maud).

Two kilometres further on the road bends left to leave the forest and a track heads

off to the right into the trees (with a sign for “Seafield Estates – Do not Block the Entrance’”). Park here beside

the entrance to this track, without obstructing access. Estate and forestry vehicles regularly use the track.

The route itself is straightforward and it’s worth carrying a pair of binoculars. Chances are you will get a glimpse of a crossbill, the Scottish “parrot of the pinewoods”, and you are more than likely to spot red squirrels. If you are really lucky, you might even see a pine marten, one of the most beautiful creatures of the pine forest. There is a temptation to think dense woodland like this is bereft of fauna but glimpses of any wildlife is dependent on patience, being observant and keeping as quiet as possible.

The walk begins up the main track and the last time I was here we were fortunate enough to spot a crossbill almost as soon as we started walking. It’s a curious looking bird with crossed mandibles that allow it to penetrate pine cones for the seeds. It’s the UK’s only endemic bird species.

We crossed a small bridge and began the climb up through the Scots pines. The climb soon levelled out as we approached the bealach between Bin of Cullen and the lower Little Bin but it wasn’t long before we were climbing gently again.

Ignore a rough short-cut route on the right – used by descending mountain-bikers

– and instead keep on the wide track that eases the gradient with a series of zig-zags.

A final zig-zag deposited us on the broad, grassy summit. Apparently there used to be a summit cairn but, according to various reports, it “mysteriously vanished in 2002”.

Today there is a view indicator that is showing signs of its exposure to the North Sea winds.

Indicator or not, the views are impressive, especially on a clear day. To the north lie the hills of Caithness and Sutherland, and the distinctive conical outline of Morven is easy to spot.

Portsoy and Troup Head are to the east and to the south-east is the bulk of Knock Hill at 1,410ft (430m). The swell of the Cairngorms can be clearly seen too. To the west along the Moray coast you can see the curve of the bay at Lossiemouth and away below you lies Cullen with its viaducts.

Cameron McNeish


Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 28 (Elgin & Dufftown); 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 425 (Huntly & Cullen).

Distance: 3.5 miles/5.5km

Time: 1.5 hours

Start/finish: Parking place by gateway on minor road near Braidbog (GR: NJ 492633).

Public transport: None to the start.

Information: Elgin TIC, 01343 562608, www.discovercullen.com

Route: Park at the entrance to the track near Braidbog but don’t block the gateway. From gate follow track for about 200m before passing another track on your R. Continue L until you reach a bridge over a burn. Cross this and you reach an intersection. Turn L here, climb past mature Scots pine and soon the track levels out. Turn L and continue climbing up a stony track past more Scots pines. Once out of the trees, the path leads all the way to the summit. Return the same way.

Walks may be subject to local restrictions