Start location: Hilton Farm track (NO 808 946)
End location: unclassified road near Cowton just off A957 (Slug Road) (NO 838 892)
Geographical area: Grampian
Path Type: Drove Road, Roman Road
Path distance: 6.6km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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The north end of the right of way is at a forest gate and parking area at NO807945. A broad rough-surfaced forest track leads ahead. After some 300m, just after a major track junction at NO807941, a grassy path heads up into the trees on the left/east side; this is the line of the old Elsick Mounth. The underfoot going is likely to be wet. The old line is always apparent and takes a fairly direct, rising line just east of south; it crosses two modern forest tracks and eventually emerges at the edge of the forest at an old gate at NO810921. An open grassy section of some 300m leads down to join a modem landrover track at NO813917, the route then going south over a spur to Easter Auquhollie and from there southeast past Nether Auquhollie to join the Slug Road (A957) at Mowtie, 5km from Stonehaven.
OS Landranger 45 (Stonehaven & Banchory)
This road dates from at least the Roman period although it could well be older than that. The route would have been an access road between Stonehaven and the north side of the Dee. Other nearby old routes are the Causey Mounth which would occassionally have been covered with coastal haar, and the much higher Cairn a' Mounth which would have been difficult to cross for much of the year. Therefore it seems that the Elsick Mounth must have seen a lot of travel and, as Raedykes and Normandykes Roman Forts are located at each end, it is likely that this was either a pre-Roman route that the Romans exploited or a road built by the Romans.
Sir James Balfour of Denmilne (1600-1651) prepared a list of Mounth passes which appeared in the Spalding Club Collections on the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff, printed in 1843. He describes the Elsick Mounth as going from Stonehaven to Drum. This route by Auquhollie is the only route from Stonehaven to Deeside shown on Garden’s map of Kincardine in 1776. One branch by Denside went to the old ford on the River Dee at Tilbouries, 1km south of Drum. It is also shown on Roy’s map of 1755 so it was clearly still in heavy use in the 18th century.
A fascinating standing stone, the Lang Stane, is located near the southern end of the road. There is ogham writing along one of the corners of this stone. Ogham is the oldest written language in the British Isles and ogham stone inscriptions flourished in the 5th and 6th centuries. A translation of this inscription has been published as reading Avuo Annunio Soothsayer of Dovenio where Avuo Annunio was a soothsayer for some local chief called Dovenio. This appears appropriate as it is said that most ogham inscriptions are boundary markers or epitaphs, but another theory says Scottish ogham inscriptions are in the Pictish language, so are untranslatable. There is also a strange rectangular shape carved on one side of the stone.
The Heritage Paths project is pleased to announce that Neil Ramsay (our former Project Officer) and Nate Pedersen (one of our earliest volunteers) have teamed up to write an ebook - The Mounth Passes - with photography by long-standing ScotWays member Graham Marr. If you too are interested in the heritage of these old ways through the Grampian Mountains, we highly recommend it.