Name of Site
Kirkton of Maryculter Wood
Approx. 8 miles Southwest of Aberdeen, adjacent to the Kirkton of Maryculter
NO857 990 (Kirkton entrance)
NO862 991 (Burnside entrance)
dwarf.jugs.dummy (Kirkton entrance)
awesome.officer.thatched (Burnside entrance)
Listed as Crynoch Burn Trail in Maryculter woods
The main visitor entrance is the Burnside entrance - please park here. The Kirkton entrance is intended for pedestrian access only. There are also 4 other pedestrian entrances (arrowed on downloadable map), one of which is from the public road running through the Kirkton.
Roads and Paths
3.4km of multi-user forest road (forming a lasso loop of 4.5km from the Burnside entrance), 7.5km of unimproved paths (which can get muddy)
The altitude ranges from 43m to 107m above sea level. The highest ground is on the eastern flank of Oldman Hill, the summit of which (at 109m) lies just 50m to the west of the wood. The lowest point is where the Crynoch Burn exits the wood. The slopes are gentle, apart from the steep slopes forming the valley of the Crynoch Burn, notably the very steep slopes on the western bank of the Burn.
The bedrock is the highly deformed rocks of the Dalradian series (~600 Million years old) which have been intruded by younger white granites (470 Million years old), typical of the Grampian area. The area was fully buried under ice during the last Ice Age (22,000years ago) and you can still see plenty of evidence of this in the wood. There are rock outcrops worn smooth by ice, large boulders dropped by glaciers as the ice retreated and glacial boulder clay in the valley of the Crynoch Burn. All of the above rock types can be seen in small outcrops scattered throughout the wood.
On Oldman Hill there are clearance cairns, field systems and even a possible round house that are all thought to date back as far as the Bronze Age. This settlement may have been small-scale and/or short-lived as the next dateable signs of human activity are from the 19th Century when some land improvement was attempted. There is some evidence of ploughing before the wood became a commercial plantation but not to the extent that rig & furrow was developed. Further evidence that any historical land improvement was quite limited in scope comes from the generally poor soil development and the observation that most of the large glacial rocks remain in situ i.e. undisturbed since the Ice Age.
The wood was once part of the Preceptory of the Templar Knights at Maryculter, founded between 1221 and 1236. In 1312 their land was passed on to the Knights Hospitallers and after their demise in 1528 the Maryculter lands were broken up and the wood became part of the Menzies of Pitfodels estate. In 1787 a new parish church was built, creating the Kirkton of Maryculter, and it is likely that tracks which cross the wood heading towards the church were established at the same time. In 1811 the wood and other land in Maryculter were bought by the Gordon family whereupon the modern borders to the wood were firmly established. The wood remained the property of the Gordon family until the death of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon in 1931. The wood was then purchased in 1936 by Forestry Commission Scotland and immediately replanted with commercial conifers, some of which still remain in the wood. MWT purchased the land in 2016.
Soils are mostly the peat and acid soils typical of heather moorland. There are also glacial sands and clays on the valley sides and floodplain of the Crynoch Burn.
The wood was managed as a commercial plantation prior to purchase by MWT and nearly half of the area consists of legacy commercial stands of conifers (mostly sitka spruce with minor lodgepole pine, larch and Norway spruce). Clear-felling in stages over the last 30 years has created a diverse set of habitats dominated by natural regeneration of sitka, lodgepole pine, birch and rowan. Open areas include heather moor, fenland and the riparian zone of the Crynoch Burn.
The Crynoch Burn creates an important riparian habitat in the wood. Veteran Scots pine still survive in the southern corner of the wood along with remnant blaeberry and heather typical of native Caledonian pinewood. Pollen analysis of a bog core taken in the wood, and studied at Aberdeen University, confirms the historical presence of hazel/birch woodland with minor oak & elm followed by a trend towards more pine over the last few hundred years.
Our trail cams frequently film red squirrel, roe deer and occasional pine marten. Sitings of badgers, foxes & small mammals are also common. Bird species include long-tailed tits, crossbills, cuckoos, tawny owls, heron, wrens, waxwings, warblers as well as the more abundant garden species. Common & soprano pipistrelle bats are recorded every summer. A moth survey, conducted by Theresa Dockery & Dean Muir, identified 56 species of moth, including 5 listed as rapidly declining in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and one (northern marble) listed as nationally rare. Rarest of all are otters which have been recorded further downstream along the Crynoch Burn.
A survey of all plant species in the wood has been compiled with the assistance of David Welch and David Elston (former and current Vice-County Recorders for the British Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, BSBI). They were assisted by David Plant, Hazel Witte and James Cousland. This survey recorded over 230 different plant species, including some not previously recorded in Kincardineshire e.g. Dark Stonewort (Nitella opaca).
In 2019 the local artist Stan Brooks created a circular, walk-in, sculpture titled ‘The Nest’. It is built from Greenheart wood salvaged from Sullom Voe Oil Terminal. Under Stan’s supervision, local school children have inserted stick bundles into the wall of the Nest to create an enormous insect hotel. Please do not remove these stick bundles. The Nest is now an atmospheric and peaceful place to visit in the heart of the woods.
Area zoned as woodland and part of a Local Nature Conservation Site (LNCS). The Crynoch Burn and the un-named canalised watercourse which runs from west to east through the wood are also part of the River Dee Special Area of Conservation and must be managed accordingly.