Walk: Climbing the Ladder Hills

[Looking back down the Ladder Burn from the ascent to Dun Muir]

Where are the Ladder Hills? Hidden behind the main bulk of the Cairngorms and close to the world's whisky capital of Speyside, this gentle range of heather-clad summits take their name from The Ladder pass historically connecting Moray to inland Aberdeenshire. The remote location allowed Catholicism to continue uninterrupted during the Reformation, with the hidden College of Scalan and the (later) Our Lady of Perpetual Succour the surviving outposts today. This circuit passes both, also climbing the old pass en route to the highest summit in the area. Most people seem to overlook these rolling hills just as Protestantism did - the result should be a peaceful walk with grouse and mountain hares for company.

[Our Lady of Perpetual Succour]

Name: Walk: Climbing the Ladder Hills ★☆☆
Length: 15 km / 9 miles
Ascent: 520 metres
Main summits: Dun Muir (754 metres); Carn Mor (804 metres, Corbett)
Points of interest: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour; College of Scalan
Start / finish: Space to park at minor road end just south of Chapeltown of Glenlivet, G.R.: NJ 245205 / luggage enable mysteries

Route: Start - Our Lady of Perpetual Succour - Ladderfoot - The Ladder - Dun Muir - Carn Mor - shoulder between Coire Ranaich and Caochan Cuil - cairn at NJ 243177 - Clash of Scalan - College of Scalan - start
Terrain: Deteriorating: short section of minor road then good track to Ladderfoot, then decent but increasingly faint path to Dun Muir. Intermittent ridge path through heather and peat hags can be wet. Short, pathless descent from cairn to Clash of Scalan, then tracks to start.
Wildlife today: Numerous mountain hares (in winter coats) and red grouse on the moorland; sheep lower down.
Weather today: Mostly sunny with a moderate breeze - just above freezing on the ridge. A few remaining snow wreaths / patches - surrounding higher hills had extensive cover.

Name: Our Lady of Perpetual Succour ☆☆☆
Description: Large Roman Catholic church in a most unlikely location, with a beautifully decorated interior.
Location: Chapeltown of Glenlivet, G.R.: NJ 242210 / walled footpath doctor
Open (2017): "By arrangement" according to website, but in the past the key has been available from a nearby house (see sign on door). Aim for a sociable hour and you may get a personal tour!
Cost: Free

[This part of Scotland has a relatively dry climate, but extensive peat hags could become tough going after heavy rain]


Route credit: Walkhighlands (modified)

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