Sunday, 14 October 2007

Scalan







Scalan is a collection of old seminary buildings in the Braes of Glenlivet. Though long deserted, it remains an enigmatically spiritual place. Tucked under encircling spartan hills, its ancient stone buildings huddle round a burn and a clear spring that’s commonly known as The Bishop’s Well. Some of the buildings are in ruins with yellow stonecrop clinging to the walls. Some have been restored; a place to shelter from the rain and ponder on the austere lives they once sheltered.



The ground surrounding the buildings is dotted with gnarled and twisted trees, sparsely fruiting rowans and sycamores, fissured alders, branches laden with blue grey lichen, that edge towards the waterside. All around the burn soothes and tinkles.



Apparently Scalan, set in its lonely isolated glen, was a Catholic seminary dating from a time when to be a Catholic was a risky business. I am not a Catholic, or even a particularly spiritual person, yet the place is profoundly moving.



My first visit was on a sunny afternoon when it glowed green and friendly. The second time a faint Scottish drizzle fell softly on my skin and evening was coming on. Then there was a slight air of apprehension about the place.



It may have been partly because four belligerent looking cows and a rather nervous calf stood solidly by the running water, between me and the bridge. They obviously resented the intrusion and my heart beat a little faster as the biggest one splashed purposefully through the burn towards me. The others followed, stopped almost face on, then nosing the calf before them, they turned shifty glances towards me, before nudging the calf up the bank. Once on the path they looked my way and waited.



I was too nervous to pass them so I also waited. We eyed each other, then I waved my arms. The older cow turned on her heel, gave her nearest companion a stroppy shove with her head and they all trotted away, looking back resentfully a couple of times before disappearing behind a small hillock.



Scalan was empty again. The burn played and the wind sighed softly in the trees. Once again it seethed with ancient spirituality, with a mysterious atmosphere that seemed to predate the long gone priests.



We dallied a while, breathing in the atmosphere and taking photographs, as dusk fell we walked back in the softly falling rain. On leaving the silence flowed slowly in behind us.



I caught a movement in the corner of my eye. To my disappointment it was only the cows creeping quietly round the back of the barns, waiting for us to leave, reclaiming their shelter for the night. It was cows, but it could easily have been something more secret and hidden that was also waiting for us to go.

18 comments:

PG said...

What a haunting place! It looks - and sounds - beautiful.

(I am not fond of cows either...)

Wizzard said...

ooooo I know how you felt - cows are quite intimidating arent they.
Wx

Casdok said...

You really made me feel as if i was there!

Hannah Velten said...

Beautiful photos of a truly rugged Scottish landscape - I do love it up there. Even though I'm rather obsessed with cows, I know that they can be intimidating - they probably don't see many people up there so they were just checking you out...but I would give a wide berth to any cows with their calves; maternal instincts can make them very nervy. Mootia x

Faith said...

I wish I could go; I love that sort of place. I am also scared of cows (despite spending many summers on a dairy farm!) - they are so BIG!

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

wonderful thougthful writing.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Such a beautiful tranquil place will definitely hold a few secrets, have more faith in your corner of the eye moments! They sound much more exciting than cows!! I was intimidated the other day by a huge tup (ram) which was just about to show me who's boss. I eventually composed myself and calmly walked away! I'm quite relieved we haven't got cows on the farm.

Crystal xx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

lovely atmospheric blog LWB. I love cows and have worked with them...they are basically nosey, protective of their young, suffer post natal depression and if they are of a continental breed get very flighty.

mountainear said...

Loved your description and photographs of this special and atmospheric place. Your last picture of the lichen and sedum encrusted rocks I thought might inspire some bead work?

Suffolkmum said...

Beautifully written and evocative blog about what is obviously a haunting place. Don't particularly like coming face to face with a cow myself!

sally's chateau said...

I loved your pictures and description

LittleBrownDog said...

Beautiful pictures, Lampbeadworker. And a very atmospheric post - some places just get you like that, don't they?

LBD x

ChrisH said...

Even the photographs are very evocative; it's strange how these places have their own peculiar atmosphere - I was interested to read Crystal's thoughts. I'm the arch sceptic but even I'm open to the sense of the past in a setting like this. Beautiful writing.

Posie Rosie said...

Sounds beautiful, there seem to be a lot of really atmospheric, deserted spots in Scotland. Would have been scared of Mrs Cow though!

elizabethm said...

A haunting blog about a beautiful place, and great photos too. I've come across places like this in the Highlands and they really speak to you. Lovely.

Cait O'Connor said...

Thanks for that blog, it was beautiful. Also the photos.

Pondside said...

What a beautiful piece. Thank you for that walk in a sacred place/

bradan said...

Wonderful to read this. One of our priests is a supporter of Scalan, he has said Mass there. I would love to go one day.