By: Blonde Two
When in the Scottish highlands, I have discovered, it is foolish to think that you can just, ‘go for a little walk.’ Walks here are either climbs of over 300 metres or meanders up very long glens. If you don’t understand your map’s patient attempt at explaining this landscape, then one glance at the hills towering above you will put you straight.
And between visits, like childbirth, you forget this; which is presumably why I omitted a most unladylike expletive as Mr B2 and I rounded our track corner, to be faced with the enormous, vertical, patchwork wall of brown and green that was the Ladder Hills.
We were at Ladderfoot; the place where the Ladder Burn runs out of its steep valley, into the Braes (foot hills) of Glenlivet. I say valley here, but we were in Scotland and I struggled to find the right word. ‘Glen’ conjures images of wider, forested vales and was to my mind, entirely unsuitable. The Ladder Burn has carved for itself, a ravine so v-shaped that it would thrill the most ardent of geographers. And we were supposed to be walking up it.
Luckily for us, because you really would need a ladder at the top, the narrow path moves away from the burn after about a kilometre, and takes a steep but walkable route up the east side. It was at this point that I gave the rucksack to Mr B2. I enjoy carrying it, feel secure with my emergency kit on my back, but cycling has made him much fitter than me and for the sake of balance, it made sense.
I would like to say that I stopped only at our pre-agreed coffee spot (where the Alt nan Clach cut through our steep slope, and tumbled down to meet the Ladder Burn); but ‘admire the view’ stops proved to be necessary, even without the rucksack. And I am glad that they were. For one thing, it was great to look back and see how far we had climbed; and for another, the view admiration confirmed that this was a very special place.
I have seen some magnificent sights; but this combination of rugged landscape and the light-enhanced shades of lush green, would be hard to beat anywhere. As we rose higher towards the rim of the precipitous corrie, the views downhill got better and better and the exertion became a pleasure. It was as though we were still in time, walking in a hidden world, warmed by the sun and wafted by a soft wind.
And then, at the rim’s edge, our new world disappeared. Chilled mountain air, sharp rain and misty views across towards Lochnagar hit us without warning. Our senses sharply awakened from their reverie, we struggled across to the path cairn and into our waterproofs. Welcome to Scotland, I thought!