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Scalan College

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Mass Rock Sites beyond the Irish Borders

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Scalan College 1716-1799, Scottish Highlands

Hidden deep in the Braes of Glenlivet, the Scalan seminary is arguably one of the most significant sites of historical interest in the area. The Braes of Glenlivet offered seclusion to the persecuted 18th Century Catholics, who trained over 100 priests here, ensuring the survival of the Catholic faith.


The old College of Scalan, (named after the Gaelic sgalan, meaning turf roof), lies about 1km from the car park at the Carrachs, along the rough farm track. The building is open all year for visitors to savour how ‘with courage and dogged perseverance’ the Catholic faith survived.


The Scalan Heritage Trail, a 4.5km circular walk, offers some breathtaking views of the Braes of Glenlivet and the Ladder Hills”.

This information is taken from: and was accessed on 17th March 2022


In 1716 Bishop Gordon decided to open a seminary in the Braes of Glenlivet, which formed part of the Duke of Gordon’s lands in Banffshire, and where most of the people were Catholics. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, and far from any road, the Braes were difficult to access.


At the far end was a small roughly built heather-thatched cottage, or ‘but-and-a-ben’, hidden by juniper bushes, close to the burn of brown peaty water. Used as a hide out since 1715 by Mr John Gordon, the missionary in Glenlivet, it was known as Scalan (1970, pg.113).


For the next eighty-three years many priests for the Scottish Mission were educated at Scalan in conditions utterly different from those they would have enjoyed at any Scots Colleges abroad (1970, pg.134).


Taken from Anson, P.F (1970) Underground Catholicism in Scotland 1622-1878. Montrose: Standard Press.


Here I share some photographs with you of my own visit to the college in 2021. If you would like more information about the site then please visit The Scalan Association website


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