No visit to Scotland is complete without a drive through the spectacular Glen Coe.
If you really want to discover this beautiful glen in all its glory, park the car, step away from the drone of drones over Rannoch Moor (with the first time pilots stood in the middle of the A82) the queues of tripods in front of a puddle beneath Buachaille Etive Mor, and most depressingly, red deer leaving their herds behind for a diet of polos and chocolate biscuits in exchange for selfies and put on your walking boots, and follow me…
The ‘Glen of Weeping’ is one of the Scottish Highlands most famous natural attractions, with towering mountains and a grim and tragic past – including the infamous 1692 massacre of MacDonalds by the Campbell clan.
Whilst driving through the glen to take a selfie with the Three Sisters and that snap of the wee white hoose might top the list of things to do in Glencoe, however, there is a lot more to this glen beyond the famous views. Here is what to do in Glencoe.
Walk around beautiful Glencoe Lochan
Behind Glencoe village hides a romantic lochan in a beautiful forest. Take a walk amongst the trees overshadowed by two of Glencoe’s most famous peaks; the imposing Pap of Glencoe which guards the entrance to the glen and Beinn a’Bheithir, the Mountain of the Thunderbolt. There are three routes to explore, the woodland, the mountain and the lochan trail, a map is available in the car park and the routes are well marked.
On a clear day, the reflections of the trees and mountains in the lochan are just spectacular. Designed and planted in the 19th Century by Donald Alexander Smith (later 1st Baron Strathcona of Glencoe) in honour of wife Isabella’s native Canada, the woodland is full of cedars, larches, and spruces. Donald had hoped to help Isabella with her homesickness. Wouldn’t you love somewhere as beautiful as this planted just for you?
- Glencoe Lochan can be found to the north of Glencoe Village.
- Parking is either by the roadside at the end of the village or in the Forestry Commission car park by the loch.
Hike from Glencoe to Glen Nevis
If you are going to spend one-day hiking in Scotland, make it the walk from Glencoe to Glen Nevis. It might be a marathon distance and take in 5000 ft of hill climbing, but the views through Scotland’s most famous glen and along the most beautiful section of the West Highland Way make for an incredible day out.
Starting at the Clachaig Inn the route takes you 6 miles alongside the River Coe underneath the Three Sisters and the two mighty herdsmen, Buachaille Etive Beag and Mor, before climbing the daunting Devil’s Staircase.
From the top of the staircase admire the view back across Glencoe and then follow the last 20-mile section of the West Highland Way all the way through the village of Kinlochleven to the foot of Ben Nevis in the beautiful Glen Nevis – with views of Scotland’s highest mountain and the mighty Mamores all the way. Scotland at its best.
- Distance 26 miles.
- Time 9+ hours.
- Difficulty: Very strenuous.
- Start/Finish – Clachaig Inn / Glen Nevis.
Find the Lost Valley
Deep between the imposing peaks of the Three Sisters lies a path that leads to a valley with a grim history. Once used as a hiding place for stolen cattle, in 1692 whilst their clan leader was killed and homes burned by Campbell soldiers, the men of the Macdonald clan hid in Coire Gabhail or ‘The Hollow of Capture’. The Glencoe massacre eventually led to the Jacobite risings, which finally came to a devastating end 82 years later on Culloden Moor.
Today the valley is more commonly known as the Lost Valley and exploring its depths beneath the imposing peak of the dreadful corrie, Stob Coire Sgreamhach, you feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the glen beneath you. It is an unsettling place, but stunningly beautiful.
- The walk up to the Lost Valley starts at the larger of the two car parks beneath the Three Sisters.
- The walk has some very mild scrambling and will take you an hour to reach the valley.
- Follow the walk via Walk Highlands.
Bag the Pap of Glencoe
With one of the best views in the whole of Scotland, a climb up the Pap of Glencoe is a must when visiting Scotland’s most famous glen.
At just 2432 ft / 742m high, the Pap of Glencoe (or Sgorr na Ciche – Gaelic peak of the breast – yes really!) might be a wee baby in comparison to the surrounding giants of Glencoe, the Pap gives a truly stunning view over Loch Leven, the giant peaks of the Mamores, Ben Nevis and down to Loch Linnhe at the gateway of Glencoe. Be prepared, the Pap is no easy hill – it is very steep, and the path is boggy rough so don’t climb it expecting a wee trip up Arthurs Seat. You will need hillwalking gear and be prepared for the weather to change in a heartbeat.
- The walk up the Pap of Glencoe starts at the new car park for the Glencoe Lochan. To find the car park cross the bridge at the end of Glencoe village follow the minor road for 500m.
- The walk has some very mild scrambling and will take you at least 4 hours to climb and return to the glen.
- Follow the walk via Walk Highlands.
Climb the little herdsman of Etive
If you fancy bagging a Munro whilst in the highlands, well Glencoe has 12 of them for you. Buachaille Etive Mor (the great herdsman) might be the most famous of all of the peaks, but it is a mountain for those who really know what they are doing. Instead, tackle its slightly smaller neighbour, Buachaille Etive Beag.
Climbing a Munro is never an easy task, and the climb up to the Bealach is hard going, and very steep. Once you reach the top the views across Glen Coe are huge & wide-ranging. From here you have the option to climb two Munros; Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh, from which there is a spectacular view down Glen Etive.
We did the climb in 4 hours, it is 10 miles, and 950m+ in clear and dry weather. Before doing any high-level walks in Glen Coe, check out the mountain weather forecast. If you don’t fancy bagging Buachaille Etive Beag take a street view trek up the mountain!
- Parking for the climb is by the large honeycomb cairn.
- Walk Highlands have the route map.
Things to do in Glencoe in the rain
- Get wet – Vertical Descents in Onich run Scotland’s first Via Ferrata (iron walk) which takes you up cliffs and through waterfalls – rain, what rain?
- Visit the Glencoe Folk Museum to learn about the history of the glen, including the infamous Glencoe massacre.
- The National Trust for Scotland’s Glencoe visitor centre runs wildlife Land Rover Safaris.
- Climb on ice – over on Kinlochleven is the Ice Factor – Scotland’s ice climbing and mountain activity centre.
How to get to Glencoe
Glencoe or Glen Coe stretches from Loch Leven to the west and Rannoch Moor to the East and sits between Argyll to the south and Lochaber to the north.
Where to stay in Glencoe
Taking the drive through the glen is a classic Scottish road trip however it is worth staying within the area to explore properly.
Glencoe Camping and glamping
- Red Squirrel Campsite – located deep in the heart of Glencoe in a gorgeous spot on the banks of the River Coe – and is famous for those hiking in Glencoe. Red Squirrel is as close to wild camping (with loos!) as you can get.
So are you ready? Let’s go to Glencoe!
Love from, Scotland x
I’m Kate – a travel writer and photographer living in Scotland. Love, From Scotland is the Scotland travel guide that shows you where to stay and how to get outside in Scotland.