How to explore Glencoe, Scotland


Say hello to Glen Coe…

No visit to Scotland is complete without a drive through the spectacular Glen Coe. 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.

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… 

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

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.  

  • Driving – To get to Glencoe take the main A82 from Glasgow to Inverness via Fort William.
  • By Bus – Citylink buses stop at Glencoe Ski Centre and Glencoe Village
  • A local bus service from Fort William to Glencoe is run by Shiel Buses.

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


  • oregongirlaroundtheworld 27/10/2016 at 10:33 am

    GAH! That is gorgeous! I can not pronounce any of those names, but it wouldn’t matter! Sooo beautiful – thank you for adding it to the very outdoorsy collection of posts this week for #FarawayFiles! PS – whenever I hear about munros – I will forever think of your blog! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • Love from, Smidge 31/10/2016 at 10:27 am

      I am not sure anyone can really pronounce the Gaelic names of Scotland’s mountains, I’ve been ticking off the easy ones!

  • jessica 27/10/2016 at 11:50 am

    I drove through Glencoe on my way to Fort William and it might be my favourite place in the whole of the UK you fee llike you’re in another world or a movie or something.

  • Tanja 27/10/2016 at 2:16 pm

    beautiful nature #farawayfiles

  • katy@untoldmorsels 27/10/2016 at 2:54 pm

    Amazing photos – the shadows and reflections are simply beautiful. This is some of my favourite scenery in the world. It is so raw and unrefined. I would love to take up your suggestions and go hiking there. So glad you joined us on #FarawayFiles Kate

  • Allison 27/10/2016 at 8:31 pm

    Glencoe is gorgeous! Scotland has always been at the top of my bucket list- just below the Galapagos Islands. My ancestors come from Scotland and I’ve always wanted to go see it. #farawayfiles

  • melchaddphotos 28/10/2016 at 7:41 am

    I remember passing through Glen Coe for the first time and it actually reduced me to tears and gave me goosebumps! Never before had I seen such beauty.
    The canvas hanging above my fireplace is of blackrock cottage and the magnificent herder!

    Great post

  • Danielle 28/10/2016 at 9:55 am

    Added to the bucket list! We visited the Highlands for the first time last May but only for a day. We have so much more to explore in this beautiful country and with my hiking desires this sounds perfect. Beautiful pictures and scenery! Also – what a lucky lady to have a forest built just for her!! #swoon #farawayfiles

  • Clare Thomson 28/10/2016 at 10:11 am

    This is absolutely stunning and I love the stories you’ve unearthed – it’s such a romantic thing to do to plant something so beautiful for a homesick wife. You really inspire me to dig out my hiking boots. #FarawayFiles

  • Alistair Woodburne 28/10/2016 at 12:06 pm

    Love Glen Coe, will be there in November walking and relaxing in the Clachaig Inn! Can’t beat it. 🙂

  • differentshoresblog 28/10/2016 at 4:39 pm

    Wow what stunning images, Glen Coe looks amazing. I want the little white cottage for myself #FarawayFiles

  • daisythebus 29/10/2016 at 5:20 pm

    Beautiful images and a great post! We were in the region last summer and were planning on doing a hike in Glencoe, but the kids bugged us into visiting the “Sea Life” sanctuary down the road towards Oban instead… I guess now we have a reason to return.

  • Ahila 30/10/2016 at 1:57 am

    On my way to the Isle of Skye last year, the coach took me past Glen Coe and I thought the place was beautiful from the brief passing glimpse that I had. Love your photos, especially of Glen Lochan – it is such a beautiful lake and woods.

  • TravelingWithOurKids (@twok_blog) 31/10/2016 at 8:48 pm

    You cant beat the views of the Scottish Highlands, they are stunning! Love your photos.

  • minitravellers 31/10/2016 at 9:23 pm

    Those photos are just stunning, I can’t wait til the girls are old enough that we can get them walking out in the proper hills. The light you have captured is just incredible.

  • Ruth 01/11/2016 at 3:12 am

    Oh my! What a gorgeous area! I am a fan of nature and am sure I will enjoy this place. I like how some mountains and valleys seem to be covered by a carpet.

  • ReadingScotland 01/11/2016 at 11:43 am

    Such beautiful photos!!!! I love the Glen Coe area.

  • TheHelpfulHiker 02/11/2016 at 7:49 pm

    We camped near Glen Coe a couple of years ago and I’m itching to go back (we also spent a few happy nights in the Clachaig Inn). Absolutely adore your photos, makes me want to go back so badly!

  • Sasha 07/11/2016 at 3:51 pm

    I just love all of your posts and the beautiful photos that accompany it. I definitely want to visit Glen Coe, it looks magical. Also, I totally read the title as ‘lets go glen coco’ haha.

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