Today I found myself remembering Glen Coe, the holiday destination that was originally an afterthought, but one that has found a comfortable spot in my heart and mind. How did we end up in Glen Coe? Like so many other hapless travellers my husband and I found ourselves in the Great Glen during our Grand Tour of the Scottish Highlands Holiday. Glen Coe was for us merely another destination on our list: Loch Ness, tick; Inverness, tick; Fort William, tick; Ben Nevis, tick. Well, you get the picture.
I have no doubt that many a poet’s heart forgot to beat while breathing in the poetic grandeur, a grandeur that is primarily the by-product of an eruption of a super volcano which occurred over 420 million years ago. However, you don’t need the sensibilities of a poet or an intellect of a scientist to appreciate Glen Coe.
It is undoubtedly the most famous glen in Scotland. The mountains are truly awe inspiring, from the Buachaille Etive Mor, to the rocky ridge of Aonach Eagach and the distinct array of peaks known as the Three Sisters of Glen Coe. The western end finishes with the conical, and appropriately named, Pap of Glencoe (Sgurr na Cliché), above Glencoe village, at the point where the glen opens out to Loch Leven.
The first view of Glen Coe for most people will be the majestic peak of Buachaille Etive Mor, The Great Herdsman of Etive from across the isolated splendour that is Rannoch Moor. The main route from the south is the A82. It rises to over 1,000 feet over the great wilderness of Rannoch before slowly descending through the glen itself past deep gorges and crashing waterfalls.
Just off the A82, a few miles east of Glen Coe proper, is the Glencoe Mountain Resort, also known as the White Corries, where commercial skiing in Scotland got its start back in 1956. The centre is open all year round providing biking, hiking, climbing and archery, as well as skiing, sledging and snowboarding in the winter. One of the best ways to view the stunning scenery of the glen is by taking the chairlift which is open 7 days a week, as is the base station. They also have fabulous mountain biking trails from low levels to hard core downhill tracks accessed via the chairlift.
Around Glencoe Lochan, near the village, there are several pleasant short walks. The artificial lochan was, in fact, created by Lord Strathcona in 1895 for his homesick Canadian wife Isabella and is surrounded by a North American-style forest. While the village itself is near the site of the massacre of the MacDonalds and Hendersons by the Campbells in 1692 and for that reason is a favourite among history buffs. Within the village you’ll find a small but very good museum and several eating establishments.
To learn more about the mountains and the natural history of Glen Coe and the events that led to the infamous massacre of 1692, not to mention the view from their spectacular viewing platform, I highly recommend a visit to the National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre along the A82. You will also find an information centre with useful advice for climbers and walkers and a shop that will quickly make you rethink your holiday budget.
Why visit Glen Coe?
• For scenery that will make you stop and pinch yourself to ensure you are not dreaming.
• The opportunity to explore flora and fauna so incredible it will make you feel like a child again.
• From easy walks to mountain walks and mountain climbing, mountain biking and snow sports there are sports activities for all ages, all shapes and sizes and all levels. An excellent opportunity to blow the cobwebs out of a brain grown stagnant by routine.
• History that spans a time from pre-history to Celtic heroes and bards through Viking marauders and their ultimate defeat, and finally a family feud whose story is so tragic that Shakespeare himself could have penned it.
Commissioned by: Aviemore Business Solutions
First published 10 November 2010