Scotland’s mountains are at their most arresting in the valley of Glencoe and few other roads in the country twist through a landscape of such raw drama. Here bleak expanses of moorland and bog are fringed by brooding, heather and snow-dappled peaks. It all looks like “…a burial ground of a race of giants”, at least according to Charles Dickens.
Glencoe’s beauty and wild feel make it a Scottish mountaineering hotspot and also a highlight of the country’s most famous long-distance footpath: the West Highland Way.
Adding to the glen’s wild aura is its history of cattle rustling, clan feuds and the notorious 1692 “Massacre of Glencoe”. This saw 38 members of the Clan MacDonald butchered by government troops – made all the more shocking since it involved the killing of women and children who’d looked after the troops for the previous ten days.
The breach of trust has shocked the Highlands for generations since and is covered in depth by the Glencoe Visitor Centre (Jan–late-Mar Thu–Sun 10am–4pm; late-Mar–Dec daily 9.30am–5.30pm (to 4pm Nov & Dec; Adults £6.50; concession £5; kids £5; family £16.50), location of this entry’s map marker. The centre also has more lighthearted exhibits on local mountaineering and conservation efforts in the Glen today. The centre café is a great and inexpensive source of good locally-sourced venison burgers, homemade soups, sandwiches and cakes.
The valley is full of good hiking, much of it longer and taxing and in winter, pretty dangerous. This is particularly so in snowy conditions, when the Glencoe Ski Area is in full swing.
A good shorter hike that provides a taste of what’s possible is the trail up the Lost Valley.