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Discover the Best Things to Do in Glencoe and Immerse Yourself in the Natural Beauty

Updated: Jun 22

glencoe valley

Introduction to Glencoe

Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, Glencoe is a breathtaking valley that captures the essence of Scotland's rugged and untamed beauty. As I embarked on my journey to this remarkable destination, I couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation and wonder. Glencoe is more than just a picturesque landscape; it's a place where nature's grandeur intertwines with a rich tapestry of history and adventure. Renowned for its awe-inspiring scenery, Glencoe has long been a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and travellers seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The towering peaks, deep-cut glens, and shimmering lochs create a canvas of natural splendour that leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or simply seeking a serene retreat, Glencoe promises an unforgettable experience.

As I ventured deeper into this enchanting realm, I found myself immersed in a world where time seemed to stand still, where the whispers of the wind carried the echoes of centuries past. Glencoe is a place that invites you to embrace its raw beauty, connect with nature on a profound level, and discover the hidden gems that lie within its embrace.

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The Natural Beauty of Glencoe

The natural beauty of Glencoe is a sight to behold, and it's no wonder that this stunning valley has captured the hearts of countless visitors. As I gazed upon the majestic peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, I was struck by their imposing presence, their jagged ridges etched against the ever-changing Scottish sky. One of the highlights of my journey was exploring the iconic Glen Etive. This breathtaking valley winds its way through the heart of Glencoe. The narrow road hugged the banks of the River Etive, offering glimpses of cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that seemed to stretch endlessly. I couldn't resist stopping at the famous James Bond location, where the iconic Skyfall scene was filmed, and marvelling at the rugged beauty that surrounded me. Another unforgettable experience was witnessing the play of light and shadow on the slopes of the Three Sisters of Glencoe. These distinctive peaks, sculpted by the forces of nature over millennia, stood as sentinels guarding the glen's secrets. As the sun dipped behind the mountains, the landscape transformed into a kaleidoscope of colours, casting a warm glow on the heather-clad slopes.

Things to do in Glencoe

Discovering the History of Glencoe at the Glencoe Visitors Centre

Glencoe's allure extends beyond its natural beauty; it is a place steeped in history and folklore. As I wandered through the valley, I couldn't help but feel a sense of reverence for the tales that have unfolded within these ancient walls. One of the most poignant stories is that of the Glencoe Massacre, a tragic event that occurred in 1692. It was here that the MacDonald clan was brutally attacked by government troops, leaving a lasting scar on the collective memory of the Scottish Highlands. I visited the Glencoe Visitor Centre, where I learned about the intricate details of this sad chapter in history and gained a deeper appreciation for the resilience of the people who called this land home. As I explored further, I discovered the remnants of ancient settlements and fortifications that dotted the landscape, each telling a unique story of the clans that once ruled these lands. The ruins of the Glencoe Folk Museum offered a glimpse into the daily lives of the highlanders, allowing me to imagine the hardships and triumphs they endured in this unforgiving yet beautiful environment. Definitely Add The Glencoe Visitors Centre to your list of things to do in Glencoe.

Hagrid's Hut

The setting for the recording of Hagrid's Hut in the Harry Potter films was established in Clachaig, Glencoe. The Clachaig Inn, which is only a short distance away, offers parking facilities. Be sure to stop by for a drink afterwards, I also highly recommend their food.

The exact Location where Hagrid's Hut was
The exact Location where Hagrid's Hut was

Where Can One Find Hagrid's Hut? Display Location on Google Maps

Jacobite Steam Train and The Glenfinnan Viaduct

If you are a Harry Potter fan, then this is definitely one of the top things to do in Glencoe (although not quite Glencoe). The globally renowned Jacobite Train, or 'Hogwarts Express', is possibly one of the most stunning and picturesque rail journeys available. The regular daily service departs from Fort William at 10.15. Since 1984, this steam train has operated under various names and different operators every summer, now managed by West Coast Railways. Traversing a portion of Scotland's West Highland line, it is immensely popular with tourists, seamlessly blending legendary Scottish folklore, luxurious travel, and breathtaking landscapes.

Another highlight of this route is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is famously featured in the Harry Potter films. I set off to see the Viaduct and just happened to arrive 20 minutes before the famous train was going to cross over the Viaduct! I couldn't believe it. Undoubtedly, the most renowned site encountered while travelling on The Jacobite Train is the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The Viaduct stands as the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland, stretching 380 metres and spanning the River Finnan at an impressive height of 30 metres. Glenfinnan holds historical significance as the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his father's standards, initiating the 1745 Jacobite campaign less than a year before the Battle of Culloden. When time permits, The Jacobite Train may halt on the Viaduct, giving passengers the opportunity to soak in the breathtaking scenery and capture some photographs. For those not on the train but wishing to see it crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, head to the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre by 10.45 am or 3.00 pm daily.

Glenfinnan Viaduct with The Jacobite Train
Glenfinnan Viaduct with The Jacobite Train

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort is the pioneer ski resort in Scotland, welcoming the public in 1956. It is the largest of the two ski resorts on the west coast, providing 24km of ski slopes. The resort offers a total of 19 slopes suitable for skiers of all levels. However, the majority are geared towards beginners and intermediate skiers. Their slopes consist of 1 black run, 6 red runs, 5 blue runs, and 7 green runs. This makes it an ideal destination for family trips, beginners learning to ski, and even intermediate skiers and snowboarders looking to improve their skills. However, the resort is not just for skiing; it has activists all year round. What I love is the chair lift, which runs all year and takes you from the valley floor up to 2200ft in just 12 minutes with spectacular views of waterfalls, Rannoch Moor and towards the Buchaille Etive Mor. They also have Tubing, Disc Golf and Mountain Biking. They have facilities that you can use if you are out camping or out in the van so you can wash up and use the showers (£2).

The Lost Valley Glencoe

The Lost Valley - Glencoe
The Lost Valley - Glencoe

Whilst there are numerous hiking routes in the area, even if you are not an avid hiker, then trying even just a bit of this walk is recommended. Care needs to be taken, and only attempt this in winter if you are used to hiking. Frequently cloaked in mist, the glen stretches ten miles beneath the steep and rugged mountains from Loch Leven to the edge of the ancient-looking Rannoch Moor. To the south, where our journey takes us, rise the striking northern ridges of Bidean nam Bian, known as the Three Sisters. It is said that the MacDonald clan once hid their stolen cattle in the lofty folds of the Lost Valley, and the walk to this valley remains a dramatic experience. This route—one of Scotland's finest walks—passes between two of the sisters: Gearr Aonach on the right and Beinn Fhada, the long hill. The walk will leave you awe-struck!

Where to Stay in Glencoe

Glencoe is a destination that deserves more than a fleeting visit. To truly immerse yourself in its magic, it's essential to find the perfect accommodation that aligns with your preferences and desired experience.

For those seeking a rustic and authentic experience, there are numerous charming bed and breakfasts and self-catering cottages nestled within the heart of the valley. These cosy retreats offer a taste of Highland hospitality and provide the perfect base for exploring the surrounding landscapes.

The Clachaig Inn is a great pub to stop at for lunch, and they offer accommodation. Meals are available all day and into the evening from Clachaig's diverse and creative menu. Their menu combines contemporary concepts with fresh ingredients sourced locally whenever feasible. Whether you're after a light bite or a hearty feast, there's a choice for everyone. I tried the smoked salmon salad, and it was amazing. The inn provides various room options, including single, twin, double, and family rooms that can house three or four guests. Each room is equipped with tea and coffee-making facilities, flat-screen TVs, and en suite shower rooms (some featuring both bath and shower). Visit Scotland has awarded the inn a ‘3 Star Inn’ status.

If you are looking for 5-star accommodation, I highly recommend The Glencoe Inn. It's worth checking out just for the food, too. They collaborate with a variety of farmers and local artisans to procure home-grown and sustainably reared produce whenever feasible. From venison sourced at the Crerar Home Farm to mussels harvested from nearby Loch Leven and beef from certified Scottish farms. Their rooms and accommodations offer a welcoming retreat at the end of each day, serving as a Highland refuge in the heart of Glencoe village. Their rooms mirror their picturesque environment with earthy hues and vibrant accents. Bedside lights take inspiration from stag antlers, while wall art echoes the majesty of the surrounding mountains.

Red Squirrel Campsite
Red Squirrel Campsite

If camping is your thing, then I highly recommend Red Squirrel Campsite. This place gives you a feel of wild camping, with pitches that can be some distance from others and even by the river. They have all the facilities you need and even a food truck.

Conclusion: Unforgettable Memories from My Adventure in Glencoe

As I reflect on my journey through Glencoe, I am filled with a profound sense of awe and gratitude. This remarkable valley has left an indelible mark on my soul, reminding me of the power and beauty of nature and the importance of preserving these precious landscapes for generations to come. From the towering peaks that seemed to touch the sky to the tranquil lochs that mirrored the surrounding beauty, every moment in Glencoe was a feast for the senses. But Glencoe is more than just a destination; it's a living, breathing embodiment of Scotland's rich history and culture. The stories of the clans that once called this land home, the tales of triumph and tragedy that echo through the ages, have given me a deeper appreciation for the resilience and spirit of the Scottish people. If you're seeking an adventure that will awaken your senses and ignite your spirit, look no further than Glencoe. Embark on a journey through this breathtaking valley, and let the magic of Scotland's natural beauty and rich history captivate you. Book your trip today and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

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If you don't already use the Ordnance Survey App, you can download it here, enabling you to download GPX routes. I use this App to plan all my hikes, and as its OS, it mirrors the paper map you should always use in conjunction.

The Small House of Glencoe
The Small House of Glencoe


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