Glencoe is arguably one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring glens in the Highlands. It is renowned for its dramatic mountainous landscape, its natural and cultural heritage, and for its historical association with the infamous Glencoe massacre in 1692. Glencoe is a site of special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area in recognition of both its geological and biological interest. This wild and beautiful place in Lochaber has become an iconic symbol of the Highlands and has been variously described as "a majestic wild land", "a botanical paradise", "a geological wonder", "a climbers dream", "and a national icon" ('Thoughts on Glencoe' exhibit at the NTS Visitor Centre). It is also a land of adventure and legend (Fingal and Ossian).
Landscape and Geology
Glencoe lies within the National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glen Coe, an area encompassing 90,334 hectares, which is one of the largest designated scenic areas in Scotland. Within this area, Glencoe and Dalness (which includes Glen Etive) cover 5680 hectares.
The Glen provides one of the ' best-exposed examples of cauldron subsidence'. Glencoe is a site of special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area in recognition of both its geological and biological interest. As well as Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area, the international importance of the geology and geomorphology of Glen Coe are further recognised by the siting of eight Geological Conservation Review Sites within the area. Glencoe is also an important site in the Lochaber Geopark, reflecting the fact that the process of caldera subsidence was first described in Glencoe resulting from the collapse of the volcanic crater of an ancient volcano.
The mountains of Glen Nevis are made of ancient sedimentary and volcanic rocks. Ancient peaks, ridges and truncated spurs characterise this landscape, with the distinctive peaks of The Shephards (Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag), and the enigmatic Bidean nam Bian, the dramatic spurs of the Three Sisters of Glencoe and the spectacular narrow notched ridge of Aonach Eagach. The impressive ridge of Aonach Eagach extends for some 10 km ridge from the Pap of Glencoe to the Devil's Staircase (cf the West Highland Way). These peaks and spurs tower above the long narrow sea loch of Loch Leven, the impressive Blackwater Reservoir and the extensive blanket bog of Rannoch Moor. The Mamore Forest to the north is characterised by rounded, rocky mountains and open rolling moorland.
Glen Coe is recognised for supporting nationally rare, nationally scarce, vulnerable and endangered flora. The Glen supports a wide range of plant communities, thirteen habitats of which are designated as of internationally importance, including species-rich grassland, montane heath, scree, bog and flushes. The towering mountains associated with the Glen also support rare high altitude arctic alpine flora, and Glencoe is regarded as one of the top ten sites in the British Isles for arctic alpine lichens and high altitude oceanic lichens.
Glen Coe is also a good place to see a variety of birds from upland birds such as snow bunting, ptarmigan, golden eagle and raven to birds associated with boggy moorland and woodland habitats.
History and Culture
Glen Coe also has a rich cultural heritage. Glen Coe achieved notoriety in 1692 as the site of a bloody massacre perpetrated by government troops under the command of Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon. An unfortunate delay in expressing allegiance to King William III brought about a tragic series of events that led to the lost of over eighty members of the Clan MacDonald from either violence at the hands of the redcoats or through exposure during their flight into the hills. The tragedy had its roots in "The Glorious Revolution" and the Jacobite uprising of 1689, although it is the heinous nature of the massacre, i.e. 'murder under trust, ' that has endured.
The Glen has featured many times in literature, as well as forming a dramatic backdrop to films such as The 39 Steps, Braveheart, Rob Roy and the Bond movie Skyfall. Glencoe has also appeared in various scenes from the Harry Potter films.
Glen Coe and Dalness are under the care and ownership of National Trust Scotland. Take time to visit the National Trust Visitor Centre near the village of Glen Coe to learn more about the Glen Coe Massacre, the natural landscape and the cultural heritage of the region. The National Trust Visitor Centre also displays details of local events and guided walks run by the National Trust Scotland.
The Glencoe Folk Museum, housed in thatched cottage, also showcases articles and objects relevant to the history of the Glencoe and North Lorn.
Glen Coe and Loch Leven afford some excellent hill and low level walking opportunities amongst a stunning backdrop.
The Glen Coe Mountain Resort offers a range of activities including mountain biking, hill walking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding and sledging. The chair lift also affords some stunning views over the Glen.
The Ice Factory in Kinlochleven offers indoor and outdoor rock, indoor ice climbing, bouldering and an aerial adventure course. Other adventure activities in the region include mountaineering, bridge swinging, segway, gorge walking, paintballing, canyoning, coasteering and white water rafting and via ferrata.
Glen Coe has also served as several film sets, such as James Bond film Skyfall, and Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Clachaig Gully was the location of Hagrid's Hut in Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Glen affords some wonderful walking opportunities (easy walks to challenging treks), and mountaineers can enjoy the challenge of scaling the heights of the towering peaks and ridges.