The Alexandra Hotel is located in the heart of Fort William and is a great base to explore Lochaber
An interesting walk around a lochan and through planted coniferous and native deciduous woodland. There are lovely views of Bidean Nam Bian and The Pap of Glencoe, which dominate the landscape.
Glencoe Estate was acquired in the 1895 by the Scottish born Donald Alexander Smith (later Lord Strathcona) who emigrated in his teens to Canada. There he took up a position in the Hudson’s Bay Company, becoming a clerk in 1842. He was later involved with the railways as a corporate leader, and set up the Canadian Pacific Railway, for which he was awarded the Albert Medal. He also became the first chairman of Anglo-Persian Oil.
Smith took a keen interest in politics and was eventually granted the position High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, becoming 1st Baron Strathcona of Glencoe, and Mount Royal in the Province of Quebec in 1897. Other roles included acting as a financier and philanthropist, with notable donations to the Royal Victoria Hospital and McGill University in Montreal.
In 1905 he acquired the island of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides. He also established the military regiment, the Royal Canadians.
On acquiring Glencoe Estate, Smith built a large country mansion, Glencoe House, overlooking Loch Leven. The asymmetrical, two storey mansion (with attic) with its two prominent wings, was built of ashlar granite with red sandstone dressing by Rowand Anderson, between 1896 and 1897. Glencoe House later became the Glencoe Hospital, before returning to private ownership.
Smith also set about landscaping the Glencoe Estate and created the lochan as a focal point, planting the surrounds with Canadian conifers in honour of his Canadian wife, Isabella Sophia Hardisty. On a clear day, the lochan affords stunning reflections on the surrounding hills, vegetation and its islets. The exotic conifers include cedars (Thuja spp), firs (Abies spp), larches (Larix spp), spruces, western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga), together with native Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris) and European larch (Larix decidua). This makes for a spectacular display of shapes, textures and form, and is a real treat for the dendrologist.
There are also a number of exotic shrubs, ranging from shallon, Gaultheria shallon (Ericaceae), a native of western North America to bamboos from Asia. The plantation ground flora is variable with a lush carpet of bryophytes, dominated by species of Polytrichum, Hypnum and Sphagnum, interspersed with Common Tamarisk-moss (Thuidium tamariscinum), and Calluna-Vaccinium heath. The fern flora includes butler, male and shield ferns (Dryopteris and Polystichum spp) and hard fern (Blechnum spicant). Native trees include birch, rowan, oak, holly, sycamore, and some lovely native stands of hazel at the edges of the plantations. Bluebells are abundant in Spring.
The lochan is skirted with alder, birch, rowan, hawthorn, holly, sycamore, willow and conifers (e.g. Scot’s pine, Western hemlock), with patches of Greater woodrush (Luzula sylvatica), shield ferns (Dryopteris spp), shallon (Gaultheria shallon) and Pyracantha spp. The trees are strewn with Parmelion and Usneion assemblages of lichens, as well as epiphytic mosses and ferns (Polypodium vulgare) in the wetter microclimates. The margins of the lochan support dense patches of water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) and water lilies. The lochan is studded with small birch and rhododendron covered islets.
Although the route is mainly through plantation, there are some lovely deciduous sections on route, consisting of ancient hazel woodland with scattered ash and alders. Look out for the rich Graphidion lichen communities on the hazel stools.
There are three short trails through Glencoe Estate, the Lochan trail (all ability, 1.6 km), the Woodland trail (2.4km) and Mountain Trail (2.4km). The routes of all three walk are shown on the map; however, the text here describes a route combining all three of the trails for an interesting and scenic extended walk. There are several welcome benches on route and an interpretation board at the car-park.
This is a lovely woodland walk, affording some spectacular scenery and loch views (Glencoe Lochan and Loch Leven). Listen out for ‘conifer specialists’ including siskin, coal tit, redpoll, goldcrest and crossbill on route. Look out for raptors in the surrounding hills and dabbling ducks on the lochans. A very pleasant walk with much to commend it.
Take the gravel path signposted the Mountain Trail (blue markers) which ascends steeply through plantation, carpeted with mosses. The track eventually emerges from the plantation to a viewing point with a bench, looking over Loch Leven, surrounded by Scot’s pine.
The path descends through a lovely section of Scot’s pine woodland with a Calluna-Vaccinium heath understorey, before skirting a small stream on the right, and then heading back into plantation. The path eventually emerges at the lochan, where there is a picnic bench.
You can either turn left here to head back to the car park, following the red road and skirting by the edge of the lochan on a gravelled path.
Alternatively, continue the walk by turning right and skirting the edge of the loch with mixed plantation and Calluna-Erica heath understorey on the right.
One again, you can either continue back to the car park on the red waymarked route or take the yellow route on the right as directed at the bench. The yellow waymarked route heads through Scot’s pine woodland, carpeted with mosses and Calluna-Vaccinium heath. It then passes through a small section of spruce plantation, before emerging into a lovely deciduous section of ancient hazel woodland. The path then heads back into plantation, with some fine exotic conifers (including spruces, firs, hemlocks, redwoods, cypresses and larches) on route. The yellow waymarked section of route involves several small ascents and descents and is a lovely magical section of the walk. There is also a viewpoint with two benches, affording some fine mountain views.
When you reach a T-junction, turn right to return back to the car park. The path on the left returns to the lochan.
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