Campsite close to Ben Nevis. Red Squirrel Campsite,
Glencoe. Tel: (01855) 811256. „
Review of Red Squirrel Camping site, Glen Coe, Argyll, Scotland.
Red Squirrel is a long established camping site, very close to the amazing Glen Coe in Scotland. The site is one that I have visited regularly ever since my first holiday in Scotland back in 1995. We stayed here again for a few days at the end of May 2010 in our camper van.
**About the Site**
The site is nestled beside the fast flowing River Coe and is as close as you can get to 'wild camping' whilst on an organised site. The site is, without meaning to sound off-putting, basic in the extreme. Pitches are scattered all around the 22 acre wooded site, some are level, some are most certainly not! There are some beautiful pitches actually on the banks of the river, however, whenever we have used Red Squirrel Camp site, these always seem to be taken so we have never been fortunate enough to secure one!
The site is very definitely a natural, casual, easy going one. You are permitted to have camp fires as long as they are small, lit on an old fire spot and extinguished by 11pm. The site used to sell firewood to campers, but for legal reasons they are no longer offering this service. The owner insists on quiet after 11pm and has been known to order people to leave, even in the middle of the night, if their behaviour disturbs others.
There are no electric hook ups and the site is for tents and camper vans, there is no reason why caravans cannot use Red Squirrel really, but I've only ever seen one or two there!
**Location, Location, Location!**
Red Squirrel camp site is in a particularly good location. The famous Glen Coe valley and mountains (Monroes) can be reached either on foot or by a 5 minute drive from the site. Glen Coe village has a useful small supermarket, a post office, various craft/gift shops, outdoor activity retailers and a couple of coffee shops. I can heartily recommend 'Craft & Things', a gift shop with a vast array of beautiful original knitwear, and an attached restaurant serving coffees, teas, lunches and light snacks. All their baked goods are produced on the premises and their Millionaires shortbread is to die for!
But I digress!
There is a pub close to the camp site, The Clachaig Inn, it is around a mile away from the site. The pub is popular with Red Squirrel campers, it has a pleasant atmosphere and the walk back to the camp is all downhill!!
The pub serves excellent food at a reasonable price and has a good reputation for casked ales and malt whisky. They claim to stock up to 160 different varieties of whisky at any one time! Now, I cannot comment on the ale or the whisky as I am tee-total, but judging by the happy faces I've seen in the bar, I guess it must be good! The pub sometimes has evenings of live music and other events, these are really great fun and attract both tourists and local people.
The Glen Coe Hotel is also open to non residents for lunches and evening meals, if you fancy going a little more 'upmarket', I have not actually eaten there so again, cannot pass comment on this.Red Squirrel Camp Site is situated on the Old Glencoe Road which is a turning off the main A82 which passes through the Glen.
From the south, you can access A82 either from Glasgow or Edinburgh (about a 2 hour drive) or from the north, from Fort William (approximately 14 miles by road) and Inverness (around a 2 hour drive). There are two ways to access the Old Glencoe Road either by taking the first right coming down Glen Coe or by following the sign for Glencoe village.
There is also a very good bus service to Glencoe village from Fort William. To get to Red Squirrel, get off the bus at the Glencoe Hotel stop. Walk through the main village street, over the humped back bridge at the end of the village. Walk for another 1 ¾ miles along Old Glencoe Road, passing the youth Hostel. Red Squirrel is just after the Hostel.
Rail travel is not quite as convenient, the closest railway station is at Fort William.
**Camp Site Facilities**
Where shall I start? I truly don't want to put anyone off staying at this lovely site, yet I cannot in all fairness extol the virtues of Red Squirrel's facilities. Perhaps if I start by reminding readers that I first stayed on this site in 1995 (15 years ago at the point of writing) and state that in 2010, the facilities have not been altered, upgraded or changed since my first visit, you may get an idea of where I am coming from!
Red Squirrel has no electric hook up points for motor homes. There are ladies and men's toilet and shower blocks. These are near the entrance to the camp site and are housed in rather old fashioned 'portacabin' type buildings. In the ladies block there are several toilets, a row of wash basins and two shower cubicles. The water to the wash basins is plentiful and hot, a useful shelf for your toiletries is located above the basins, with mirrors over this. A hair-dryer is provided and operated by means of a coin meter, I believe it takes 20p coins. There are a couple of chairs in the toilet block too.
The shower cubicles are, well, grim! They are located next to each other, have no means of locking yourself in for privacy and you are separated from the rest of the toilet block by a plastic shower curtain. Luckily the actual cubicle has another shower curtain so no one can see you washing, but your clothing has to sit on a manky plastic chair while you are in the shower and once you are showered, you have limited privacy for drying yourself and dressing. For the privilege of using the shower you pay 50p, this does provide around 10 minutes of lovely hot water, but a Red Squirrel shower is far from relaxing!
I am always scared that someone will pinch my clothes while I'm under the shower or barge in while I'm in my knickers or worse! I also always feel the need to wear my trusty 'Crocs' or a pair of flip-flops in the shower as the floor of the cubicle is a bit grungy!
A young Dutch lady opened the shower curtains twice during my last visit while I was showering and I ended up struggling to retain my modesty while she in turn, struggled to ask if she had left her shampoo in the shower...at least I think that was what she said!
The toilet and shower facilities are usable, functional and that is about it. They are in dire need of refurbishing and re decorating. They are fairly clean, but with users having to walk across grass to reach them, as you can imagine, the floors take a real bashing in wet weather.
Washing up facilities are provided, these are simply two halves of a huge metal drum, cut in half lengthways and fitted with taps. I have never once found the water on these barrels to be hot and on my recent visit only one was operational! Enough said!
There are several drinking water taps dotted around the camp site, these are quirky and rather fun as they are fitted to the trunks of trees so that it looks as though you are getting your water from the bark. Great idea and it does of course mean that aesthetically the taps do fit in and do not detract from the natural appearance of the site.
No shop, club house, drying room for outdoor gear, bar or playground are provided on Red Squirrel.
The web site for Red Squirrel does state that they have a laundry, but, I have never seen it or used it!
**Brief History of the Area**
People were camping on the land where Red Squirrel Camp site is located since the last century.
Land owner Hugh MacColl found a horseshoe embedded in a tree he cut in 1970. It looked like one used by Gypsies. His subsequent research has shown written records for money collected for camping on the land that go as far back as 1914.
The name Red Squirrel Camp Site was adopted in 1984 when the Glen was inhabited by Red Squirrels. Sadly, as with many other areas, these are now very seldom seen.
Glen Coe itself is famous for the Massacre of Glencoe which occurred in the area. In the early morning of 13 February 1692, during the era of the Glorious Revolution and Jacobitism. The massacre began simultaneously in three settlements along the glen, namely Invercoe, Inverrigan, and Achnacon. However, killings took place all over the glen as fleeing MacDonalds were pursued. Thirty-eight MacDonalds from the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by the guests who had accepted their hospitality, on the grounds that the MacDonalds had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William and Mary. Another forty women and children died of exposure after their homes were burned following the massacre.
When you walk the popular footpaths over the Monroes or through the valley, it is hard not to be affected by the sheer majesty of the towering mountains and craggy landscape. It is a truly awesome area and for all its bloody history, it is remarkably peaceful place. I never tire of it.
**Prices, Booking and Other Information**
Prices have steadily risen at Red Squirrel. I seem to recall paying in the region of £4.50 per person per night when on my first visit. The current tariff is £8.00 per person per night for everyone over 12 years of age. Children under 12 are charged at 0.50p per night. The site is open all year round and their price remains the same, no matter what time of year you visit.
Bookings are not necessary, just turn up and report to the odd looking portable office close to the entrance, where the owner or one of his staff will take your registration number, if appropriate. Should the little office be closed, pitch up and believe me, the owner will come to you!
If you are a large group or planning a holiday with club or society, it is worth contacting the owner (Mr MacColl) in advance, to ensure space is available on your intended date of visit.
The address and telephone number are :-
Red Squirrel Camp-site Glencoe
Telephone 01855 811256
Further information and a whole host of pictures of the camp site and Glen Coe can be found on Red Squirrel's on site:-
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
As mentioned previously, we have visited Red Squirrel several times now. After every visit, I vow I will never go there again. Why?
In a word-MIDGIES
No matter when we visit, I become very badly bitten at Red Squirrel, now that is not the fault of the site in any way, it is a fact that this area of Scotland is renowned for the little biters and Red Squirrel, being close to water, is a prime breeding ground for them. I am highly susceptible to insect bites of all description and if there is something that bites it will seek me out!
Mr MacColl does sell midge repellent in his office, but I have yet to find a completely effective repellent!
That said, the site is casual and laid back, the scenery and atmosphere are second to none, so I find myself going back to Red Squirrel again and again. It is like stepping into a time warp as it reminds me the camp sites I stayed on as a child in the 60's!
We usually find we are recognised by the owner, once we've booked in and pitched up, he'll wander by for a chat. Good customer service? Yes, perhaps, but during the course of the conversation on or May 2010 visit, he remembered that I was retired from the Immigration Service, he asked how we were getting on with our boat and remarked that he'd thought our camper was a different colour (it was, we have a new one!). No, this gentleman has a remarkable memory!
In May, we spent a good hour and a half chatting with the owner, he is in our opinion, an interesting man with a wealth of anecdotes and can give you some very useful information about Scotland and the Glen Coe region. He was a member of the Glen Coe Mountain Rescue Team until age caught up with him and he loves reminiscing about his career. He is not intrusive, he refused our offer of a cold drink or coffee and did not outstay his welcome, if people do not want to talk, he wanders off having ascertained they have found a pitch they are happy with. It is only with people who want to natter that he stays and chats. We had a truly entertaining chat about anything and everything from walking routes, narrow boats, Scottish law differing to English law, politics, farming, forestry and bizarrely, the merits of owning a bicycle. Bizarre, as none of us do own bicycles!
Sadly some young campers close by did not seem to share our interest in the owners experiences and one was heard to remark quite loudly that "the old guy collared those people for ages", as the owner bid us farewell and left our pitch. I considered this rude in the extreme and a great pity, as this person has a wealth of experience that he is happy to share.
In case you are wondering why I am bothering to fill my review with this sort of information, I just want to stress the ambiance and wonderful, unusual atmosphere that this rather run down and shabby camp site can offer. If you can look past the antiquated toilet block, the uneven pitches and the high nightly tariff in relation to the actual facilities (or lack of facilities!) and see Red Squirrel for what it is, a camp site in a marvellous location with an eccentric feel to it, then give it a try.
You'll either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground with this site!!
After much thought, I am giving the camp site an overall 3* rating. The location and atmosphere deserve higher, but the facilities let the site down, hence 3*.
As always, my thanks for reading, especially as the review is a bit long-winded!
©brittle1906 June 2010.
UPDATE June 2012.
I have just returned from a touring holiday in Scotland and once again visited Red Squirrel. There have been a few changes since I wrote this review, the toilet and shower facilities are being upgraded and showers are now free.
Mr MacColl remains his friendly, quirky self but sadly the midges are still in situ!
N.B. My reviews may be found on other web sites under the same user name.
Sources for additional review research were the camp sites own website and Wikipedia.com
I am up in Glencoe quite a lot and have stayed at the red squirrel campsite many times; it was in fact my first introduction to staying in GlenCoe over ten years ago!
First the positives: The campsite is in a really pretty position & if you pitch your tent well the first thing you will see when you unzip the fly sheet in the morning is a mountain.
For me another advantage is the fact that the Clachaig Inn is approx half a mile away. After a tough day in the hills its nice to know you don't have to cook if you don't want to & that a traditional Scottish Inn serving good filling food is a short walk away. in Addition the Clachaig is a great night out at the weekends with a chance to meet like minded outdoor junkies. The real Ale is good as well!
This campground also has some fire pits where you are allowed to have a full blown fire until 11pm.
As a previous reviewer stated - this can be like wild camping, if the campsite is quiet & you pick your self a suitable pitch.
Unlike both the nearby hostels you can pretty much turn up & get a place to stay for the night.
Disadvantages: For the ladies there are only 2 showers & 3 toilets housed within a portacabin. There are also a few portaloos. There is a small area for cleaning dishes & that is it regarding facilities.
The price for this has crept up over the years from £4.50 a person ten years ago to £7 a person & 50p for your shower. I don't think that is outrageous however I haven't seen any improvements over the years, and for a mere £3 extra you can get a real bed in either the SYHA or independent hostel a couple of hundred meters down the road; both of which are very acceptable, family or fun friendly and have inclusive showers and decent kitchen facilities. The owner of the campsite is not exactly short of cash so it would be nice to see a complete overhaul of the showering/toilet facilities.
As the river which runs through the campground was diverted by the owner many years ago there is a tendency to extremely flooded conditions if the rains fall continually.
At peak times such as bank holidays when the weather is good, it can get really busy with zero parking at times; this isn't the norm but worthwhile knowing.
As the Clachaig is so close, it can get pretty noisy when the pub closes & despite a keep quiet after 11pm sign there are nights when parties around tents continue into the night. Likewise it can be really noisy very early in the morning when the non revelers are getting up to start their days activities!
Like much of Scotland the Midges can be vicious bring your repellent if visiting from May-Aug!
My first choice for accommodation will always be the Glencoe Independent Hostel, followed by the SYHA. I do still stay at the red squirrel mostly when i have decided on a spur of the moment trip up to Glencoe when both the hostels are full.
www.redsquirrelcampsite.com - website for the campsite
www.clachaig.com - website to the infamous Inn, contains menu, accom options, entertainment and the links pages also very good at pointing you in the direction of other local businesses
www.glencoehostel.co.uk my preferred accom in the Glen
Nestled in a valley with five mountains surrounding it, Red Squirrel is just about as close to camping rough as it gets... without camping rough. The beauty is that there are no fixed plots, and you're free to pitch up pretty much wherever you like. Personally, I don't fancy the idea of camping rough, and prefer the relative security that's offered by an established site. On the other hand, I don't want to pitch up on a big, flat field where everyone has their little plot. Red Squirrel provides a very happy medium. Rivers are a big favourite of mine, and there's a lovely one that runs alongside the camp site. I'm also a big fan of a nice campfire, and happily these are tolerated, though only on spots where previous fires have been lit. In terms of facilities, it's a little basic. There are six toilets for the fellas, and a similar number for the ladies, but only four showers to serve the entire camp site. What's more, you've got to fork out 50p if you want a hot shower. Your 50p goes a fair distance though, getting you about 15 minutes of piping hot water. There are also provisions for dishwashing, and I believe there are laundry facilities, but I never made use of them (which isn't to say I smell - I just brought lots of clothes). On arrival, you'll see a sign, making it quite clear that this is a place for peace and quiet, and not blaring music and singing around the campfire into the wee small hours - Silence is requested between 11pm and 7am. The only big downside about Red Squirrel, and it's a fairly significant one, is the midgey problem. They come down in numbers, and woe betide anyone who doesn't have repellant. Stock up before you go - that's my advice. Or pop into Glen Coe village Spar, where they keep an ample supply of sprays, roll-ons and sticks. On my last visit, my neighbours could see that I was fighting a losing battle wi
th the little critters, and were good enough to give me a citronella stick, which burns like a joss stick - recommended, as is the camp site. **Additional** You know, it's strange - this campsite seems to be more popular, or perhaps infamous, than I realised. Glen Coe came up in a couple of conversations with people I was introduced to, and all I can say is that Glen Coe, and Red Squirrel seem to be synonymous with one another.