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Glen Coe (Scotland)
Member Name: i_p_jones
Glen Coe (Scotland)
Date: 07/01/02, updated on 08/01/02 (1340 review reads)
Advantages: The contrast of mountains and moor, The Clachaig Inn!
Where is this Glen Coe, you say? It's remarkably easy to find, lying right on the A82, the main route through the Western Highlands in Scotland. From the south, pick up the A82 from Glasgow, head north for about 75 miles through Crianlarich and Tyndrum, and you're there. From the north, the same again - pick up the A82 from wherever you are (it goes right up to Inverness) and go south. It's hard to miss!
If you don't own a car, you can get a train to Fort William which is 15 miles away. Long-distance buses pass through both Fort William and Glen Coe, and there are numerous local bus services as well. Failing that, there's an airport at Inverness and numerous ferry ports in the region!
Now you're there you'll want somewhere to stay. Glencoe Village has a hotel or three, a youth hostel, a bunkhouse (just like a youth hostel really but independantly run), B&B's, and a few campsites. Nearby villages of Ballachulish (3 miles) and Kinlochleven (7 miles) offer more hotels and B&B's.
This opinion can't go without a mention of the world-famous Clachaig Inn. Located at the centre of the Glen Coe valley, 3 miles east of the village, it's a pilgrimage for walkers, climbers, skiiers, tourists, passers-by, families, in fact everyone. If you've never been to the Clachaig you've never lived. They have a huge selection of real ales (despite its name
, Fraoch's Heather Ale is superb!) from Scotland's best breweries - Skye, Orkney, Fraoch, Strathallen, Houston, and other guests. The same goes for the Scotch whisky - the shelf is absolutely full of bottles of the stuff. I know I'll come under fire for saying this but I'm not a fan of whisky myself so I can't comment on it!
It's not just the drinks, nearly every evening the Clachaig has live music of some kind. From a kilted Scotsman with a flute to a roaring local band, from country and folk to rock and roll. And a superb food menu (of course, Haggis is on there as well). And the hotel upstairs. It's no wonder that in 2001, the Clachaig Inn was voted the best outdoors pub in Britain. This is by readers, not by a panel of judges.
Ahem. Back to Glen Coe if you can pull yourself away from the pub - believe me it will be hard work! Glen Coe is the haven of mountaineers, hemmed in by spectacular peaks and ridges. On the north side we have the Aonach Eagach (translation: notched ridge), a razor-edged ridge high above the valley to test your wits. It's not for the faint-hearted. Even I haven't done it yet. Next to the Aonach is the Pap Of Glencoe, not particularly high compared to the rest, but a nice pyramid peak with fine views over Glen Coe and beyond.
Crossing the valley we have Buachaille Etive Mor (known as The Buckle), the huge mountain guarding Glen Coe from the east. Its cliffs look impenetrable without ropes and tons of ironmongery, but around the corner you can get up onto the ridge and enjoy the spectacular views over the glen and out across the moor.
The Buckle's little brother, Buachaille Etive Beag (trans: little sheperd of Etive, or the Wee Buckle) is by no means less impressive. It's easier to walk it as well than its big brother. Moving westwards we come to the Bidean Nam Bian (trans: pinnacle of the peaks), the highest mountain in Argyll at 1150m (3772 ft), another one not
for the inexperienced with high and narrow ridges. The Bidean offers easier alternatives though, including the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley must be about the size of a few football pitches, and it's all completely hidden from view from Glen Coe. Local legend has it that farmers hid their cattle up here during battles, and it's easy to see why.
Back to the higher mountains, behind Ballachulish lies the huge arc of Beinn a'Bheithir (trans: hill of the thunderbolt), again with spectacular views all round. Perched on the edge of Glen Coe you're treated to views of the distant Highlands and even the islands off the west coast.
If you choose the right month you get loads of skiing in as well, mainly the White Corries, or if you go for a drive, Aonach Mor near Ben Nevis. Aonach Mor is the home of Britain's only Gondola chair-lift which takes you half-way up the mountain, from where you can go higher on the ski-tows. There's even mountain-bike tracks across the mountainside.
It's a strange notion to me, but if you're not interested in climbing the mountains or skiing, Glen Coe is steeped in history. The translation of Glen Coe is the Glen of Weeping, after the Massacre Of Glencoe in 1692. This was when the Campbells were ordered to murder all MacDonalds under the age of 70. Not just murder, but murder under trust - the MacDonalds for many months had been giving homes to the Campbells and giving them food and warmth. They were murdered by their guests. Only 40 were killed, but many more fled into the mountains and died of the cold and hunger. In their memory, Glencoe Village has an impressive memorial cross. The Glencoe Visitor Centre, for 50p admission, shows a video of the massacre and the events leading to it.
The visitor centre, as usual, has many souvenirs to buy, and books, posters and maps, and a display on the region's mountain rescue history. It's 50p entry into the centre, but it goes to th
e National Trust for Scotland, which works to keep the countryside in good nick, repairing paths and walls and the like.
For the tourist, that's all there is to Glen Coe itself, but if you go for a drive, Fort William (15 miles) is a much larger town with plenty of local souvenir shops, pubs and cafés. Pick the right month and you also get a ride on the Jacobite steam train down the "iron road to the isles" to the port of Mallaig. Or there's Neptune's Staircase a couple of miles from the town centre, the long series of locks on the Caledonian Canal built by Thomas Telford. Eight miles beyond Fort William is Spean Bridge, with a woollen mill and a Commando Memorial to the British soldiers who used the Scottish Highlands as their training ground. Closer to home, the White Corries ski centre on the edge of Rannoch Moor has a skiing and mountaineering museum, including the ice axes Chris Bonnington used to climb Everest. There's plenty to keep you busy if you go and look for it.
Need I say anymore about Glen Coe? Well yes, but there's only so much that can be said in words. You really have to go there to appreciate the sheer scale of it. Even if it's only to visit the Clachaig Inn.
Glen Coe - http://www.glencoescotland.com
The Clachaig Inn - http://www.clachaig.com (yes it has its own website!)
White Corries Ski Centre - http://www.ski-glencoe.co.uk
Nevis Range Ski Centre - http://www.nevis-range.co.uk
Maps for the area:
OS Landranger 41 (1:50,000) - Ben Nevis & Glen Coe
OS Outdoor Leisure 38 (1:25,000) - Ben Nevis & Glen Coe
Harvey's Superwalker (1:25,000) - Glencoe (with 1:12,500 enlargement of Bidean Nam Bian & Aonach Eagach)