Glen Coe: A year-round visual masterpiece

Glen Coe photo blog

“If you can visit just one place in Scotland…..where would it be?”

Oh you don’t know what you’ve let yourself in for when you present me with a question like that – yet it is an opportunity that comes my way on a regular basis. Cue rubbing of hands as the would-be-small-talk-seeker falls straight into the travel writer’s trap. Half an hour of one-sided rambling later I very often conclude that the answer they are seeking is probably Glen Coe.

Trying to capture the scale, the history and the power of the Scottish Highlands is no easy task. We are talking about a massive area, difficult to traverse and that is as diverse as it is endless. Every previous visitor will have their own favourite nook but, for me, none can quite match the impact of Glen Coe. Ok so it’s now a favourite on the coach trail and has been photographed to death….but catch it on a lonely drive at the end of a day or drift off the main paths for a wander and you’ll build a bank of memories you’ll never escape from.

 

Finding the Best Spots at Glen Coe

The iconic photo of Buachaille Etive Mor will forever be a favourite and, if approaching from the south, will be the first thing you’ll spot as you leave desolate Rannoch Moor behind. It’s the ultimate welcome sign. I prefer it in the winter with a dusting of snow under a clear blue sky, what do you think?

buachaille etive mhor glen coe photography

 

glen coe photo blog

Take a left off the A82 before you reach the peak and meander the road to Glen Etive for another beauty made famous by James Bond himself. In Skyfall, Bond talks about taking M away from London to someplace that the world will never find her. Enter Glen Etive. This one is crying out for a winter shot under a grey sky, when the sullen moodiness of the Highlands take on a whole new level of personality.

glen etive glen coe photo blog

Back onto the A82 then and into Glen Coe proper. You’re going to want to be jumping in and out for the car from here on out. Look out for the lonely white cottage on your left for another famous shot. If you are lucky you may even also come across a herd of deer that will join in with the welcome party. The snaking route takes road travellers straight through the heart of the glen and you’ll be dwarfed on both sides by the magnitude of the natural landscape. Look out for tucked away mini-waterfalls and the unmissable three sisters peaks (facing where all the cars are parked).

glen coe photo blog

deer glen coe photo blog

glen coe waterfalls photo blog

three sisters glen coe photo blog

Walking in Glen Coe

There are a multitude of options in this department. Although I have covered the area quite extensively over the years, I’ve still got a long way to go myself. Some stand outs though include the Devil’s Staircase (only Glen Coe could dare to take such a hyperbolic name for a walking route), the Lost Valley, Glencoe Lochan and Buachaille Etive Beag. Unlike some of the near-insurmountable peaks around here, all are walkable for most ability levels. They have their own layers of fabulousness year-round but I do have a leaning towards autumn for the lower level walks, when the colours are jaw-dropping.

glen coe photo blog autumn colours

devil staircase glen coe travel blog

Buachaille Etive Beag is one of my very favourite hikes. Offering ridiculous views over both Glen Coe and Glen Etive on either side, this is one for a sunny summer’s day and lots of resplendent greens I think. You’ll simply not know where to look as the Scottish Highlands lays on the wow factor.

buachaille etive beag blog

view over glen coe

Learn more about Glen Coe

Glen Coe is cared for by the National Trust of Scotland and their visitor centre here is another spot to take in some fabulous views. You’ll find it as you come to the end of the glen, it’s clearly signed. If you’re not yet a member, here’s a discount code for you. You can also learn all about the history of the Glen at the centre including, of course, the infamous Massacre of 1692. The poignancy of Glen Coe as a location owes much to the knowledge that dozens within the Macdonald clan were slaughtered here on the orders of the government. Many, myself included, find the Highlands to be a powerfully melancholic place anyway….but you’ll feel it more deeply here. This place has soul, and lots of it.

glencoe visitor centre photo blog

Whether you’ve been walking, cycling, driving or touring the journey through Glen Coe will most likely have branded itself into your memory. When you’re back at work in the office, pull it out now and then for sanity’s sake.

Passing through the village of Glencoe itself you can turn off here for the aforementioned Glencoe Lochan (low level) walk and be sure to stop near the Ballachulish Bridge for views back to the Pap of Glencoe and over glorious Loch Leven.

glencoe lochan travel blog

paps of glen coe photo blog ballachulish

Several of my trips to Glen Coe have been with my friends at Caledonian Light. Scottish Highland photography pros, touring these parts with them is a great way to see the area at its best and pick out some hidden delights. I owe much of this Glen Coe photo blog photography to their expert tutelage.

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