Of fire and ice
The trip through Glen Coe is a Highland classic as the A82 funnels from the wide skies of Rannoch Moor to Loch Leven, dropping 1000 feet and eight miles through the mountains. The glen itself has been on quite a trip, forged in the heat of a supervolcano; shaped into this eye-catching trench by a glacier.
Buachaille Etive Mor guards the way in, luring many walkers onto the hills before they even hit the shady depths of the glen proper. Next comes
Buachaille Etive Beag, a sensational and slightly easier outing, followed by the pinch-point at the Pass of Glencoe, where the rocks crush in and the River Coe tumbles ( Monty Python fans may know it as the Gorge of Eternal Peril).
The south flank of the glen cricks high over the Three Sisters, a trio of ridges – Aonach Dubh, Gearr Aonach and Beinn Fhada – that buttress the Bidean nam Bian massif behind. The latter pair shelter Coire Gabhail, a high enclave known as the Lost Valley where the Clan MacDonald once hid cattle, both theirs and ones they’d rustled. The cows must have been nimble for the short route involves scrambling, but the crag-lined bowl is a gorgeous spot. The clan is also remembered for the Massacre of Glencoe in 1689, when 38 MacDonalds were slaughtered by government troops they had quartered for a week. Guests turned on hosts in the small hours, claiming the MacDonalds hadn’t been quick enough to pledge their oath to King William III.
The north side of the glen is a like a fort, cliffs rising to the toughest ridge in mainland Britain: the Aonach Eagach. The ridge is for seasoned scramblers only but there are other north-side options: the Devil’s Staircase at the western end, once a military road and now the highest section of the West Highland Way, and the steep cone of the Pap of Glencoe in the east. Or try a circle of the lochans by Glencoe village, where the view of water, crag and trees has a Canadian vibe, after Lord Strathcona planted hundreds of firs in the 1890s to try and ease his wife’s yearning for her homeland.
Buachaille Etive Mor guards the entrances to both Glen Etive and Glen Coe, and is possibly the most photographed triangle in Britain. Turn to Walk 24 for your guide to tackling it. MONARCH OF THE GLENS