Of fire and ice

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover -

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

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