Inspired Travel: Glen Coe

by  Karen Gardiner | Jul 25, 2013
Glen Coe, Scotland
Glen Coe, Scotland / zakochana/iStock

Scotland's Glen Coe is known by many names, Gleann Comhan and the Bloody Glen for starters, but, if you have seen Skyfall, you might know it better as James Bond’s childhood home.

The glen (a Scottish term meaning valley) featured heavily in the final scenes of the 2012 movie, inspiring an uptick in visitors to this area of outstanding natural beauty and tragic history. Now, with 2013 being declared The Year of Natural Scotland, there is all the more reason to visit.

The hauntingly beautiful, often mist-shrouded, narrow U-shaped glen lies in Scotland’s Highland region and is close to 10 miles long, with tall mountains lining both sides. Upon entrance to the valley, the first view is that of the dominating, almost perfectly pyramidal Buachaille Etive Mòr. To the south a succession of sharp peaks punctuate the skyline, most notably Buachaille Etive Beag and the Three Sisters of Bidean nam Bian.

The name Glen Coe is often thought to translate as The Weeping Glen, as a nod to its tragic past. It was at Glen Coe where, in 1692, 38 members of the McDonald Clan were murdered by members of Campbell Clan, whom they had invited into their homes. The event is known as the Massacre of Glencoe but the backstory of the "Weeping Glen" monikor suggests some poetic license at play: the name Glen Coe was used to refer to the area long before the massacre took place, and in fact stems from the River Coe that runs through it.

When to go: As with anywhere in Scotland, the weather is unpredictable. Nevertheless, early September guarantees missing the biggest of the summer crowds and a good chance of tolerable weather. If you do visit during summer, be sure to pack insect spray to fend off the indefatigable Midgie. Due to perilous conditions, only the experienced and confident should attempt hiking and climbing in the winter.

What to know: Glen Coe is easy to reach by car as it is on the main A82 route between Glasgow and Fort William. A regular bus service runs all year round from Glasgow to Fort William, stopping at Glen Coe.

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