Glencoe, Argyll

Glencoe, or Glen Coe (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Comhann), is a world famous valley situated in the Highland region of Scotland. Possibly one of Scotlands best known natural regions after Loch Ness the glen is a narrow U-shaped glacially-formed valley often considered to be one of the most beautiful and spectacular places in Scotland. The glen is a part of the designated National Scenic Area of Ben Nevis and Glen Coe. The valley gets its name from the River Coe which flows through it. The origin of the name Coe is said to pre-date even the Gaelic culture and its original meaning has been lost. The glen is surrounded by wild mountains that form a craggy and almost foreboding landscape. The glens main settlement is the village of Glencoe .

Thousands of visitors flock to the area every year, drawn there by the combination of stunning scenery and a deep and often dark history. The U-shaped glen is 10 miles long and less than 0.4 miles wide on the floor of the glen. It is pinched and very narrow at the Pass of Glen Coe, which is about half way along the glen.

Rannoch Moor, to the east, gives entrance to the glen from above, below the mountain of Meall a' Bhuiridh. Glen Etive bends itself northwards to meet at a point on the southern edge of Glen Coe. Buachaille Etive Mor or the great herdsman of Etive marks the entrance to Glen Coe where it meets Glen Etive. Glen Coe turns north-west after this junction, in the direction of Loch Leven.

A succession of distinct peaks marks the south side of the glen. Buachaille Etive Mr is succeeded in the west by Buachaille Etive Beag. Next is the Three Sisters, the shoulders of the Bidean nam Bian massif which dominates the western end of the glen. To the north is a stark wall of mountain known as the Aonach Eagach ridge, crossed at the eastern end by the Devil's Staircase, an old military road opposite Buachaille Etive Mr. The conical Pap of Glencoe (Sgrr na Cche) is above Glencoe village, at the point where the glen opens out to Loch Leven.

The Buachaille Etive Beag gives rise to the River Coe, which then flows west along the glen and creates dramatic waterfalls at the Pass of Glen Coe. The river issues into the small Loch Achtriochtan before turning north west to passes through Glencoe village. From the village the river flows into the waters of Loch Leven (a salt-water arm of Loch Linnhe) at Invercoe. To the east of Buachaille Etive Beag another river, the River Coupall, runs north. It reaches the head of the glenand turns east to pass the Buachaille Etive Mr and join the River Etive as it heads south.

The National Trust for Scotland own most of the Glen and keep a visitor centre with displays about both the natural and historical significance of the glen. Mountaineer and philanthropist Percy Unna purchased the glen and donated it to the trust. He stipulated that the land should be kept wild. Many walkers take the route from the West Highland Way following the old military "Wade road" over Rannoch Moor to enter the glen. It crosses the River Etive at the Kings House Hotel from where it is just over a mile to the head of the glen. Rock climbers tend to favour the Buachaille Etive Mr, otherwise known as the "The Beuckle", and on the various climbs offered by the Three Sisters. The Glencoe ski centre , or the White Corries, is on the hill of Meall a' Bhuiridh which is actually on the east side of Glen Etive, and so not in Glen Coe proper. The centre is popular with locals and visitors, many of them coming from nearby Glasgow , and is on the "Black Mount" estate, based on Loch Tulla to the South East. For experienced walkers looking for adventure, Aonach Eagach is said to offer the finest scramble in the mainland UK. It boasts two of Scotland's trickiest Munro hills, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and Meall Dearg. However you intend to tackle Glen Coe, a hard way or an easy way, youll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK.

More British Natural features?

Other Argyll Naturals

Fingals Cave
Loch Awe
Loch Lomond
Loch Fyne
The Trossachs
River Leven

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