One of the most dramatic drives in the UK, the road through Glencoe is a magnificent exploration of the rugged wilderness of the Scottish Highlands. There are so many things to do it’s well worth spending a whole day.

The Scottish Highlands are rich in magnificent mountains and deep valleys, but nowhere does the landscape come together more dramatically than at Glencoe. Great buttressed mountains with serrated edges and rocky flanks tower over one of the finest roads in the country.

It may only take 20 minutes to drive through this spectacular terrain, but it’s worth spending much longer.

There are grand viewpoints and easy walks around ethereal woods and pretty lakes; lost valleys to uncover high in the mountains; and film locations from Harry Potter to James Bond to explore.

End the day with a pint at a traditional inn or a whisky by the fire overlooking rugged scenery and you will have uncovered one of the best places to visit in the Scottish Highlands.

Here are our favourite things to do in Glencoe, including where to stay and what to see nearby.

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glencoe scotland

IN THIS GUIDE

GUIDE TO GLENCOE SCOTLAND


WHAT IS GLENCOE?

Glencoe is the name of the valley (glen) of the river Coe. It is also the name of the village that sits at the western end of the valley where the Coe River empties into Loch Leven.

The valley runs from the Kingshouse Hotel to Glencoe village both of which are connected by the A82. One of the finest drives in the entire UK, it is only 12 miles long and can be completed in just 20 minutes. But with such amazing views, a couple of great spots for a drink and some of the best hiking in the Scottish Highlands, you’ll want to spend longer.

GLENCOE SCOTLAND MAP

Glen Coe is located in the highlands between Loch Leven and Loch Achtriochan in central Scotland. Use our map to help you plan your day out in Glencoe.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


12 THINGS TO DO IN GLENCOE


1 – GLENCOE LOCHAN

The village of Glencoe, on the shores of Lock Leven, has a small folk museum (11am-3pm, £3), outdoor centre and caravan park. But most come here to walk around the peaceful Glencoe Lochan.

This lovely lake, surrounded by trees and towered over by the 742-metre-high Pap of Glencoe, provides the setting for the best easy walk in the area. On a warm day, it’s a great spot for a picnic or a swim, on a drizzly day, stroll around the area getting some protection from the trees.  

The walk around the lake (red trail) is 1.5 miles on a good path and takes about 45 minutes. The hike is flat and easy, except for a slight 5-minute uphill ascent from the car park to the edge of the lake. The free car park is at the end of a rough road from Glencoe Village but should be fine in any car.

standing on teh pier at glencoe lochan

2 – GLENCOE VISITORS CENTRE

The Glencoe Visitors Centre is just east of Glencoe village and it’s a good spot to get your bearings. Housed in a modern stylish structure, the entrance hall is a 3D model of the valley detailing the best stops and hikes and a short film takes you on a journey through Glencoe’s history.

There are lovely views out the back and a recently constructed turf and creel house with a heather-thatched roof and earth walls that blend into the mountain. The structure was erected using traditional tools and techniques in 2021 and uses the same footprint as a 17th-century dwelling in the nearby town of Achtriachtan.

The Glencoe Visitors Centre (9.30am-4pm) is free but parking costs £4 (free for National Trust members). There are toilets, a shop and Highland Coo Café.

glencoe visitor centre

3 – AN TORR & SIGNAL POINT

Heading east of the visitors’ centre, just as the Glencoe valley begins to open out, An Torr Wood is a stark contrast to the imposing barren hills that surround it. Pine-covered paths meander between moss-covered rocks and under giant trees. The river provides a calming soundtrack as you twist and turn through the forest.

The wood is undergoing a transition. The National Trust is slowly removing all the non-native conifers and replacing them with rowan, birch and indigenous pines. Yet despite the odd section still recovering, it’s a magical and almost ethereal place which was used as Hagrid’s Hut in the Harry Potter films.

There are three different marked paths in the wood which you can combine however you wish. A simple loop of the forest only takes 45 minutes, but if you head to the views at Signal Rock allow about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

an torr signal point

4 – CLACHAIG INN

Sitting on the edge of An Torr wood is the historic Clachaig Inn. It’s a great location in whatever weather you’re presented with. On cold wet days it’s a warm welcoming harbour from the wind and rain. On sunny days you can sit in the garden staring up at mighty peaks. There’s food served all day.

Their cosy bar, Boots Bar, is a hiker’s hangout and the perfect place to unwind after a long day in the mountains. The huge open fire, rustic bar made of old barrels and an extensive list of whiskies make it a great thing to do in Glencoe.

It’s a lively but laid-back atmosphere helped by a regular rotation of top-quality live music. Great evening fun after a day in the wilds.

5 – THREE SISTERS VIEWPOINT (BIDEAN NAM BIAN)

The finest viewpoint in the narrowest part of Glencoe valley is the Three Sisters Viewpoint. Right next to the road, it is surrounded by some of the most imposing mountains in the area.

The jagged edge of the Aonach Eagach Ridge – a series of peaks and pinnacles connected by narrow arêtes – is to the north. Even from the viewpoint, it’s easy to see that crossing the summits is one of the trickiest and most nerve-testing hikes in Scotland.

To the south are the mighty Munro peaks of Aonach Dubh, Beinn Fhada and Gearr Aonac. Collectively known as the Three Sisters (or Bidean nam Bian) they are the rugged heart of Glencoe with great buttressed facades lauding it imperiously over the road.

The vista from the viewpoint is excellent, but to really get a feel of this imposing scenery it’s well worth heading deeper in.

6 – HIDDEN VALLEY

While the complete hike over The Three Sisters is a strenuous all-day affair, the Hidden Valley hike is a fantastic shorter section that’s well worth completing.

The hike leaves the Three Sisters viewpoint car park, heads downhill to a track at the bottom of the valley, turns left and then right crossing a wooden bridge over the river Coe.

The trail climbs up a rocky gorge with a stream and waterfalls on your left-hand side. The path is narrow and rocky with steep drops and requires some care. It then crosses over the river, traverses a rocky ledge and continues to ascend steadily.

After about 1 hour 15 minutes the trail flattens to reveal a magnificent ‘Lost’ or ‘Hidden’ valley. The genteel U-shaped valley is in complete contrast to the massive boulders and towering rocky walls that surround it.

The walk to the Hidden Valley is 2 miles and ascends 350 metres. Although not technically difficult, it passes through rocky terrain and a reasonable level of fitness is required. It takes 2 -3 hours to hike to the valley and return to the Three Sisters parking lot.

7 – BUACHAILLE ETIVE MÒR

Standing guard over the eastern end of Glencoe Valley is the mountain Buachaille Etive Mòr. Its rocky summit and steep-sided slopes make it one of the most photographed peaks in the Scottish Highlands.

From the north (at Altnafeadh) a whitewashed farm sits under its giant rocky flanks; a small speck of life in a wild and rugged place. From the east (near Kingshouse) it resembles a volcano – a precipitous triangular peak rising above a land of heather cut by a babbling brook.

To get the best photographs try to be here in the early morning light or as the sun sets. Keep your fingers crossed for a clear day.

8 – KINGSHOUSE HOTEL

The Kingshouse Hotel must have one of the finest locations in the UK, yet for decades the slightly dishevelled venue did not live up to its potential. That has all changed.

A £12m revamp completed in 2019 has produced a wonderful modern structure at home in its surroundings. The wooden and metal façade blends beautifully with the rugged moors and mountains that surround it.

Inside there’s a mix of facilities for guests and visitors. There are smart rooms or a bunkhouse; an up-scale restaurant and a dog-friendly pub.

The highlight is the bar. Set around a real fire, comfy chairs overlook tall windows with sweeping views of Buachaille Etive Mòr and the Glencoe Valley. Grab a drink, sit down and soak it all in.

9 – WEST HIGHLAND WAY

The West Highland Way is a 96-mile long-distance walking route between Milngavie (just north of Glasgow) and Fort William. It takes about a week to complete, but one of the most beautiful stages is through Glencoe.

To get a short feel for the hike we suggest starting near Kingshouse and heading west. The path cuts through the heather and provides wonderful views of Buachaille Etive Mòr as it steadily changes shape from volcanic shaped peak to rocky monster.

It takes about an hour to reach Altnafeadh, where the West Highland Way leaves the valley floor and climbs steeply up the Devil’s staircase to Kinlochleven.

Walk for as long as you want, but in our opinion, the first 30 minutes or so are the best.

west highland way glencoe

10 – GLEN ETIVE ‘SKYFALL’ ROAD

In the film Skyfall, James Bond whisks M to the safety of his childhood Scottish home. The road used to film the journey is the Glen Etive Road and it’s easy to see why.

This wonderful stretch of road, which runs between the A82 and Loch Etive, passes under the magnificent flanks of Buachaille Etive Mòr as it follows the Etive River. All along the route, there are small pools connected by little waterfalls. On a warm day, it’s a great spot for picnics and wild swimming.

The valley narrows and heads through a rhododendron forest as mountains rise all around. The single-lane track (with passing spots) gets bumpier and twistier as the scenery gets more and more dramatic. It ends at the shores of Loch Etive.

Driving the entire Glen Etive Road takes about 40 minutes each way – but it’s one of the best things to do in Glencoe and you’ll want to spend longer stopping for photos and soaking it all in.

11 – GLENCOE ALL-DAY HIKES

All the things to do in Glencoe suggested above take less than a few hours, but another option is to complete one it’s the breathtaking all-day hikes.

Pap of Glencoe // The easiest of mountains to climb in Glencoe, the 742-metre-high Pap of Glencoe, rises above Glencoe village and the summit provides wonderful views over Loch Leven. Ascent – 716 metres | Duration – 4 to 5 hours

Buachaille Etive Mòr // Staring at Buachaille Etive Mòr its difficult to imagine there is any way to get to the summit, but a hidden canyon allows access on the eastern side. It’s a wonderful exploration of Scottish mountain scenery. Ascent – 1,110 metres | Duration – 7 to 9 hours

Bidean nam Bian // Also known as the Three Sisters, this is our favourite day hike in Glencoe. It starts by heading up the Hidden Valley before crossing all three peaks. It’s a challenge with steep scree and some mild scrambling, but the views are as good as anywhere in the highlands and it regularly features as one of the top hikes in the UK. Ascent – 1,316 metres | Duration – 7 to 9 hours

Aonach Eagach Ridge // This is one for those with plenty of scrambling experience and a good head for heights. The grade 2/3 scramble is often considered a moderate rock climb and not to be undertaken lightly. It’s a bit too much for us, but friends have said that scrambling along the narrow arête literally takes the breath away. Ascent – 1,100 metres | Duration – 8 to 9 hours

hiking glencoe

12 – GLENCOE SKIING

Most visitors head to Glencoe in summer, but when the snow falls it turns into a winter wonderland and a playground for sports enthusiasts. There are a total of 24 kilometres of slopes accessed by 9 lifts that generally open from mid-December to early April.

The slopes rise above the Glencoe Mountain Resort which can provide equipment and lift passes. It’s not a massive area, but there are slopes from green to black covering all levels of ability.  

WHERE TO STAY IN GLENCOE

Kingshouse hotel – Amazing location at the eastern edge of Glencoe, Kingshouse has breathtaking scenery from the rooms, bar and restaurant area. They have a choice of hotel rooms or cheaper bunkhouses.

Heart of Glencoe Holidays – With a range of caravans, chalets, houses and dormitories in a central location, Heart of Glencoe has something for everyone. Half hostel, half independent accommodation, it’s a great base to explore the area.

Clachaig inn – Basic rooms in a historic inn with wonderful views over Glencoe, the Clachaig Inn is one of the most atmospheric stays in the area, with the lively Boots Bar a big selling point.

Riverbeds – Treat yourself to a tiny but cute and cosy lodge in the trees. Perched on stilts above a river each lodge at Riverbeds comes with its own hot tub and there’s a café on site.

The Isles of Glencoe – A large modern hotel on the banks of Loch Leven, the Isles has spacious rooms with lots of leisure facilities making it a great family stay for a few days. Fort William and Ben Nevis are only a short drive away.

glencoe scotland 3

FAQs


HOW LONG SHOULD YOU SPEND IN GLENCOE?

If you are not a fanatical walker, one day in Glencoe is ideal. However, if you love hiking, you could easily spend 3 or 4 days summiting the mountains around the valley.

HOW SHOULD I SPEND A DAY IN GLENCOE?

If you have one day in Glencoe, drive the A82 between Kingshouse and Glencoe stopping at all the best viewpoints. Along the way complete 1 or 2 of the great short hikes –

Glencoe Lochan – 45 minutes
An Torr Wood – 45 to 90 minutes
Hidden Valley – 2 to 3 hours

Then take in the views from Skyfall’s Glen Etive Road. To keep you going, dinner and a pint at the Clachaig Inn or a dram of whisky in the giant windows of the Kingshouse Hotel.

THINGS TO DO NEAR GLENCOE

There are plenty of wonderful things to do in the area around Glencoe. Attempt to summit Ben Nevis, explore the Steall Falls, photograph the reflections of Kilchurn Castle in Loch Awe, take a ride on the Jacobite Steam train or head to the Isles of Mull or Skye.

All our favourite spots are on our Scottish Highlands guide.

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