As a Scottish travel blogger I often get asked for advice when people are making plans to visit Scotland and this usually inspires me to write a blog post on a place or experience that will help to answer some of those queries. However there is one place that I get asked about more than any other and that is Glencoe.
A rugged, dramatic and at times hostile environment, not surprisingly many of you find the thought of exploring it on foot an intimidating one and worry that it is only accessible to accomplished climbers and mountaineers.
One of the most common questions I get asked about is suggestions for easy trails for those with little or no hiking experience, so I wanted to share with you three of my favourite simple but rewarding walks in the area. For me, being among the mountains and forests brings the scenery to life as you start to notice the sounds of rushing water, smell the scent of pine and find yourself encompassed by the brooding atmosphere. It truly is a landscape that makes you feel small and you can't help but feel humbled and in awe at the power of Mother Nature. The best way to appreciate it is on foot, exposing yourself to all it's wonderful, powerful and strangely magical elements.
Can you tell how much I love this place?!
So here are my 3 favourite easy but rewarding Glencoe walks
1, Glencoe Lochan
Glencoe Lochan is an oasis of tranquility hidden away below the mammoth mountains. On the outskirts of Glencoe village this idyllic little spot was planted and modelled to resemble a Canadian landscape by a previous Canadian owner after his wife became homesick.
This is one of my favourite places in the area, the reflections of the mountains and trees in the still water make this a great spot for taking beautiful photographs.
The circular route around the Lochan is flat and easy, with longer woodland trails for those that want to explore further. There is an option to take a higher level route signposted 'mountain path' but to be honest the mature trees now block any view that would have previously made the effort worthwhile and the flat walk around the Lochan is visually the most rewarding.
This peaceful place makes a perfect relaxing escape from the contrast of the wilder landscape that surrounds it. An easy walk for all levels of fitness and mobility through some of the prettiest scenery.
2. Signal Rock
Signal Rock is the stuff of Glencoe folklore and is situated in the woodlands of An Torr, with a short but varied walk to get there. The rock sits on Tom A' Ghrianain which is Gaelic for 'Hill of the Sun' and it's purpose can only be guessed at. From the name it has been suggested that it is likely to have been a spot where druids came to worship the sun.
In more recent history it was said to be a gathering point for the MacDonalds of Glencoe in an emergency or a place where a beacon would be lit by the clan to warn of any dangers. Most famously some also believe that a fire was lit here to signal the start of the Glencoe Massacre on 13th February 1692 although all these theories are just speculation, it doesn't take away from the mysterious atmosphere.
The walk starts by crossing a wooden bridge over the River Coe with woodland before you and the mountains behind you providing a stunning backdrop. Although there is a fairly easy path through the characterful trees, it does go up and down at points with some rocky and muddy patches, though the route in general is not difficult.
There is no mistaking Signal Rock when you get there as it looms ominously in front of you and an information board confirms you have reached your destination in case you are in any doubt. Walk around to the back and you can climb the steps to the top and although the trees now shroud what would once have been extensive views of the glen, it is still a magical place to ponder what mysteries and secrets from the past the rock holds within its stony soul.
3. Glencoe Mountain Resort
Low level walking in Glencoe can be rewarding in lots of ways but let's be honest, it will never be quite the same as conquering one of those towering mountains that continually tempt you with promises of unequaled vistas from the summit that stretch far into the horizon. But you're not a mountaineer and there is just no way you are fit enough to clamber up one of those things so you will just have to longingly imagine what it must be like to stand gazing across neighbouring peaks from thousands of feet above the valley floor, right? Wrong!
Last year I wrote a cheat's guide to climbing a Scottish mountain which basically involves taking the 12 minute chairlift at the Glencoe Mountain Resort and being transported 2200 feet into the heart of some of the most stunning Scottish scenery without breaking a sweat. Once you arrive at the top you can follow easy or moderate trails to get even better views. Sometimes cheating is ok and if you are not a mountaineer I totally encourage it on this occasion as this is the best (and only) way to get a Glencoe mountain experience without actually having to climb one!
If you have a look back at my blog post I also explain how to take a really cool photo like the one below where you can 'touch' the top of Buachaille Etive Mòr, one of Scotland's most iconic mountains.
So those are my favourite easy walks in the area and I hope it has answered some of those burning questions about accessible hikes in Glencoe and shows that everyone can enjoy an outdoor experience in this famous Highland landscape.
So many people rush through Glencoe, however it deserves much more than a passing visit and there are plenty reasons to factor a couple of days or more into your itinerary. I stayed overnight in a private room courtesy of SYHA Glencoe which is a great base for all these walks and more, plus it is dog friendly which means your furry companion can enjoy the outdoor experience too!
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