Any visitor to Scotland simply has to visit Glencoe. What is Glencoe? Well, it’s an absolutely stunning valley in the Central Scottish Highlands. Just a couple of hours away from the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s easy to visit the Glencoe in one day, but I’d recommend at least two days in Glencoe to fully appreciate its beauty. Be sure to read this list before your Glencoe trip to get an idea of the best things to do near Glencoe.
I’ve visited Glencoe a couple of times now, both in winter and each time the beauty of Glencoe has amazed me. It’s no surprise that Glencoe is a popular holiday destination in Scotland however a lot of visitors drive straight through on the way to places like the Isle of Skye. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake and miss out on the beautiful places to stop in Glencoe.
Many of the photos you’ll have seen of the beautiful landscapes in Scotland are from the Glencoe area. And while the scenery is breathtaking, the bloody history of Glencoe is well known. See below for more information on this!
A holiday in Glencoe means hiking, tasty meals and plenty of “wow, look at that” moments whether you’re visiting Glencoe in winter or summer!
How to get to Glencoe, Scotland
Whether you’re driving north from Edinburgh and Stirling, or Glasgow along Loch Lomond, you’ll gradually start climbing into the mountains. The road is framed by some of the highest peaks in the Southern and Central Highlands, moors, the occasional Highland coo and rivers and streams. The gateway to Glencoe is marked by the face of Buachaille Etive Mor and from here the scenery only gets better!
Glasgow to Glencoe via Loch Lomond
It takes 2 hours to drive from Glasgow to Glencoe via Loch Lomond; roughly 3 hours if you’re going that way from Edinburgh. Along the way, you’ll drive alongside the western banks of Loch Lomond which makes it one of the most scenic drives in Scotland.
This is the way we travelled during our weekend in the Scottish Highlands and it was BEAUTIFUL.
Take the M8 north out of Glasgow and then the A82 towards Crianlarich. The last section of the drive goes through the valley of Glencoe itself before you reach Glencoe Village.
Edinburgh to Glencoe via Stirling and Callander
You can also get to Glencoe via Callander which is on the eastern side of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. If you’re coming from Edinburgh, this is ever so slightly quicker than going via Glasgow and will take around 2 hours 45 minutes. The upside is you should avoid traffic in the Glasgow area.
From Edinburgh, you’ll drive past Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument and the Kelpies and Flakirk Wheel. All of these make great places to take a break if you’re tired of driving.
At Stirling, take the A84 towards Crianlarich through the picturesque town of Callander and continue to Glencoe Village.
Public transport to Glencoe
You can also get the bus to Glencoe. If you’re coming from Edinburgh, get the train or bus to Glasgow.
From there you take Citylink busses 914, 915 or 916 which go all the way to Glencoe. This takes about 2.5 hours and you can book online beforehand. I’d recommend booking in the summer when the area is pretty busy! There’s also the option to get the Fort William to Glencoe bus.
Where to stay in Glencoe and nearby
These Glencoe places to stay are suitable for all sorts of travellers whether you’re on a budget, looking for something more luxurious and everything in between.
Self-catering in Glencoe
Prefer to find places to stay in Glencoe that offer self-catering facilities? Check these out.
Signal Rock, Glencoe
Signal Rock Glencoe self-catering lodge has everything you need for a remote getaway in the Scottish Highlands and comes at a great price too!
RiverBeds Lodges with Hot tubs
These luxurious lodges in Glencoe include a sizeable outside area with your own private hot tub. What could be more ideal than a hot tub soak with a mountain view after a day of exploring Glencoe? Each cabin comes with an en-suite and kitchenette.
The House in the Wood
The House in the Wood in Ballachulish is a cosy cabin with a kitchen and fireplace. It’s less than 4 miles away from Glencoe Village and has a garden for relaxing in too.
Hotels in Glencoe
The Ballachulish Hotel
The Ballachulish Hotel is in a stunning location between the Glencoe mountains. One of the most famous hotels in Scotland, The Ballachulish includes breakfast and is very reasonably priced.
The Isle of Glencoe Hotel
The Isles ofHotel on the side of a peninsula reaching into , bio-sauna, and an exercise room. Make sure you enjoy a Loch Leven walk if you stay here.
Budget-friendly accommodation in Glencoe
These hotels and glamping in Glencoe are perfect for those of you looking for budget accommodation.
Glamping Pods in Kinlochleven
These glamping pods offer cosy accommodation with free wifi and hot showers. It’s great if you’re looking to do some camping in Glencoe, but don’t want to risk your tent flooding! It’s the perfect location for Kinlochleven walks.
Glencoe Youth Hostel
The Glencoe Youth Hostel is just minutes from Glencoe Village and offers dorms and family rooms. You can pay slightly more for breakfast or make use of this Glencoe hostel’s kitchen. If you’re cycling this is a great option since it has bike storage!
Best things to do in Glencoe and nearby
You won’t be short of things to do with this list of things to see in Glencoe as well as things to do around Glencoe.
Check out these best hikes in Glencoe
There’s no shortage of Glencoe hiking and when you see the scenery on your drive you’re going to want to get out there, trust me! Luckily, there’s something for everyone when it comes to hiking in Glencoe whether you’re after an easy Glencoe walk or a more strenuous Glencoe hike.
An Torr/Signal Rock walk
The An Torr hike, also known as Signal Rock, is one of the easy Glencoe walks you can do. There’s some slight elevation gain but the trail is easy to follow and you get incredible views of the Glencoe Valley, the peaks of Aonach Eagach and the Three Sisters! And for history buffs, legend has it that this is where the signal to begin the Glencoe Massacre was given, making it one of the top Glencoe attractions!
Apparently the MacDonald clan hid their stolen cattle in this beautiful valley, perhaps because they were easy to hide thanks to the deep gorge. This trail is slightly harder with some steep climbs and scrambles but the views of the Three Sisters of Glencoe are more than worth it.
Glencoe Lochan, loop trail
In the woodlands behind Glencoe Village is a small lake known as Glencoe Lochan to locals. There are several easy trails here that go up and around the lochan all with beautiful views. The Woodland Trail takes you into the forest and away from the water slightly, the Mountain Trail goes steeper into the forest and another trail takes you around the shores of the lake.
Hike out to Steall Falls
The Steal Falls path starts just south of Fort William and takes you to the base of the second highest waterfall in Britain. It’s undoubtedly one of the best easy Fort William hiking trails.
The waterfall tumbles down from a height of 120m from the slopes of An Gearanach and into the River Nevis. On the hike, you’ll pass through Nevis Gorge with stunning alpine meadows and woodland.
There are some steep drop-offs and, for the more adventurous, there’s an optional wire rope bridge that requires you to balance on a single wire (while holding the upper wires) to make it closer to the base of the falls.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is Scotland’s thru-hiking trail that goes from just outside of Glasgow to Fort William through Glencoe. You can, of course, hike the trail in sections too. If you’re just visiting Glencoe for a few days, the most appropriate section would be the West Highland Way to Kinlochleven beginning at Altnafeadh.
From Kinlochleven, you can take the bus back to Glencoe.
Pap of Glencoe
The cone-shaped mountain (one of the easiest mountains in Glencoe to spot) is known as the Pap of Glencoe towers above Glencoe Village and is hard to miss. Wayfinding is easy but the trail itself gets steep and there’s a small scramble to reach the true summit at the end.
Climb Ben Nevis
Weather permitting and with the right experience, you can also hike to the summit of Ben Nevis; the highest mountain in the UK! Which easily makes it one of the best mountains to climb in Scotland.
At 1,345m high, the volcano of Ben Nevis has a couple of different routes you can take to the top. There’s the Carn Mor Dearg Arete route for experienced and well-prepared scramblers or the easier Mountain/Pony Track to Ben Nevis. Getting to the top takes around 5-7 hours and there’s a section of steep climbing and some sheer drops.
Learn about the history of Glencoe
Glenco may be beautiful, but there’s a dark side lurking in Glencoe’s history. The Glencoe Visitor Centre is the perfect place to learn about one of the most famous events that took place here. For a brief overview, read on:
In February of 1962, the government’s soldiers murdered 38 men, women and children from the MacDonald clan. Those who escaped made it out into the hills only to die from cold and exposure.
This came just after the Jacobite uprising where King William III ordered clan chiefs to sign a pledge of allegiance. The MacDonald clan had gone to the wrong place and were 6 days late to sign it. When they hosted 130 soldiers in their houses, the clan thought they were safe only to fall victim to one of the most shocking events in Scotland’s history.
Ride the Nevis Range cable car
This cable car in Scotland takes you from just north of Fort William to the top of Aonach Mòr, the 8th highest mountain in Britain. This is the only cable car in Britain and is not just perfect for enjoying the scenery, but also as a short cut to hikes, mountain bike trails and climbing routes.
Mountain Gondola Tickets can be purchased both online & in person.
Take the Glen Etive scenic drive
This drive is absolutely gorgeous and I highly recommend it as one of the best places to visit in Glencoe. We didn’t drive all the way to the end and Loch Etive, but we still enjoyed the beautiful landscape and dozens of deer! It was a great place for taking pictures of Glencoe, Scotland.
This scenic drive in Scotland follows a single track road for 12 miles while plenty of pull-out places to let people past. At the end, you’ll reach Loch Etive which feeds into the sea north of Oban.
This area of the Scottish Highlands has also had a few moments on the big screen. It was used in Braveheart and James Bond’s Skyfall Glencoe scenes.
Try Via Ferrata in Kinlochleven
Scotland’s only Via Ferrata is in Kinlochleven and is a great way to test your nerves or try some climbing. Via Ferrata involves climbing using a series of iron steps and steel cables which are bolted into the rock. You’re clipped in to minimise falling and so that you can fully appreciate the beautiful views.
The Kinlochleven Via Ferrata route goes up the Grey mare’s Tail waterfall and includes a short zip line back down to the bottom.
Get a taste of history at the Inverlochy Castle
Not far from the centre of Fort William is the 13th Century Old Inverlochy Castle. Nowadays you can see the ruins rather than a complete castle, but it’s one of the best-preserved castles from that time and has many a bloody tale to tell.
The New Inverlochy Castle is actually a hotel which you can stay at and feel like you’re a King or Queen!
Go sea kayaking in Scotland
Scotland’s glens and mountains aren’t the only things that are beautiful, the coastline of Scotland is stunning too. One of the best ways to appreciate the coast is to go sea kayaking in Scotland!
Try it out on Loch Leven which is a sea lake that stretches for over 14km from Kinlochleven to the sea. There are several small islands to paddle around as well as sheltered bays. You can go kayaking for just a few hours, half/full days or even multi-day kayaking trips.
Try out canyoning in Glencoe
If you’d rather be in the water than just on top of it, you could go canyoning near Glencoe.
Canyoning is suitable for all abilities (you just need to be prepared to get wet!) and involves climbing, swimming and jumping into the water! It’s best to go on a canyoning tour to do this safely and they’ll provide you with wetsuits to keep you warm too.
See the Harry Potter train at Glenfinnan Viaduct
Harry Potter fan or not, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is well worth a visit. The impressive viaduct takes trains to Glenfinnan Station across a 1,000ft span and 100ft above the ground.
If you time it right you can see the Jacobite steam train as it goes from here to Fort William and Mallaig. And, during the rest of the year, there’s a regular train which you can watch as it races across the viaduct.
Cycle from Glencoe to Oban (or further!)
Love cycling? You don’t have to be a mountain biker to enjoy the rugged terrain of Glencoe (although if you are, see my next idea!).
The Caledonia Way (Route 78) is a cycle path that runs for 237 miles from Campbeltown to Inverness. A shorter section of this is the Sustrans cycle route which is separate from the main road and has beautiful views. You can cycle as much or as little as you like and if you need to rent a bicycle in Scotland get one from Crankitup Gear in Glencoe village.
Mountain biking near Glencoe
There are so many mountain biking trails near Glencoe and they provide you with brilliant views. Mountain biking at Glencoe Mountain Resort is one of the best options since you can get the chair lift to the top of the mountain rather than having to cycle uphill. However, you can mountain bike all over the place!
I use Trailforks to check out mountain biking routes and suggest you do too. Crankitup Gear rents mountain bikes and equipment.
Sip spirits at the Ben Nevis distillery
Closer to Fort William, the Ben Nevis Distillery gives you the chance to tour around where they make their whisky. And, since you’re in Scotland, you simply have to have some whisky!
The distillery itself is just underneath the Ben Nevis mountain and it has been making whisky since 1825 using the water from a spring that’s fed by snowmelt.
The visitors’ centre tells the story behind the distillery and you can take a tour before getting the chance to taste the whisky.
Enjoy the Scottish Scenery with these Glencoe photo spots
The absolute best thing you can do in Glencoe and around is to enjoy the scenery by taking your time! I’ve put together a list of my favourite photo spots in Glencoe which I strongly suggest checking out.
Listen to live music at a typical Scottish pub
There’s many a Glencoe pub where you can get a pint, some traditional food and listen to live music but the Clachaig Inn is one of the best.
Whether you’re staying at the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe or not, you should head there at the weekend and enjoy the action at the back of the Boots Bar. Every Saturday, a different Scottish band takes the stage and the Open Session every Sunday gives local instruments a chance to show off their singing and music. You simply shouldn’t miss this Glencoe pub.
Ice climbing in Kinlochleven
Kinlochleven is home to Scotland’s National Ice Climbing Centre and just a 15-minute drive from Glencoe. Here you can climb the largest indoor ice climbing wall in the world that is 12 metres high and made from 500 tonnes of real snow and ice. Appropriately named Ice Factor, it’s the ideal place to try ice climbing!
There are also regular indoor climbing and bouldering walls and you can get instruction in winter mountaineering and mountain safety skills.
Climb Neptune’s Staircase
Neptune’s Staircase is a series of 8 interconnected locks along the Caledonian Canal. Built in the 19th Century, the staircase is just north of Fort William where the canal begins its 60-mile journey towards Inverness.
It takes boats 90 minutes to get from one end to the other of Neptune’s Staircase and you can watch from the towpath next to the canal. Or, hire your own canal boat one time and take it on yourself!
Skiing in Glencoe Mountain Resort and hiking
There aren’t many places you can go skiing in the UK, but the majority of them (at least those on real snow) tend to be in Scotland and even then there are just 5.
Of the five ski resorts in Scotland, Glencoe Mountain Resort is the oldest. It’s not a huge ski area, but it does have 8 lifts and 20 runs. It’s also home to the longest and steepest ski run in Scotland! Skiing at Glencoe is also cheaper than North America and Europe and you can rent clothes and equipment at the Glencoe ski centre.
In the summer months, Glencoe Mountain Resort switches to hiking and mountain biking and you can skip the steep climb at the beginning by getting the chair lift up there!