The Lost Valley, Glencoe

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Glencoe is one of the most dramatic and scenic parts of the Highlands. Ease of access (about two hours by road from Stirling) makes it justifiably popular. For the outdoor enthusiast, it has the lot: walking, scrambling, rock-climbing, snow- and ice-climbing and skiing. For the less energetic, the scenery is simply amazing.

The glen has history as well, the Massacre of Glencoe in February 1692 perhaps being the most infamous example. MacIain, who was the chief of the local branch of the MacDonald clan, was late in swearing loyalty to King William. The government sent in the local militia, who were Campbells, to teach MacIain a lesson. The Campbells however, had grievances of their own to settle. After being given hospitality by the MacDonalds, the Campbells murdered their hosts. 38 men, women and children were killed, though more died fleeing into a snowstorm. The crime was particularly heinous in Scotland, being classed as Murder under Trust.

This route goes up Coire Gabhail (pronounced 'Korry Gale'), which was one of the escape routes taken that night. Coire Gabhail already had a murky history though – the name translates as The Hollow of the Spoils or Booty, for this is where the MacDonalds hid the cattle that they had stolen. Nowadays it is known as The Lost Valley.

Although only a short walk, the route is graded as Moderate rather than Easy. In fact it's well on the way to being a Hill Scramble; you will need to use hands occasionally to make progress and reasonable agility is also called for.

The walk starts in the valley bottom, opposite the Three Sisters of Beinn Fhada, Gearr Aonach and Aonach Dubh and ascends the steep valley between the first two. The chasm of the River Coe is crossed by a bridge built by Royal Navy trainees in 1966. The opposite side of the river is surrounded by a deer-proof fence, allowing regeneration of woodland, mainly birch, rowan and hazel. The project was started in 1983 and gives an idea what the Highlands would look like without deer and sheep.

Beyond the wood the path tracks above the Allt Coire Gabhail (allt means 'stream'). The path is narrow in places and clings onto the hillside high above the stream. Though not difficult, a fall here would be very serious, so take care. Stream and path then come together, allowing a crossing at a prominent landmark using stepping-stones. These are sometimes covered when the stream is in spate; potentially hazardous and in this case it would be better to leave the walk for another day.

Beyond the stepping-stones the path continues to the upper part of the valley, which looks like a Himalayan meadow. Another landmark indicates a good resting-place, from where you can explore further up the valley. An alternative return route is included which involves even more scrambling down the mini-canyon of the streambed, another place where care should be exercised.

Scotland - Highlands and Islands - Highland - Glen Coe and Loch Leven

Features

Birds, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Restaurant, River, Waterfall, Wildlife, Woodland
02/09/2011 - mark sayer

We did this walk a couple of years ago (family of 4). It's a good family walk that most people with a reasonable level of fitness will enjoy. A 'must' if you're in the area.