Glen Coe


Glen Coe

Glencoe ("Gleann Comhann" in Gaelic) is a glen in the Highlands of Scotland. It lies in the southern part of the Lochaber committee area of Highland Council, and was formerly part of the county of Argyll. It is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, and is a part of the designated National Scenic Area of "Ben Nevis and Glencoe". The narrow glen shows a dramatically grim grandeur, shut in on both sides by wild and precipitous mountains. Towards Invercoe the landscape acquires a softer beauty.

The name Glencoe is often said to mean 'Glen of Weeping', perhaps with some reference to the infamous Massacre of Glencoe which took place there in 1692. However, 'Gleann Comhann' does not translate as 'Glen of Weeping'. In fact the Glen is named for the River Coe which runs through it, and bore this name long prior to the 1692 incident. The name of the river itself is believed to predate the Gaelic language and its meaning is not known. One possibility is that it was named for a tribe once living in the area; however this remains speculation. It is also possible that the name stems from an individual personal name, Chomain or Comhan. [Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, 11 Sep 2007]

Geography

The glen is U-shaped, formed by an ice age glacier, about 16 km (10 miles) long with the floor of the glen being less than 700 m (0.4 miles) wide, narrowing sharply at the "Pass of Glencoe" about half way along.

The entrance to the glen from above is on Rannoch Moor to the east, below the mountain of Meall a' Bhuiridh; Glen Etive runs to the south from nearby. The entrance to Glencoe is marked by Buachaille Etive Mor, "the great herdsman of Etive" at the 'junction' with Glen Etive. Glencoe then runs roughly west for about 12 km (7.5 miles) before turning north-west towards Loch Leven.

The south side of the glen is marked by a succession of distinct peaks: Buachaille Etive Mor is followed to the west by Buachaille Etive Beag, then by the "Three Sisters", shoulders of the Bidean nam Bian massif which itself marks the western end of the glen. By contrast the north side of the glen is a stark wall of mountain, the Aonach Eagach ridge. The "Aggy Ridge" is crossed at the eastern end by the Devil's Staircase, an old military road opposite Buachaille Etive Mor. The western end terminates with the conical Pap of Glencoe, above Glencoe village, at the point where the glen opens out to Loch Leven.

The River Coe itself - Ossian's "dark Cona" - rises at the north-eastern base of Buachaille Etive Beag and flows west along the glen, with dramatic waterfalls at the Pass of Glencoe. It then runs through the small Loch Achtriochtan before it turns north west. It then passes through Glencoe village shortly before flowing into the sea loch of Loch Leven (a salt-water arm of Loch Linnhe) at Invercoe. In the glen to the east of Buachaille Etive Beag, the River Coupall runs north to the head of the glen, but it swings east round the Buachaille Etive Mor to join the River Etive running south.

Ownership

Glencoe was originally part of the lands of Clan Donald, though since the ending of the clan structure they progressively sold off their estates.

Most of the Glen is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland whose visitor centre has displays about both the natural and historical significance of the glen. The land was purchased by mountaineer and philanthropist Percy Unna, who then gave it to the trust on condition that it maintained the wild nature of the land. The building of a visitor centre caused some controversy, as some felt this to be a contravention of Unna's "rules". The original centre was later closed, and a new one built further down the glen.

The last area of Glencoe to be owned by the MacDonalds was the area around Invercoe. In 1894 Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal purchased this area and built a stately mansion, Mount Royal. In 2002 Alistair MacDonald of Glencoe made a successful eleventh-hour bid, and purchased the remaining lands of Lord Strathcona from his descendants. Alistair received unsecured loans from just six donors, and immediately set up the [http://www.glencoe-heritage-trust.com Glencoe Heritage Trust] , a non-profit-making charitable trust, to secure the heritage of Glencoe.

Tourism, walkers and climbers

Glencoe is a very popular tourist destination; partly because of its scenic qualities and historical associations, partly because it is on the main road north (the A82), and also because of its attraction for walkers and climbers. It is famous for the quality, and variety of its winter climbing, most of its routes being comparatively easy of access from the main road.

Many walkers come to Glencoe on the West Highland Way following the old military "Wade road" over Rannoch Moor which crosses the River Etive at the Kings House Hotel. From there it is about 2 km (1.2 miles) to the head of the glen, then about 2 km into the glen the Way ascends the Devil's Staircase, a steep, boulder-strewn "cut" (352 m high) which is part of the old military road and drove road north across the hills to Kinlochleven.

For hillwalkers there are several good routes on the Bidean nam Bian (1150 m) massif which forms a complex Y-shaped hill with several lesser tops, including Stob Coire Sgreamhach (1072 m) which also has Munro status. One attractive way in to these tops ascends from the Pass of Glencoe up along the "Lost Valley" to the ridge. Both Buachaille Etive Beag (958 m) and Buachaille Etive Mor (1022 m) also offer opportunities to hillwalkers.

Rock climbers concentrate on the Buachaille Etive Mor (1018 m), often called simply "The Beuckle", and on the various routes on the Three Sisters (shoulders of Bidean nam Bian). For adventurous experienced walkers, the finest mainland scramble in the UK is the "Aonach Eagach". This extended scramble boasts two of Scotland's trickiest Munro hills, "Sgor nam Fiannaidh" (996 m) and "Meall Dearg" (951 m). The Aonach Eagach ridge terminates at the Pap of Glencoe (741 m).

The "Glencoe ski centre", also known as the "White Corries", is actually on the hill of Meall a' Bhuiridh (1108 m) which lies on the east side of Glen Etive, outside Glencoe proper. This field is popular with locals but is used mostly by nearby Glaswegians. It forms part of the "Black Mount" estate, which is based on Loch Tulla which is to the South West.

Other points of interest include "The Study" at the Pass of Glencoe; the cave of Ossian, where tradition says that he was born. The "Iona cross" was erected in 1883 by a Macdonald in memory of his clansmen who perished in the massacre of 1692. There is car parking at the scenic waterfalls in the Pass of Glencoe, which was used as the location for "The Bridge of Death" and "The Gorge of Eternal Peril" in filming Monty Python and the Holy Grail, attracting Monty Python pilgrims. Sets for the third Harry Potter film, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban", were built near to the bottom of Clachaig Gully, north of the Clachaig Inn. There is a folk museum in Glencoe village.

ettlements, tourist accommodation

Other than a few scattered farms, the only settlement in Glen Coe is the village of Glencoe, which lies at the western end of the glen close to Invercoe where the river joins Loch Leven. About 2 km to the west, on the southern shore of the loch, is the village of Ballachulish, known in the past for its slate quarries, which have been worked since 1760.

The famous Clachaig Inn, a pub with a nearby camp site much favoured by climbers and hillwalkers, is sited at the bend in the glen about 3 km (2 miles) from Glencoe village. A Scottish Youth Hostels Association hostel is sited about 2 km (1.2 miles) from the village, on the way to the inn. The Kings House Hotel, lying about 2 km to the east of the head of the glen towards Rannoch Moor, is a relic of the old coaching days when it was customary for tourists to drive from Ballachulish via Tyndrum to Loch Lomond. This old inn still welcomes visitors, and thrives on the tales of walkers and skiers, as well as climbers down from the glen's peaks.

For campers, there are three official campsites in and around the Glen. Wild camping is permitted in certain areas of the Glen, in accordance with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and the principles specified by Percy Unna. However, environmental concerns and increasing pollution of the River Coe in the mid 1990s led to a decision to exclude a specific area and prohibit wild camping within that area. The area is to the east of the Clachaig Hotel, from the River Coe to the Aonach Eagach, and east as far as the junction of the Old Military Road and the modern A82. The exclusion has led to improvements being observed in the river and the Clachaig area. [National Trust for Scotland Ranger Service, 08 Sep 2007]

Well known residents of Glencoe include Hamish MacInnes, veteran of Mount Everest expeditions, climbing consultant for such films as the Eiger Sanction and a mountain rescue pioneer. The disc jockey Jimmy Savile also owns a property in the glen.

External links

* [http://www.glencoescotland.com Glencoe Scotland Tourism]
* [http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/glencoe.shtml Glencoe walks]
* [http://www.glencoe-mountain-rescue.com/ Glencoe Mountain rescue]
* [http://www.glencoemountain.com/store/home.php Glencoe Mountain Resort]
* [http://www.glencoe-nts.org.uk/ National Trust for Scotland's Glencoe Site]
* [http://www.scotclimb.org.uk/glencoe_etc.shtml Scotclimb.org.uk - Glencoe]
* [http://www.syha.org.uk/syha/web/site/Hostels/Glencoe.asp Scottish Youth Hostels - Glencoe]

References

[http://www.highlandscapes.co.uk Photographs of Glencoe and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland]


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