In the heart of the Western Highlands, Glencoe can claim some of the finest mountain scenery in Scotland. Towering above the long glen (traversed by the A82 trunk road), several rugged peaks and ridges rise to heights well over 3000 feet (914 metres). They have long attracted walkers and climbers to their many challenging routes and this area is regarded as the spiritual home of Scottish mountaineering.
The impressive landscape is derived from very ancient rocks and an era of volcanic activity followed by glacial erosion. Glencoe lies within the extensive Lochaber Geopark, established in recognition of its exceptional geological history. The glen’s human history stretches back several thousand years.
The notorious Massacre of Glencoe took place in February 1692. Essentially, government soldiers of the Campbell clan had for ten days been billeted on the homes of the MacDonalds who felt bound to give them Highland hospitality. On 12 February the soldiers received secret instructions to “kill all MacDonalds under 70 years of age” and they rose at 5 am next day to murder 38 of their sleeping hosts.
Many MacDonalds escaped, but some perished in the winter blizzard, whilst a handful managed to flee into a small, hidden glen in the mountains – Coire Gabhail or the Lost Valley. From a car park beside the A82 near Allt-na-reigh you can walk there, a round trip of 2.5 miles (4 km).
The government order had been triggered by the late signing of an oath of allegiance to King William by the MacDonald Clan Chief. The delay reflected the MacDonalds’ reluctance to sign because they were Jacobites, but many mistakes and genuine obstacles had compounded the delay. The treacherous murder of MacDonald men, women and children led to a parliamentary inquiry that condemned it.
The National Trust for Scotland purchased the lands of Glencoe in the early 1930s with funds donated by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. The visitor centre is located at the western end of Glencoe. In memory of the outrage caused by the Campbell’s treachery, a sign at the old Clachaig Inn at Glen Coe still says ‘No Campbells’.