Photograph of the week: Glencoe, Scotland, UK


Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands, is beautiful. The kind of beautiful that takes your breath away. But looks can be deceiving. Undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most scenic glens, and even voted Scotland’s most romantic glen, Glencoe is also a land steeped in bloodshed. Treachery. Murder.

It was 5am on the freezing winter morning that was the 13th of February 1692 when a regiment of redcoat soldiers, led by the Duke of Argyll, awoke. After dressing in the dark, they set to murdering their hosts, the Macdonalds of Glencoe, who had welcomed them into their homes and given them shelter for the past 10 days. At the end of what is now known as the Glencoe Massacre, 38 Macdonalds – men, women and children – lay dead. In their beds, in the snow, in the beautiful mountains that surrounded their beautiful glen.

With a history like this, it’s hardly surprising that the producers of the James Bond movies chose this darkly beautiful, isolated, treacherous landscape as the location for another murder: that of Dame Judi Dench’s ‘M’ in Skyfall. Fictional, perhaps, but no less shocking for Bond fans.

But enough of murder most foul – be it historic or fictional. Today, Glencoe stands as a must-do for any hiking or outdoors enthusiast, and as Scotland’s most romantic landscape, as voted by a winning 19% of people polled by the John Muir Trust and Walkhighlands, Scotland’s busiest outdoors website.

Located within the Lochaber Geopark in the Highlands, also known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK, the deep valley and towering mountains of Glencoe were carved out by ice-age glaciers and volcanic explosions millions of years ago. Indeed, the main road North through Glencoe takes you right through the heart of an ancient volcano. (Bonus: travel south, through Fort William, and you will go right past Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain.)

The ancient supervolcano responsible for the unique layers of rock which make Glencoe so distinctive erupted about 420 million years ago during the Silurian period. The glen is considered by geologists far and wide to be one of the best examples of a subsidence caldera, a volcanic process in which a circular fault allows a section of crust to sink, which in turn forces the volcanic magma to rise to the periphery. This sinking, and resultant rising, allows layers of rock which would otherwise have been eroded to remain visible, as seen in Glencoe on Bidean nam Bian, at Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, An t-Sron, and in the bed of the River Coe below Loch Achtriochtan.

Which is really just a lot of scientific words which can be roughly translated as: look at Glencoe’s rocks. Aren’t they spectacular? Have you ever seen anything quite like them anywhere else?

This extremely popular hiking destination is a fairly easy drive, just over two hours, from Glasgow. Fort William is just half an hour away. Regular bus services also run from both places to Glencoe. You can also take the train to Fort William or Bridge of Orchy and travel to Glencoe by bus. Whichever road you take, and no matter how you get there, one thing is guaranteed: all routes are the scenic route.

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Comments (7)

  1. Tony says:

    I am not a person who believes in ghosts or the supernatural in any form at all. However, when I have visited there really is a disturbing feeling in the air. It is as if the disturbed souls of the murdered still can not find peace after all these years. Speaking to friends who have also visited Glen Coe they have also said that they felt uneasy and troubled there. Sadly, the legacy of that night of murder and treachery will linger on for ever.

  2. Sarah Bugden says:

    I can’t help but think of the parallels with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In Shakespeare’s grim tragedy, Macbeth destroys the spirit of hospitality by murdering the King and his two guards as they sleep whilst Macbeth and Lady Macbeth host them at their castle.

    In the historical reality of the Glen Coe massacre the roles are reversed with the visitors murdering their hosts, all on a much greater scale with 38 dead.

  3. Steve Nicholson says:

    I know that it is a Photograph of the Week feature – singular. For those of us who know nothing about geology some close up pictures of the rocks might have been nice, especially some pictures showing different strata of rocks. Some of us are never satisfied. Though all the same it makes for an interesting read.

  4. Craig says:

    I have driven through Glen Coe once. It was a dark gloomy day, even though it was the middle of summer, and you could feel a sense of brooding, bloody history. On a more positive note my outdoor hiking friends tell me that it is a great area for walking so I will have to go back sometime and give it a go.

  5. Pete says:

    Who cares about what happened nigh on four long centuries ago? Forget the history and live in the present. Get your boots on, leave the car behind. Hit the trails and enjoy some spectacular landscapes whatever the weather may bring.

  6. Peter Ryan says:

    What a great photo! Sneaking a quick peak at A Luxury Travel Blog whilst stuck in the office for yet another Friday afternoon. Seeing a picture like that makes you realise that there is a whole world out there, beyond the office windows and congested urban streets. It makes you want to grab your walking boots and ruck sack.

    Though it doesn’t have to be Scotland, at the moment I’d happily fly offer anywhere for a breath of fresh air.

  7. Dave Thompson says:

    These wonders of nature are the very reason why I fell in love with photography. These are the types of sceneries that should be in your gallery. It’s amazing how nature can showcase it’s beauty by creating wonderful art such as these mountains. The contrast of the colors is also present in the picture. Looking at the mountain on the left, it appears to be a bit of gloomy and shows a darker version of the rockies while the mountain on the right shows a calm scene that makes you feel like the breeze of the air is going through the screens of your devices. Overall, breathtaking picture!

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