Glencoe – The Clachaig Inn, camping and mountain walks

Glen Coe is the most famous and perhaps most impressively dramatic of all Scottish glens, the perfect scenic match for its dark history of battles and massacres, and of course famous for James Bonds dash to Skyfall Manor with M. You can almost imagine your driving through a movie set with the dramatic and imposing mountains rising up through the clouds around you. We decided to go on a camping trip to celebrate a friend’s birthday and do a little bit of walking!

The Path up to Bidean
The Path up to Bidean

For those of you who don’t know the area it is a Mecca for walkers and adventure lovers, epitomised by the famous awesome pyramid of Buachaille Etive Mor, the guardian at the entrance to the glen. The highest peak is the great multi-summited massif of Bidean nam Bian whose three great buttresses rise impressively above the road and are known as the ‘Three Sisters’, whereas the north wall of the glen is the turreted and notorious ridge of the Aonach Eagach.

South is the much quieter and secluded Glen Etive, with its own ranges of impressive mountains. North and east of Glencoe is beautiful Loch Leven, with the town of Kinlochleven at its eastern end nestled beneath the great mountain range of the Mamores, with walks as exciting as in Glencoe itself.

S'mores at the Red Squirrel
S’mores at the Red Squirrel
Excited Puppy
Excited Puppy

We stayed at The Red Squirrel Campsite which is located just off the main road behind the fabulous Claichaig Inn. It is right next to the river Coe and open all year round with fabulous facilities, hot water showers, fire pits and friendly staff – and of course those pesky midges! It’s the perfect base for exploring the mountains or sitting out with an awesomne view while you watch others drag themselves up them. We had a BBQ on the camp fire with home made burgers and sausages with a box of wine followed by some smores and a dram or two. It was so peaceful listening to the water running by, the crackling of the fire and the odd twack as a midge bit the dust.

Cold Water Pool near Hidden Valley
Cold Water Pool near Hidden Valley

Saturday, we decided to climb Bidean Nam Bian for our sins! We always plan our hikes with Walk Highlands which has really good up-to-date information http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/bideannambian.shtml. Its a grand mountain and the highest in Argyll. It has a very complex structure with many converging ridges, and has a reputation of being unforgiving in bad conditions if one is not familiar with it. Make sure you have the proper kit and know what you are doing when climbing Munro’s as they can be scarily unforgiving and unpredictable weather conditions can cause serious problems.

We took the rock scramble up Dinner-time Buttress on Aonach Dubh onto Stob Coire nan Lochan, and then followed the narrow ridge to the main summit. It is a bit of a scramble so be careful and watch out for the path eek! The views are worth it though I promise! Turning west, the descent over Stob Coire nam Beith and down into the coire from the Bealach beyond gives a round which includes Bidean’s three main tops over 3000 feet in height. From here you can drop into the Lost Valley (or Hidden Valley) which is a plateau hidden from the main road where legend has it the Macdonald’s hid the cattle they stole from other clans. Although how they got them up there I have no idea. The walk up to the hidden valley can be done on its own in a few hours and a much easier alternative still with fabulous views.

Views over Glen Coe
Views over Glen Coe
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
We climbed down that!
We climbed down that!

After nearly 9 hours of walking we made it back down to the car and three very grateful walkers and a tired pup went straight to the Clachaig Inn for a restorative drink and some carbs! The Clachaig is infamous – Nestled in the heart of Glencoe, amongst the spectacular and majestic mountains of the Scottish Highlands for over three hundred years. Clachaig’s bars are famous – some would say legendary, and an evening spent soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the range of ales is an essential part of any trip to Glencoe believe me. There are 3 bars in total, each with its own distinctive and lively character and serving real ales, malt whisky, good food and fresh coffee. We ordered 3 steak pies and a pint each which were all great – just what the doctor ordered!

After Dinner we moved through to the back bar, where there is always live music or something happening in the evening, to watch The Ballachulish Hellhounds. Now with a name like that we expected some kind of metal inspired biker fest but were pleasantly surprised! They were more Mumford than Motorhead and really great.

When the bar closes the walk back up the road to the campsite is always fun with all the drunken revellers stumbling down the road singing.

Here’s some links to plan your trip – you wont be disappointed I promise

http://www.glencoescotland.com/

http://www.redsquirrelcampsite.co.uk/

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk

http://www.clachaig.com

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