There are so many things to do in Glen Coe, it can be hard to know where to start! This comprehensive guide will help you make the most of your time in this beautiful part of Scotland. From road trips and hikes to places to photograph and stay, we have you covered. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip now!
Things to do in Glen Coe
Glen Coe is a stunning and awe-inspiring landscape with plenty to explore. Many people pass Glen Coe when traveling from Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Loch Lomond to the Isle of Skye. Unfurtantly they only pass Glen Coe and stop at some viewpoints but that’s it. Glen Coe has so much more to offer. In this article, we recommend the 10 activities that we have put together.
Tip: use the map of Glen Coe below to see where the best things in Glen Coe can be found. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the map. If you click on the star symbol next to the title you can save this map in your Google Maps account. In the folder, you can show or hide different categories. You can then use this map to navigate when you are at Glen Coe.
#1 Famous Road trip A82
Whether you have a spare couple of days or just 15 minutes to spare, take the A82 and explore Glen Coe. This main road winds through valleys surrounded by towering mountains – it’s an experience like no other! Most travelers do this activity, but they often skip other activities.
For sure the road trip on the A82 from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye was an exciting and unforgettable experience. Along with passing some of Scotland’s iconic mountain peaks – such as the Three Sisters of Glencoe – this route takes you through some truly remarkable scenery. From rolling hills and sparkling lochs to historic castles and dramatic landscapes, there really is something for everyone! Plus, you’ll be able to make stops along the way to enjoy the views. We explain in activity 4 which viewpoints are worth stopping in the area.
#2 Glen Etive
Many people visit Glen Coe only skip Glen Etive which is just 30 minutes drive. The only thing is that you need to follow a single road that you easily pass without noticing. We enjoyed Glen Etive because there were almost no people around. This made the experience much better. When you visit Glen Etive from Edinburgh, it is easy to find. You will pass the River Etive Bridge and Kingshouse Hotel. After that, turn left to drive to Glen Etive.
Glen Etive is a dramatic glacial valley located just south of Glen Coe. It is renowned for its picturesque beauty and unspoiled nature, making it popular among both hikers and photographers. While Glen Coe is flatter and surrounded by impressive mountain peaks, Glen Etive has a more rugged landscape with steep sides that are often cloaked in snow. In this region, you can see amazing wildlife as well stunning views. All-in-all, Glen Etive offers a unique experience unlike any other!
#3 Hiken in Glen Coe
Hiking in Glen Coe is one of the best activities to do. There are countless trails of varying difficulty. We did The Two Lairigs day hike and climb the Devil’s Staircase
Another great hike is The Three Sisters Circuit which offers spectacular views while climbing some impressive peaks. This is an intermediate-level hike and takes about 4-5 hours. On our map, you can see the route of these walks. You can ask the Glencoe Visitors Centre for specific information about other hikes.
#3.1 The Two Lairigs
This walk combines two historic passes between Glen Coe and Glen Etive – the Lairig Eilde and the Lairig Gartain. This makes a good circular walk around the base of Buachaille Etive Beag. We did this hike because we just did the Ben Nevis so when you looking for a relaxing walk where you can enjoy the stunning landscape without too much climbing this hike is for you.
This hike starts at Car Park – Starting Point 5 Mile Walk and ends in the same place. The Two Lairigs route is not too difficult, but you should expect to be walking between 6-8 hours depending on your speed. It is a 15km/9.25-mile walk and you will constantly be surrounded by nature.
#3.2 Devil’s Staircase
This walk starts at Devil’s Staircase Car Park and from here you can walk the Devil’s Staircase. The staircase is a steep zig-zag path that climbs 670m/2,200ft in just 1.6km/1 mile! It’s the most challenging part of the route and it will take you around +/- 1 hour to complete depending on your fitness level.
Once at the top, you will be rewarded with spectacular views over Upper Glencoe. This is a great spot to take a break and soak in the views before continuing. After this, you can choose to walk back to the parking area or continue walking to Glencoe Village. We walked back because we had done many other walks in Scotland and it was okay for us.
#4 Viewpoints in Glen Coe
As you are driving or walking in Glen Coe, there are several viewpoints that you should definitely not miss:
- The Three Sisters – this is one of the most spectacular views in Scotland. Here you can see three mountains standing side by side over a sea of clouds.
- Buachaille Etive Mor – This amazing mountain has a striking shape and is another very popular spot in Glen Coe.
- The Lost Valley – this valley was formed by a glacier during the last Ice Age and it has some of the most striking views in Glen Coe.
- Loch Etive – Here you can see one of Scotland’s longest lochs, stretching about 20 miles.
- Devil’s Staircase: This area offers some of the most stunning views in Glen Coe. As you climb up the staircase, you will be rewarded with gorgeous views over Upper Glencoe and a closer look at Buachaille Etive Mor.
There are so many viewpoints in the area without having a name. The above list is just a fraction of the ones that are worth visiting. While driving around you pass many viewpoints in Glen Coe where you can stop and enjoy the view. On our map, you see where all the viewpoints can be found.
#5 Photography in Glen Coe
Glen Coe is an incredibly photogenic area, which makes it the perfect spot for photography. There are many opportunities to capture stunning panoramas and dramatic landscapes.
When driving around, visiting the viewpoints, and hiking in the mountains are all places where you can take beautiful pictures.
The light in Glen Coe can be spectacular and sunrise/sunset shots are particularly special here. This is a great time to capture the dramatic colors of the mountains.
#6 Glencoe Visitors Centre
The Glencoe Visitor Centre is a great place to get informed about the area and its history. Next to the Glencoe Visitors Centre, you find a field where you have an incredible view of the surrounding area with a replica of how the people once lived in this area. The exhibition tells you everything about the Highland Clearances, as well as local legends and stories. There are also various interactive displays and activities for families with children.
You can find information on all the walks in the area, from short strolls to challenging hikes. There are also details about the flora and fauna of Glencoe, with some interesting trails to spot wildlife.
The shop at the visitor center is well-stocked with books, maps, outdoor gear, and souvenirs. The staff is happy to help you with all the questions you have.
#7 Visit Loch Etive
When doing the Glen Etive road trip it is worth driving to Loch Etive where you can enjoy this beautiful lake. This long and narrow loch stretches for 20 miles, providing stunning views of its surroundings.
Here you can see different birds, such as ospreys, red-throated divers, and golden eagles, or try your luck with fishing for brown trout, sea trout, pike, and salmon. We recommend to park at the parking area of Loch Etive and walk along the banks of the loch. One big advantage of this area is that it is not crowded. This makes it unique.
#8 Wildlife in Glen Coe
Glen Coe is a great destination for wildlife spotting. Here you can find an abundance of animal life, from red deer and golden eagles to pine martens and red squirrels. The best place to spot wildlife in Glen Coe or Glen Etive is The Lost Valley. This valley was formed by a glacier during the last Ice Age and it has some of the most stunning views in Glen Coe. Here you can find red deer, mountain hares, golden eagles, and even the rare Scottish Wildcat.
When we walked The Two Lairigs, we saw herds of red deer on the mountain hills from a distance. Therefore, it is wise to bring binoculars.
#9 Famous film locations
Glen Coe and Glen Etive have been featured in many movies. The most famous one is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Hagrid’s hut can be found at Black Mount. Then there is Highlander, which was filmed around Rannoch Moor and Glencoe Village. James Bond: Skyfall was also filmed in Glencoe and Ben Nevis.
When we traveled in Glen Coe we accidentally came across at tome famous film locations. If you are a fan of one of these movies it is worth visiting otherwise you can skip it.
#10 Go to the sauna
One of the best ways to relax after a day exploring the outdoors is to go to a sauna. Glen Coe has some great saunas where you can enjoy a relaxing steam bath and detox your body while taking in views of the stunning mountain scenery. The Isles of Glencoe Hotel is located near the village and offers visitors an opportunity to relax and pamper themselves after a long day of sightseeing.
Tour of Glen Coe
As you can see there is a lot to do in Glen Coe and it is an ideal destination for a day trip or a longer stay. We recommend visiting Glen Coe yourself but when you do not have the time and you are in Glasgow or Edinburgh an organized tour is the best way to visit Glen Coe. Below are tours we recommend when you are in one of these cities:
- Edinburgh: visit Glen Coe, Loch Ness, and other essential sights in the Scottish Highlands.
- Glasgow: visit Glen Coe, Loch Ness, and other important sights in the Scottish Highlands.
How many days do you need for Glen Coe
You need at least 1.5 days to explore the highlights of Glen Coe. If you want to spend a whole week in the area, there are plenty of things to do in Glen Coe like hiking. But with 1.5 days you can experience all the things we mentioned in this article.
Where to stay in Glen Coe
Glen Coe is a popular place to visit, but there are not a lot of places to stay. So it’s important that you book at least six months in advance. We recommend the following places to stay when traveling with a motorhome or car.
when traveling to Glen Coe with a car, the Clachaig Inn, Glencoe Youth Hostel, and The Glencoe Inn all offer comfortable accommodations for those looking to explore the stunning scenery of the region.
The Clachaig Inn is a traditional inn located in a tranquil spot amidst breathtaking mountains – offering cozy guest rooms, and an excellent restaurant for visitors.
The Glencoe Youth Hostel is situated in the heart of Glen Coe and provides a great setting for groups looking for an affordable place to stay. It offers single and double rooms as well as dormitories, perfect for those traveling on a budget.
The Glencoe Inn is another great option if you’re looking for something more luxurious. Located right beside Loch Leven, it offers four-star accommodation with stunning views across the loch and beyond.
When traveling with a motorhome there are unfortunately not many choices for free accommodation. Many parking spaces are along the road and may not be overnighted. One of the few spots is Loch Achtriochtan Car Park. Here you are just along the road, so it is relatively quiet, the big advantage is that you are also at all the highlights.
Where to eat in Glen Coe
There are a variety of excellent eateries in the Glen Coe area, perfect for those looking for a tasty bite to eat.
The Clachaig Inn has an extensive menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients and traditional pub grub. They also offer live music every night and plenty of outdoor seating, making it a great place to relax after a day of exploring the area.
The Glencoe Café & Co offers delicious homemade cakes and light snacks, as well as quality coffee for those needing an extra caffeine boost when out walking! It’s also a great spot for soaking up some of the local atmospheres.
For those looking for something a bit more special, The Deck Restaurant at The Glencoe Inn is an ideal choice. Renowned for its imaginative Scottish cuisine, this award-winning restaurant looks out over Loch Leven and serves up an amazing selection of dishes created with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Transportation in Glen Coe
The main method of transport in Glen Coe is by self-driving. There are no buses or public transportation routes, making it a great choice for those wanting to explore the area at their own pace. For people who don’t have their own car, however, there are other options available such as hiring cars and taking guided tours.
If you travel to Scotland by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.
How to get to Glen Coe
Getting to Glen Coe is easy and there are a few different options available depending on your circumstances.
By Car: The most popular option for getting to Glen Coe is by car. It is well connected to major cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Inverness, so you can make the journey quickly and easily.
By Bus: There are no direct buses running into Glen Coe itself, but there are services that run between Fort William and other nearby towns such as Tyndrum and Kinlochleven, which you can then take onwards to Glen Coe.
By Train: You can get to Fort William by train from Glasgow or Edinburgh, from where you can take a bus or a taxi to Glen Coe.
Traveling by car is the ultimate way to explore Glen Coe. With several sights scattered throughout the area, busses don’t pass through here meaning you won’t be able to access each of these concealed treasures without your own vehicle!
In the overview below you can see how long it takes to reach the Glenfinnan Viaduct from popular destinations:
- Fort William to Glen Coe: 26 minutes | 25 km / 16 miles
- Loch Lomond to Glen Coe: 2 hours | 128 km / 80 miles
- Isle of Skye to Glen Coe: 2 hours and 55 minutes | 193 km / 120 miles
- Glenfinnan Viaduct to Glen Coe: 30 minutes | 25 km / 16 miles
- Inverness to Glen Coe: 2 hours and 10 minutes | 131km / 82 miles
- Glasgow to Glen Coe: 2 hours and 10 minutes | 148 km / 92 miles
- Edinburgh to Glen Coe: 3 hours | 185 km / 115 miles
The best time to visit Glen Coe
The best time to visit Glen Coe is during the summer months, from May to August. These are the months with the best weather and the most daylight, making them ideal for exploring. The winter months can also be enjoyable as they bring their own unique opportunities for fun activities such as skiing and walking in the snow. However, temperatures can drop quite low so it’s important to come well-prepared if you are thinking of making a winter visit.
Do you want to explore more of Scotland?
After visiting the Glen Coe you can travel to the Isle of Skye, Fort William, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.
The Isle of Skye is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland and offers stunning views, plenty of outdoor activities, and beautiful beaches. It’s just a few hours’ drives from Glen Coe, making it easy to get to.
Fort William is a great place for adventure seekers as it has plenty of different activities to choose from such as hiking Ben Nevis.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is easily accessible from Glen Coe, as it’s only about two hours drive away. It boasts spectacular landscapes and wildlife, making it perfect for those who want to explore the countryside or take a leisurely walk in peaceful surroundings.
Reading our Scotland itinerary is a great way to help you plan your own trip. The itinerary includes the best attractions, where to go, and what to do. It also includes helpful tips. So if you want to have a good time in Scotland, reading our itinerary is a great way to get started!
Other useful articles that are worth checking are:
- Scotland trip cost: explains per type of traveler how much budget you need
- Scotland travel guide: guide about Scotland that gives general travel information about Scotland.