Visitor Center, Glencoe Attractions
Translated from Gaelic, Glencoe means "The Valley of the Dogs". It is situated on the west coast about 15mi/24km south of Fort William. The valley of Glencoe stretches for about 10mi/16km from Buachaille Etive Mór in the east, the "Great Herdsman" (3,345ft/1,022m), as far as Loch Leven, a saltwater arm of Loch Linnhe. The valley road is famed for its breathtaking scenery, winter sports, walking and mountain climbing, but to the Scots the valley also recalls a tragedy of epic proportions and is still referred to as the "Valley of Tears".The first road through the glen was laid in 1785 and it was almost certainly the unfortunate soldiers involved in the backbreaking work who gave the pass through to Fort William the name "Devil's Staircase". Since 1644 slate has been mined near the village of Ballachulish and during the 18th century that mine provided work for up to 2,000 men. A monument to the south of Ballachulish remembers James of the Glens who was falsely hanged for the murder of Colin Roy Campbell or "The Red Fox" - the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped" (1886), part of which is set in Glencoe. About 50 years later Alfred Hitchcock used the valley as a backdrop for the classic thriller by John Buchan "The Thirty Nine Steps".Many legends surround Glencoe. Fingal (Fionn McCumhail) the mythical Scottish giant who defeated the Vikings is said to have lived here. His son Ossian provided James MacPherson with the opportunity to advance the cause of Gaelic history. During the 18th century MacPherson produced a translation of Ossian's writings but they were later found to be fakes. Witches and fairies are also associated with Glencoe. Bean Nighe, for example, is a woman who washes clothes in the River Coe and death comes quickly to anyone who catches sight of her. Hardly surprising then that she was glimpsed by many on the eve of the massacre. In about 600, St Mundus, a pupil of the Irish saint Columba, came to the valley and stayed for a while on Eilean Munde, the small island in Loch Leven which remained a religious center for centuries. The remains of the small chapel can still be seen. From the 11th century the valley was part of the McDougall clan's territory and was ruled from Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban. In 1308 the McDougalls joined forces with the English to fight Robert the Bruce. The Campbells and the MacDonalds fought side by side for Bruce and defeated the McDougalls on the Brander Pass, about 20mi/32km south of Glencoe. As a gesture of thanks Bruce gave the valley to Angus Og MacDonald thus establishing that clan's dominance over the region for the next 500 years. The population in the relatively fertile valley rarely exceeded 500.Living in small stone cottages, the inhabitants shared the land with tough mountain sheep, who provided them with meat, milk and wool, and also the prized black Highland cattle. Herring was plentiful in Loch Leven so they were able to supplement their diet with smoked fish.After about 1500 the tension started to mount. The gap between the prosperity of the Lowlanders and the poverty of the Highlanders became more marked. Cattle rustling became common and the dispute between the loyal Campbells, the earls and later dukes of Argyll and the "wild" McGregors, McLeans and MacDonalds of Glencoe came to a head. It first came to a head in the Atholl Raid (1685) when the MacDonalds seized stock from the weakened Campbells. Two ways of life collided - the old and the new, the free and independent Highlanders clashed with a sober and insensitive central government. On the one hand, the Massacre of Glencoe was just one particularly brutal chapter in the history of clan rivalry but, on the other hand, it was also a manifestation of how the governments in London and Edinburgh were seeking to win control over the "lawless" Highlanders.The Massacre of GlencoeAfter William of Orange had defeated his Scottish rivals in Ireland in 1690, on August 27, 1691 he offered a pardon to those clans that had either fought against him or were ill-disposed towards him. These former foes were obliged to take an oath of allegiance by January 1, 1692 and Alastair MacDonald arrived in Fort William in good time to take the oath but was sent to the Campbell stronghold of Inveraray and missed the deadline by five days, a delay which was to prove costly within a matter of weeks. On February 1 Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, then aged 60, and 120 men met Alastair MacDonald, requested hospitality and the two groups lived alongside each other in peace for several days. But Campbell was awaiting the order from Edinburgh to kill all the inhabitants of the valley below the age of 70. On February 12 the order came and at 5 o'clock the following morning the slaughter commenced. The instructions to the Campbell party were "root out the old fox and his cubs" although in the end "only" 38 of the MacDonalds succumbed. The rest, about 10 times that number, escaped, but many died as they tried to cross the mountains in winter. Thanks to the investigations of an Irish journalist called Charles Leslie, the news of the Massacre of Glencoe led to a political scandal which at least temporarily brought an end to the career of the Scottish minister Sir John Dalrymple. The final demise of the MacDonald clan did not occur until the Battle of Culloden half a century later on. Alastair the 14th chief of Glencoe who as a small child had survived the massacre fought alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie. After this defeat the homes of the Macdonalds were burnt down, their cattle driven away and the clan chief arrested.
Some of the peaks in Glen Coe exceed 1,000m such as Buachaille Etive Mór in the east (3,345ft/1,022m), Stob Coire nan Lochan (3,657ft/1,115m) in the west - a very popular spot for winter sports enthusiasts - and Bidean nam Bian (3,742ft/1,141m). However, it ought to be borne in mind that these slopes are more suitable for mountaineering than mountain walking and should only be tackled by accomplished climbers appropriately equipped. Nevertheless some routes in the more remote areas are safe and inexperienced walkers can enjoy the true beauty of the valley. The weather is an important factor. Too often Macauley's description of the glen as the "Valley of the Shadows" or even the gloomy "Valley of Tears" seem more apt. But when the sun is shining brightly the splendor of this mountain range is more likely to match the words "oblivious of humanity" used by Henry V. Morton. Signal Rock, Devil's Staircase and Loch Achtriochtan are possible destinations for walkers or tourers.
Clachaig Visitor Centre
In 1976 a visitor center was opened in Clachaig and the fascinating multi-media exposition of the Glencoe Massacre certainly attracts most attention, but other displays include mountaineering in the region and also aspects of the glen's history.
Leishman Mountain Research Centre
The Leishman mountain research center at Achnacon Farm was opened in 1976 on land acquired by the National Trust a few years earlier.
Glencoe Folk Museum is housed in a traditional, heather-thatched cottage. The museum contains variety of exhibits including the massacre of Glencoe, agriculture, costume, medicine and toys.