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Undoubtedly one of the most famous glens in Scotland, and for good reason. It is known to almost everyone for its dark and tragic history, when a band of Government soldiers, under orders from John Dalrymple, Lord of Stair and King William of Orange, sought shelter from the January snows in 1692. The resident clan, the MacIain Macdonalds of Glen Coe, abiding by the code of Highland hospitality of the day, welcomed the troops (who were under the command of a Campbell, the MacDonald's ancient foe) with open arms, offering them heat, meat and hospitality.
In the early morning of the 14th February 1692 (yes, Valentines day) after a fortnight of enjoying the MacDonald's larder, the government troops turned on their hosts and massacred 38 of them, including the chief and his wife. Many of the clansmen fled into the winter mountains, and countless were no doubt lost in the snows, but the legacy of this horrific incident has echoed down through the ages and left a visible mark on the landscape, which is often very atmospheric.
But in more recent times, the Glen has become a tourist hot spot, famed for its stunning scenery and its long mountaineering history: it was here that many routes, techniques and reputations were founded and it continues to be a mountaineering mecca to this day.
The Glen is split into three; east, west and Glen Etive:
Eastern Glen Coe; In the east you will find the bulk of the mountains in Glen Coe, and some of the most famous. Buachaille Etive Mor, 'the Big Grey Shephard' stands guard at its eastermost entrance and provides a rivetting days walk taking in its various peaks, with stunning views all around. It's little brother, Buachaille Etive Beag, stands westerly and provides a good days venture and two Munros ticked off the list! Further west stands the iconic Three Sisters of Glen Coe which stand guard to the highest peak in the area - Bidean Nam Bian. This can be completed in a superb but long loop which takes in Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Bidean Nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach, as well as the Hidden Valley, famously used by the MacDonald cattle reivers to hide their stolen goods from their neighbours! A very early start is required for this route in winter.
Western Glen Coe; In the west the mountains trail off towards Loch Linhhe and the sea, but there are several little gems which are definately worth visiting. At the top of this list is the Ballachulish Horseshoe, which climbs up the delightful ENE ridge of Sgorr Bhan (Grade I) with a few rocky steps to add some spice to the route! Following the horseshoe is a long undertaking, but very worthwhile simply for the views! The Pap (or breast) of Glen Coe is also nearby and provides a wonderful little jaunt that won't take all day, but allows you to really take in the winter landscape.
Glen Etive; Although not strictly Glen Coe, the mountains in Glen Etive are awe inspiring. Mighty Ben Starav rears its head steeply from the loch side directly, and provides access to several other peaks once the height is gained. It is a serious undertaking in winter, but if conditions are good then the views and serenity make the effort worthwhile.
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