People who visit Glen Coe for the first time will invariably miss a small turning opposite the Kingshouse Hotel, and even if they knew it was there would probably give it a miss anyway, because this narrow single track road comes to a dead end after 14 miles, which means that you have to turn around and come all the way back – so why bother?
The answer is simple – the breathtaking scenery makes it, in my humble opinion, one of the best short scenic drives in Scotland.
As with all scenic drives, it’s best done outside of the peak holiday season. Fans of James Bond come here to see where some of ‘Skyfall’ was filmed, and it’s also popular with kayakers – and of course, climbers and hillwalkers.
Fortunately, when I drove down here one winter’s day, apart from one notable exception, we never saw a soul.
Several streams provide the River Etive with its source on Rannoch Moor, but for most people their acquaintance with it starts at Buachaille Etive Mor, the pyramid shaped mountain at the top of the glen.
The road follows the river down through the valley, at first underneath Buachaille Etive Mor, and then Stob Dubh before widening out as it flows into the head of Loch Etive.
In inclement weather the glen must be quite dramatic, but this morning was crispy, cold and clear – in other words perfect – and to add to the occasion there was a herd of deer on the side of the road who seemed extremely tame. We didn’t disturb them, but instead carried on down to the loch where we were left undisturbed as well. Occasions like this are quite sublime, and all too rare in this frenetic world we live in today.
One good thing about going back the way you came is that you see everything from a different perspective, and the drive back is even more impressive than the drive down. The twin mountain ridges of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag come into full view – and those deer were still hanging around to enhance the photo opportunities – but there was a fly in the ointment.
Earlier I said that we didn’t meet a soul apart from one notable exception, and this was where we came across a car full of people that gave us both consternation and laughter in equal measure.
Bear in mind that we hadn’t seen a soul for hours, I stopped the car well short of the deer and stealthily walked towards them hoping to get some decent pictures with the mountains behind – and then this bloody car turned up.
To be fair to them they didn’t park too close and one of the occupants was an elderly gentleman who slipped quietly out of the car and started creeping towards the deer with his camera. Suddenly peace was shattered – “Move the fucking car, you’re on my fucking foot” he bellowed. Christ! How am I going to get some decent shots now?
To be honest I was more concerned about the old boy because sure enough the back wheel of the car was firmly planted on his foot, and his son, who was the driver, didn’t seem to be grasping the situation.
As you can imagine, there was quite a commotion going on, but the best of it all was, that instead of scarpering, the deer just looked on in amazement and never batted an eyelid: Quite why we were walking on eggshells to photograph them I’ll never know. I wouldn’t be surprised if the deer wished they’d had a camera themselves.
Anyway, it seemed like the poor chap was ok because he took a few quick snaps and jumped back in the car – and the glen returned to peace and quiet, although I could still hear a few choice words being uttered as the car pulled away.
Luckily, we were going in the opposite direction and the incident was just a brief interlude in what was otherwise a perfect outing, and I really can’t recommend this wonderfully scenic drive highly enough – careful drivers permitting of course.