Created by Craig Smith. Last updated on February 26th, 2021
The Glencoe Visitor Centre, set in the breathtaking landscape of Glencoe, contains a cafe, shop, and an exhibition about Glencoe and the infamous massacre.
Review of the Glencoe Visitor Centre
The Glencoe Visitor Centre should be on everyone’s list of must-see attractions in the Highlands. Set in the breathtaking and dramatic landscape of Glencoe, the centre aims to educate visitors not only about the geology and nature of the region but also about its fascinating history.
While the Glencoe Visitor Centre is essentially free to visit there’s a small per-vehicle charge that’s well worth paying to learn about the history of the area and the story of the gruesome Glencoe massacre. But there’s more to this remarkable place than tales of the past.
The surrounding area of Glencoe is arguably the most famous in Scotland, and with good reason. It’s gob-smackingly beautiful and is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland – a country that has already been ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world.
Within easy reach are dramatic mountain slopes like Bidean Nam Bian which you’ll find on Glencoe’s south side (you can learn about this majestic mountain range in my Complete Guide to Bidean Nam Bian) and Buachaille Etive Mor which dominates the wonderfully desolate expanse of Rannoch Moor.
You’ll also find lots of hiking trails to give your boots a good battering with The West Highland Way meandering its way to Fort William and several woodland walks heading out from the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre.
Glencoe offers a huge number of family-friendly activities in a truly gorgeous setting, and a visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete with taking the time to see it for yourself.
Things to do at the Glencoe Visitor Centre
It was close to the site of the NTS visitor centre in 1692 where 38 men, women and children of the MacDonald clan were massacred by government troops in one of the bloodiest scenes that the Highlands has ever witnessed.
The exhibition aims to educate visitors about the events leading up to the massacre, the details of the event itself, and explain the politics and clan structure of the time through a series of static displays and videos.
If you’ve ever been interested in this troubled part of Scottish history then the Glencoe Visitor Centre is definitely worth a visit.
The exhibition also examines the ecology and geology of Glencoe through interactive displays that will be of interest to children as well as mums and dads.
The long history of the area as a hotbed of Scottish mountaineering is also explored in detail thanks to the efforts of the National Trust for Scotland, and the exhibition goes to great lengths to explain the modern-day challenges that the NTS faces in caring for and maintaining this beautiful part of Scotland’s wilderness.
The eco-friendly visitor centre was built in 2002 at a cost of £3 million and is designed to exist in harmony with the surrounding area. The buildings are laid out in the style of an ancient settlement, built just above ground level and sat on top of stilts which minimizes the potential damage to the surrounding birch woodland.
Inside the complex you’ll find a first-class cafe with indoor seating and if the weather permits you have the option to enjoy your meal outside while taking in the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
As you explore the Glencoe Visitor Centre you’ll discover the Glencoe lookout station which shows live webcam feeds from the surrounding countryside, while the lookout point gives fantastic panoramic views of the glen.
There’s also a shop that sells the usual pocket-money gifts and toys, and there’s a picnic area so you can enjoy the fresh mountain air with your own packed lunch – perfect for relaxing after a long walk!
Speaking of which, there are walks-a-plenty from the visitor centre through the surrounding woodland at Inveriggan that are well worth exploring with easy-access paths and miles of unspoilt scenery.
As either your start or end point for an excursion into the dramatic landscape of Glencoe, I think the NTS visitor and exhibition centre is a great place your entire family will enjoy.
Discover the top places to visit in the wilds of Scotland with my Guide to the Scottish Highlands.
- The exhibition is genuinely interesting and it’s a good way to learn the history of the region.
- The centre is located in one of the most beautiful places in Britain. Words cannot do Glencoe justice. Just visit it already!
- The visitor centre is very eco-friendly which is great to see in such a fragile environment.
- You can save a bundle on membership to places like this with a National Trust Scotland membership. See the advert below for details.
- If you’re visiting Glencoe it’s essential you get a map of the area. The last thing you want to do is set off on a hike and get lost. I recommend getting an Ordnance Survey map. Buy OS Explorer Maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
- One nearby place that I thoroughly recommend is Glen Etive. You’ll find it on the south side of Bidean Nam Bian.
Things to do near the Glencoe Visitor Centre
- Glencoe Folk Museum. Ballachulish PH49 4HS. 3-minute drive. A museum that serves to celebrate the rich local heritage of Glencoe. The museum is housed in a traditional 18th-century heather-thatched cottage.
- Loch Achtriochtan. A82, Ballachulish PH49 4HX. 4-minute drive. A small loch at the foot of Bidean Nam Bian that is often visited by tour buses due to the relatively large car park. The loch is very photogenic as it is located centrally within the glen. The car park is the main departure point for walks up Bidean Nam Bian.
- Bidean Nam Bian. Ballachulish PH49 4LA. 4-minute drive, 2-hour walk. Stunning 3,770-foot mountain in Glencoe that is part of the ‘three sisters’ ridge. Easily accessed from Loch Achtriochtan on the A82. The climb to the summit is steep but there are multiple level sections along the trail.
- Loch Leven Panoramic Viewpoint. Ballachulish PH49 4HR. 3-minute drive. A large sea loch that joins Loch Linnhe on its western side. Loch Leven is 9 miles in length and almost 1 mile in width in places. A recommended sightseeing route takes drivers on the B863 from this viewpoint to North Ballachulish on the western end of the loch.
- Ballachulish Peninsula. Ballachulish PH49 4HL. 5-minute drive. An attractive peninsula in Loch Leven that offers panoramic views of the Highland landscape. The village of Ballachulish has a shop, a café and a pub within walking distance.
Address and map
Glencoe Visitor Centre,
Tickets and opening times
There’s a vehicle admission charge to the Glencoe visitor centre and car park. NTS members enter for free.
Visitor Centre, Exhibition, Shop and Café
- 1 Mar–7 Apr: closed
- 8 Apr–27 Oct: daily, 09.00–18.00
- 28 Oct–29 Feb 2020: daily, 10.00–16.00 (closed 24–26 Dec and 31 Dec–2 Jan 2020)
Photos and video
More places to visit in The Highlands
- Ben Ledi in the Scottish Highlands: The Complete Visitor GuideBen Ledi is an 879-metre high mountain in the lower Scottish Highlands. It can be found 5 miles north-west of the popular country village of Callander in the Trossachs National Park. The Trossachs are famous not just for their mountain ranges but also for their lochs which include the mighty Loch Lomond – one of the most scenic bodies of water in the United Kingdom.
- Muir of Dinnet in The Highlands: The Complete Visitor GuideThe Muir of Dinnet is a national nature reserve located on the eastern border of the Cairngorms national park in the Scottish Highlands. The reserve features a wealth of different habitats including heath, woodland and wetland, but it’s perhaps best known for ‘the vat’, a natural gorge formed by glaciers over 10,000 years ago.
- Glen Etive in The Highlands: The Complete Visitor GuideWhat if I told you there’s a 12-mile stretch of road where you can see those mountains, rivers and forests in a single relatively small area, where gob-smackingly beautiful vistas open up around every corner on a secluded, frequently tourist-free single-track road?
- Faraid Head in the North Highlands: The Complete Visitor GuideWhile Scotland’s west coast islands usually take first prize for the number of amazing beaches you’ll find (hello Isle of Tiree) you shouldn’t be too quick to discount Scotland’s mainland either, especially in the far north where it’s relatively tourist-free compared to the rest of the country.
- Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in Caithness: The Complete Visitor GuideThis castle (actually castles – more on that later) stands on one of the most dramatic viewpoints in Scotland (in my humble opinion) with a wild and windswept coastline that instantly brings to mind a scene from Game of Thrones rather than a tourist attraction thanks to its near-impenetrable cliff-face setting.