Glencoe Visitor Centre

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Last Updated: by Craig Neil.

Nestled amidst the enchanting wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, the Glencoe Visitor Centre aims to shed light on the region’s fascinating history, traditions, and stunning landscapes. The area is steeped in history, most notably associated with the Glencoe Massacre of 1692 which saw the murder of thirty-eight members of the MacDonald clan by government troops.

In more recent times, Glencoe has gained fame as a filming location, notably for scenes in the Harry Potter films and James Bond’s Skyfall. In this article, we’ll take a look at the centre to find out why it’s such a haven for sighteers by exploring its informative exhibitions and the unique insights it offers into the local wildlife.

Glencoe
Address:Glencoe,
Ballachulish,
PH49 4HX
Opening Hours:2 Jan–3 Apr, daily, 10.00–16.00
4 Apr–4 Nov, daily, 10.00–17.00
5 Nov–23 Dec, daily, 10.00–16.00
24–26 Dec, closed
27 Dec–30 Dec, daily, 10.00–16.00
31 Dec–1 Jan 2023, closed
Admission Price:Free
Parking:Paid car park on-site £4
Contact:01855 811307
Facilities:Toilets, gift shop, disabled access, cafe, baby changing, hearing loop, walking trails

Overview

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.

The centre is located a 5-minute drive from Glencoe village which offers several amenities for visitors including B&Bs, a shop, a petrol station, and a couple of diners. Despite its popularity, Glencoe is a lovely wee place that has a superb viewpoint and picnic area overlooking Loch Leven.

Glencoe is, in my opinion, one of the most scenic villages in Scotland. It’s within easy reach of dramatic mountain slopes like Bidean nam Bian which you’ll find on Glencoe’s south side and Buachaille Etive Mor which dominates the wonderfully desolate expanse of Rannoch Moor.

You’ll also find lots of hiking trails nearby that are guaranteed to give your boots a good battering such as The West Highland Way which leads to Fort William in addition to several walking trails that head directly out from the National Trust for Scotland Glencoe Visitor Centre.

At the visitor centre, you can learn about the region’s history, geology, and wildlife through various displays and exhibits, and you can also watch an immersive film that transports you through four billion years of Glencoe’s geology.

Beyond the educational experience, the Glencoe Visitor Centre offers a range of facilities such as a café with locally sourced food and drink, a shop selling a range of Scottish goods, toilets, and car parking.

glencoe

The Highlights

1: The Glencoe Visitor Centre is situated in one of the most spectacular and serene landscapes in Scotland. It offers stunning views of the iconic Glencoe which is renowned for its dramatic scenery, including towering mountains and sweeping glens. Hiking trails start from the visitor centre which lead into the heart of this breathtaking wilderness.

2: The centre provides a deep dive into the area’s turbulent history, particularly the infamous Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. Interactive exhibits and displays narrate the tragic event and the clan system that dominated the Highlands during that time.

3: The Glencoe Visitor Centre is run by the National Trust for Scotland and aims to educate visitors about the significance of the area’s unique ecosystem. It features exhibits on local flora and fauna, geology, and conservation efforts. Children and adults alike can learn about the importance of preserving such natural habitats for the future.

Visiting Tips

1: You can save a bundle on entry to places like this with a National Trust Scotland membership. Joining NTS allows free admission to hundreds of sites across Scotland.

2: If you’re visiting Glencoe it’s essential you have a map of the area. The last thing you want to do is set off on a hike and get lost. I recommend Ordnance Survey maps. Buy OS Explorer Maps directly from Ordnance Survey.

3: One nearby place that I thoroughly recommend for a walk is Glen Etive which has a beautiful single-track road (AKA the James Bond Skyfall road) running through it to the shores of Loch Etive. There’s a small parking area near the junction of the A82 (postcode PH49 4HY).

Glencoe

Tourist Information

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 their 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 organisation faces in caring for and maintaining this beautiful part of Scotland.

The eco-friendly visitor centre was built in 2002 for £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, you’ll find a café 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 packed lunch – a perfect place for a cheese sarnie after a long walk! Speaking of which, there are walks from the visitor centre through the surrounding woodland at Inveriggan that are well worth exploring due to easy-access paths and miles of unspoilt scenery.

Glencoe

Things to Do

Guided Nature Walks: Embrace the breathtaking beauty of Glencoe and its surrounding wilderness by joining a guided nature walk. These walks are led by experienced guides who not only navigate the trails but also talk about the region’s history and its unique flora and fauna.

Interactive Exhibitions: Inside the visitor centre there are a variety of interactive exhibitions that bring the history of Glencoe to life. View digital displays that narrate the infamous 1692 massacre, explore the geology of the region, and learn about the wildlife that inhabits the area.

Wildlife Watching: The Glencoe Visitor Centre is located in a hotspot for wildlife. Stand on the viewing platforms equipped with a pair of binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and you might spot red deer and golden eagles.

Scottish Cuisine Sampling: The Highland Coo Cafe at the visitor centre offers a chance to indulge in a delicious range of traditional Scottish dishes. Enjoy a warm bowl of Scotch broth or sample some haggis while enjoying the panoramic views of Glencoe from the cafe’s windows.

Shopping for Local Crafts: The gift shop at the Glencoe Visitor Centre is the perfect place to pick up a memento of your visit. The shop stocks a range of locally made crafts including tartan clothing, handmade jewellery, and artisan foods, making it a great place to find a unique souvenir or a gift for someone back home.

Bidean nam Bian

Book Tours

Things to Do Nearby

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 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.

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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are dogs allowed at Glencoe?

Dogs are allowed in the glen but they must be kept under control to avoid disturbing wildlife.

What is the Glencoe Visitor Centre?

The Glencoe Visitor Centre is managed by the National Trust for Scotland to offer visitors facilities during their visit to Glencoe.
The centre features a café, information point, viewing platforms, a shop, and an exhibition about Glencoe.

Is the Glencoe Visitor Centre dog-friendly?

Dogs are allowed inside the Glencoe Visitor Centre as long as they are kept on a lead. Dogs are not permitted in the café.

Is it worth visiting Glencoe?

Glencoe is definitely worth a visit, especially if you love nature and outdoor activities. Known for its stunning landscapes, Glencoe is a paradise for hikers, climbers, and photographers. You can explore the historic Glencoe Village, hike the famous Three Sisters mountains, or visit the Glencoe Visitor Centre to learn about the area’s dramatic history.

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Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.