Forestry Commission, Forest Office, Glenachulish, Argyll
Trails centred on Glencoe village on A82 Tyndrum-Kinlochleven road Map references:
Signal Rock Trail NN129565 Lochan Forest Trail NN099 Two trails in small woodlands at mouth of historic Glencoe: Signal Rock Trail-about 1J miles; Lochan Trail-about 2 miles Illustrated trail booklet; car parks; visitor centres; cafes in village
Nestled in the wildly beautiful region of the old Argyll border with Inverness, is the village of Glencoe, just inland from the lovely Loch Leven. This very old crofting community lies on the main road through the glen and is hemmed in on three sides by mountains. The 2430ft Pap of Glencoe, to the east, is the most imposing mountain in the area with its strange conical peak.
In most people’s minds this area is associated with just one thing-the Glencoe Massacre, a macabre event in Scottish history. It was along this craggy valley on a fateful February day in 1692 that some forty members of the Mac-donald clan, having offered Robert Campbell and his troops twelve days’ hospitality, were mercilessly slaughtered in their own homes. The clan’s lateness in swearing allegiance to the new king, William III, was used as a pretext for the atrocity. A monument, erected in 1883, stands at the end of the main street near the ruins the very cottages in which the gory-deed took place so long ago.
At the Western end of the village is the only car park. From here it is a walk of just under half a mile to the Lochan Forest Trail. Turn left over the River Coe, pass on through the grounds of Glencoe Hospital, where an eventual sharp right leads into Glencoe Forest via an ingenious deer-proof gate. Despite this barrier there are, in fact, some twenty resident roe deer. The blunted tips of the saplings are evidence of the environmental damage that these lovely, but troublesome creatures cause.
The Forestry Commission has been very active within this trail since their first plantings of 1922. Spruce, pine and larch are now the principal species, interspersed by naturally regenerative ash, plus the older hazel and sycamore surviving on the hillside.
Where the path approaches Loch Leven, you can look down on Eilean Munde (the Burial Islands), on which all local Camerons and Macdonalds were at one time interred. On the mainland to the left is the abandoned site of a once-thriving slate quarry. Just beyond is Ballachulish, a small town formerly dependent on the slate industry, but recently emerging as a tourist spot. If you strain your eyes to still further west, you should be able to follow the course of the mist-enshrouded Loch Linnhe.
Badgers abound along this coastal stretch of the walk, but are only to be espied at dawn and light. Their tracks, however, can be traced when they have disturbed the soil during one of their foraging sorties.
Where the path runs adjacent to the A82, further deer vandalism is apparent on studying the western red cedar. Many birds nest in these tall trees, including rooks, thrushes, crows and the occasional buzzards. Any hole you spot in an alder tree here may turn out to be a wren community’s roost, as these tiny birds tend to huddle together on cold nights.
Towards the end of this circular walk, with the eastern landscape now totally dominated >y the Pap of Glencoe, there is an artificial lake, ‘the Lochan’, which gives the trail its • name. The water was formed by damming and ^flooding an old peat bog. An offshoot of the main trail circumvents the loch, and the June-flowering rhododendrons plus the chance of an otter sighting should be sufficient incentive to go the long way. At the point where this path rejoins the trail proper, an old boathouse serves as a resting place for those with weary limbs. As an ending to the two-mile trail, there are dozens of plants set in a natural garden sur-rounding a lily pond.
Once back at Glencoe village, Signal Rock trail is only two miles away to the south east. Off the A82, midway between the two trails, is the wood-encircled Glencoe Campsite. Across the nearby River Coe is a youth hostel. The small beach between these two stop-overs makes this area very popular.
There are several means of access to this second forest trail, but the Glencoe Visitor Centre on the A82 roadside, with its informa-tion bureau and parking facilities, is obviously a preferable starting point.
Two lofty mounds rising from the glen are the walk’s main features. Tom a’ Ghrianain (Signal Rock) was once believed to have religi-ous connections, but nowadays is regarded as the spot where the Glencoe Massacre signal was given, hence the name. The other knoll is called An Torr and, like its neighbour, affords marvellous glenland views.
Signal Rock can only be approached via private property and consequently all walkers are requested to keep strictly to the path. There are remains of an early house here, which dates back to before the Massacre.
Much of this trail is set in woodland and is also protected by a deer fence. The region provides shelter for many animals including fox, rabbit and wild mink. Birdlife, too, is abundant. Specialised Forestry Commission leaflets, available from the Visitor Centre, will help you to study the trail’s flora and fauna in more depth-especially the many species of trees, some of which are individually num-bered for quick reference.
Back at the roadside is a huge heather-bound boulder, reputed to be RL Stevenson’s inspiration for a hiding place needed by the characters in his classic adventure novel. At a leisurely stroll, allow forty-five minutes for this one-and-a-half-mile trail.
In Glencoe itself, housed in two thatched cottages along the one main throughfare, is an interesting folk museum. As well as many relics of the Jacobites and the Macdonalds, you can browse through local domestic and farming exhibits. To the north at Fort William, the West Highland Museum has displays on a similar theme. Fortress buffs should be impressed by Inverlochy Castle, whilst golfers will find the town’s scenic moorland course atTorlundy the only oasis in an otherwise rather barren golfing area.
Running south east from Fort William, the crystal-clear Water of Nevis provides anglers with fine salmon and sea trout sport during the summer months. The river springs, as its name implies, from the slopes of Ben Nevis. Numerous walkways are etched across the foothills of Scotland’s highest mountain, but further inroads on this peak should only be undertaken by experienced walkers and climbers.