Glen Coe Throughout the Seasons

glen coe autumn

In 2013, Glen Coe is perhaps best introduced as the setting for that epic scene from the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall, in which Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are stood at the side of the road gazing thoughtfully into the distance beside the now iconic Aston Martin. Many parts of the blockbuster were filmed in and around Glen Coe, a Scottish jewel.

It’s also the site of the Massacre of Glencoe, a bloody event in 1692 which saw many members of the local MacDonald clan killed for avoiding to pledge allegiance to William and Mary.

glen coe snow

On your average day, Glen Coe is a prime destination for hillwalkers and winter sports aficionados. The famous West Highland Way snakes through its valleys and across the mountains. Other paths join it along the way, some of which are less taxing than others. So, you’ll find something appropriate for all levels, provided you’re suitably kitted out in walking shoes and outdoor gear.

Last weekend, we saw a family with three children braving the Devil’s Staircase path on a cold winter’s day with knee-deep snow in parts. I’d never seen happier or healthier kids, all wrapped up in wind and rainproof clothing, and wearing protective goggles to shield their eyes from the face-slapping snow.

wintry glen coe

For a less extreme adventure, you might want to visit during the spring or summer months. Views are less likely to be obstructed by rain, snow and fog.

Expect stunning mountain views dotted with the occasional tree, a fair few rocks, streams and quaint old cottages. Deer and rams are also commonplace and can be friendly.

deer at kings house hotel

Visit the deer family that likes to hang out outside the Kings House Hotel, a 17th century inn which I can personally recommend for food and lodgings. The hotel gathers travellers from all walks of life and even has a token Aussie seasonal worker manning the bar.

Dig into warming Scottish classics like haggis, poached salmon and curry. Yes, you can have curry in the Highlands. Curry in the Highlands! Nothing quite like it after a day on the slopes at Glencoe Mountain Resort or hiking in the hills.

glen coe cottage

(Wintry photos by Grafyte)

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Pentland Hills Regional Park

colinton community compost

Pentland Hills Regional Park is less than an hour’s bus ride outside Edinburgh city centre. Indeed, all you need to do is hop on Lothian bus number 10, grab the top floor front seat and enjoy the journey to Torphin, the final stop on the route, just outside Colinton Community Compost centre. This’ll set you back a mere £1.40 – the price of a single ticket. Car owners can park at Bonaly Car Park which is signposted from Colinton. Then you are free to roam the hills or play a round of golf on the scenic course which boasts views across the city of Edinburgh.

pentland hills regional park

Paths criss cross the hills with some routes leading through woods, others passing Scottish Water reservoirs and almost all letting you greet some sheep along the way. Watch out for the droppings…
Weather permitting, it’s pleasantly relaxing to lie down in the heather and take in the incredible views of Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and Fife far away in the distance. Definitely worth bringing a picnic.

pentlands edinburgh bypass

Bear in mind that you shouldn’t expect total seclusion. The Pentlands’ proximity to Edinburgh means the park can get overrun by keen ramblers at weekends, many of whom bring dogs.

Depending on how far in the hills you venture, you can also almost constantly hear the distant drone of traffic whizzing along the Edinburgh City Bypass.

pentlands stone walls

Spring is a lovely time to visit Pentland Hills Regional Park for the flowers. What route would you recommend to best admire the flora and views?

pentlands view towards edinburgh

Cramond

Cramond is a village, beach and island tucked away in the outskirts of Edinburgh on the shores of the Firth of Forth with views towards Fife. By foot it can take up to two hours to reach this somewhat remote side of town, but by bus (Lothian route 41) it’s a matter of thirty minutes or so. Many people, including us, seem to opt for walking one way and bussing it the other, or hopping in the car, of course.

cramond beach

The quickest route to Cramond from our side of town (Leith and Canonmills) led us past the Botanic Gardens, across Ferry Road and straight ahead towards the Firth. Once at the Firth, we veered to the left and kept walking as close to the water as possible. It’s not the most beautiful of routes as it snakes right through an industrial area, but there’s a certain charm to this too. Authentic Scotland has many sides to it!

On a grim day the water and the sky are the same colour. Fortunately, things brighten up a little once you reach the recreational area surrounding Cramond Beach. Kids and dogs love playing on the green parkland.

cramond island crossing

If you’re lucky and reach Cramond during low tide, you can brave the narrow walkway which leads across to the island of the same name. Rumour has it a fair few raves have been thrown on the island with people literally forced to stay awake and party until the tide goes down.

We missed out this time as the tide was most definitely high. It was also too windy to make it across safely. This is something to watch out for! Be sure to respect the warning signs and double check the safe crossing times before getting stranded and having to call the coastguard for help.

cramond village

Once you feel you’ve had enough of Cramond beach life, have a well deserved pint at the local pub. Cramond Inn lies in the heart of the village and is everything you’d expect from a village pub. A blazing fireplace, refreshing pints and warm bevvies are just what the doctor ordered after a day out on the chilly Scottish coast.

Water of Leith Walkway, Edinburgh

water of leith walkway signThe Water of Leith Walkway snakes through Edinburgh unbeknown to many of its residents, let alone visitors. Unsurprisingly, it runs alongside the Water of Leith, the city’s main river which flows from the foot of the Pentland Hills to the beautiful Shore area of town, where it joins the Firth of Forth.

Tucked in among the luscious greenery of Edinburgh, the Water of Leith isn’t a wide river, nor is it long but, rumour has it, is home to a fair few fish and is a favourite among water birds.

In its entirety, the Water of Leith Walkway runs just over 12 miles. Personally, my favourite stretch of the path is the Stockbridge to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art route taking in the gorgeous Dean Village along the way.

water of leith walkway style

Soon after joining the path in Stockbridge, you’ll come across St Bernard’s Well, a temple-like, 18th century structure formerly used to pump magical mineral water from deep within the ground.

Within the temple stands a statue of Hygieia, the Greek goddess of Health. Although closed to the public most days, you can enter the building on special occasions such as the annual Doors Open Days.

(Note: St Bernard’s Well is currently being renovated)

Dean Bridge

Further along, passing under the imposing Dean Bridge is both terrifying and amazing. The 19th century construction with its four arches spans high above the river at more than 30 metres, casting shade across the path down below. It’s chilly here, so be wise and wear layers.

Just past the bridge, the views across Dean Village are astonishing. In fact, this is one of my favourite parts of Edinburgh. I don’t know many cities that offer an escape to the countryside in the heart of the city, so peaceful and quaint is the atmosphere here.

Dean Village

From there on, it’s just a brief walk passing by a waterfall to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art where exhibitions change regularly and there is a cafe on site for refreshments.

water of leith walkway styleThe path tends to be damp and muddy in certain parts, making it the ultimate Edinburgh destination to show off your designer wellies, woolens and raincoat. Indeed, expect to see plenty of fashion-conscious families and couples come out to play at weekends. Think Barbour, Hunter and other famous British country brands.

Trusty old benches line the path for those keen on picnicking, resting tired feet or even a wee snooze. They also make for the perfect setting for a cosy canoodle!

If you visit on a Sunday, make sure to stop by one of Scotland’s farmers’ markets in Stockbridge, open from 10am to 5pm on the corner of Saunders and Kerr Streets adjoining the river. Grab yourself a warm drink to enjoy en route.

Currently undergoing renovation along some parts, route diversions are in place in the Canonmills area, near the Gallery of Modern Art and elsewhere along the way. Look out for signs showing you the way.

– Red