Bagging one of Scotland’s Munros in the Scottish Highlands was always one of the activities outranking anything else on my bucket list. Only a three hour drive from Edinburgh, Glencoe is the epitome for outstanding scenic vistas and exquisite hiking. A supposedly superb half day hike, it’s not far from Glencoe village and guaranteed to offer some out-of-this-world Scottish highland views. So off I went to hike the Pap of Glencoe!
GETTING TO THE PAP OF GLENCOE
The start of the Pap of Glencoe trail is a short five minute drive from Glencoe village. There’s a caravan park near the starting point where you can park your car. On the left side of the street you can find a metal gate between houses. This is where you’re adventure begins…
HIKING UP THE PAP OF GLENCOE
First of all, how difficult is it to hike the Pap of Glencoe? Some say it is easy and complete the hike in 3.5 hours round trip. Others find it very strenuous and take five hours to complete it. I found it to be somewhere in the middle. The hike is pretty short, only a 7km roundtrip, but you’ll be hiking straight up almost the entire time. It took me 4.5 hours to complete it.
The first part of the hike is especially taxing. There is no real hiking trail so you just walk up the hill through thick grass (making it a very good workout!). I had to stop several times, not only to catch my breath, but to also stop my calves from cramping up. I was basically hiking up on tippy toes the entire time. At times the incline being that steep I couldn’t put my foot flat down on the ground. If you’re fit and have a good level of cardio, it’s a good workout but nothing too difficult.
Once I reached the first listel, I decided to catch my breath and enjoy the spectacular views over Glencoe village and Loch Leven. The stony dome of the Pap of Glencoe, or Sgorr na Ciche in the local dialect, is seen ahead and offers a more flat stretch of trail as a welcome relief. There’s a beautiful little stream which offers the perfect opportunity to sit down, fuel up and get a sense of scale of the surrounding mountain peaks.
If you’ve brought your hiking stick along, this is the time to bag them up. This last stretch of trail requires some rock scrambling to get to the top. Although I saw another hiker climb up it, I rejected that path rather quickly as I thought it a bit too dangerous. Instead, there is a path to the right of it that spirals up to the top and offers the most magical scenery – what I had in mind when I dreamed of Scotland!
Perch yourself on a rock and ravel in the most fantastic views of the rugged Scottish Highlands. I only stayed about five minutes to take in the views, out of fear of being blown away by the surprisingly strong winds. I was so happy I brought gloves and ear warmers, they were true life savers at that point.
The hike down took me quite a bit longer than anticipated. I’m normally a very good descender but the steepness really slowed me down in order not fall on my backside – which of course happened multiple times.
After an exhausting afternoon, find yourself a Scottish pub in Glencoe village, sip a pint or Scottish whiskey and give you’re rubbery-feeling legs a rest. You’re probably exhausted but it’s a day you’ll remember forever!
BEST TIME TO HIKE PAP OF GLENCOE
My favourite time of year is May. I had the most superb weather hiking in May and there are no midges! Gorgeous rays of sunshine kissed the surrounding mountain tops but there were chilly winds, especially at the top. In early spring, the trail can become quite wet as melting water will run down the hillside. During winter, you’ll most likely need ice crampons to complete this hike. So, the best time to hike the Pap of Glencoe is between May and September.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO TO GLENCOE
Before you head out to hike the Pap of Glencoe, keep the following in mind:
- Be in good shape: the hike really isn’t long, about a 7km round trip, but it is a steep climb up and you’ll need to rock clamber n order to reach the top.
- Wear hiking boots with ankle support: the hike up is steep, but so is the hike down. The risk of twisting an ankle is real.
- Bring hiking sticks: make sure you can put them away as you scramble your way to the top, though. They’ll be in your way during the rock scrambling part.
- Manage your time: the hike up to the top took us two hours and half, including photography time. The hike down took us two hours. If you’re a slow hiker or like more time for photography or rest, schedule at least five hours.
- Wear layers: I got lucky, there was loads of sunshine during my hike, meaning I got really hot quickly. Though at the top, the wind was ‘bastardly cold’ as the Scottish would say. Luckily I brought ear warmers and gloves against the cold!
Have you hiked the Pap of Glencoe? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions for me please leave these in the comments below.
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