The road through Glencoe takes you through the heart of an ancient volcano. Follow the Geo Trail and learn more about how the glaciers and fiery explosions shaped the peaks and canyons.
Glencoe lies in the Western Highlands and is one of the most beautiful and famous locations of Scotland. It featured in many films: Outlander, Rob Roy, Braveheart and Highlander, as well as Harry Potter and Skyfall (James Bond 007), but there are many more. It is not only the beautiful scenery that makes Glencoe so popular with film makers; the morning and evening light are both spectacular, and the air in the Highlands in nice and pure.
But not only film makers like to come to Glencoe: each year many tourists flock to this special place and take pictures of the “Valley of Tears”. But how did such a beautiful place get such an sad name?
After the very first Jacobite uprisings in 1689, King William III asked all of his subjects (in England and Scotland alike) to swear a loyalty oath to the king by the beginning of the next year Otherwise they were to be punished severely.
Some of the Scottish Clans decided to wait, as they still had the hope that James Edward Stuart- who they saw as their rightful king- might return from exile. Amongst them were the MacDonalds of Glencoe. Their clan chief Alexander MacDonald waited until the very last minute, before he realised that James Edward Stuart would not come back and begrudgingly went to swear his oath, to protect his clan. He arrived at Inverlochy Castle, in Fort William where he had been told to swear his oath, just on time. However, there he was informed that the location had been changed and he would have to travel to Inverary Castle, in the southern Highlands. Unfortunately, due to bad weather and snow, he did not manage to travel there in time.
When he finally arrived on 6th of January – 6 days too late - he explained his reason for not being on time and was told that his oath would still be accepted and that his clan was safe. He returned home to Glencoe reassured. What Alexander MacDonald did not know was that the Secretary of State, Sir John Dalrymple, had meanwhile convinced King William to make an example of the Clan MacDonald in order to install fear in his subjects. The King liked this idea and ordered the clan chief of the Campbells to do the deed, knowing that the two clans disliked each other.
This is what lead the Campbells to ask for shelter at the MacDonalds, when they knocked on their doors in Glencoe, on a freezing cold, snowy night in February 1692. Even though the MacDonalds were not pleased to see their enemies in the middle of the night, asking for refuge, they invited them in, knowing that nobody would survive a night like this outside. Twelve days the Campbells feigned friendship to the MacDonalds, they ate and drank and warmed themselves in front of their fires. But then, on the early morning of 13th February 1692, they attacked the MacDonalds in their sleep. They were to kill every clan member- as this was the order of the King. A few men and women managed to escape, but froze to death in the bitterly cold Highlands. The only survivors emigrated to America.
According to legend the whole valley cried, when it witnessed the terrible massacre. And this is why Glencoe is called “Valley of Tears”.
Plan your stop-over at the Glencoe Visitor Center: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/glencoe
Relive the well-known television series by visiting film locations on a guided tour