6 Top Spots for Glencoe Landscape Photography

glencoe photography scotland

Glencoe landscape photography offers a myriad of opportunities to capture mountains, flowing rivers, moody scenes, and so much more!

Glencoe is arguably, along with the Isle of Skye, one of the most impressive and photographed locations in all of Scotland, and rightly so. Dramatic, steep-sided mountains, stunning beauty around every turn and to top it off, a haunting, bloody history.

glance landscape photography

I highly recommend reading about the Glencoe massacre of 1692 if you’re interested in building a sense of history into your images as you visit this incredible landscape photography location.

Glencoe is such a fantastic landscape photography destination because it has something for everyone, from roadside locations to short and moderate hikes, and for the adventurous and able, full mountaineering hikes with incredible, rewarding vistas to boot.

glencoe landscape photography

This guide will touch on a range of locations which cover all three of the above and hopefully inspires you to visit Glencoe.

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1. Three Sisters River

This incredible location sums up what Glencoe is all about for me. A river carving its way through a rocky gorge while towering above are the famous Three Sisters, the highest of which is named Bidian nam Bian.

This location gives a superb introduction to the magnificent photographic opportunities of Glencoe, but with minimal effort (albeit a slight descent down a potentially loose or slippery hillside from the road. However, this is perfectly manageable for most).

This is one location where the obvious composition is the best; the scene is so well pieced together with the river snaking its way through the foreground and the towering mountains in the background that there is no need to overcomplicate the composition when lifting your lens to the view!

glencoe photography scotland

The trees can be included on the right-hand side, but make sure that they’re not too much of a distraction, only an accompanying act to the rest of the image.

A wide-angle lens is best suited here as there is a lot of scene to fit into a single frame.

Don’t be too tempted to let the exposure run for too long; around a 1/5th to 1/2 a second works well to retain texture in the water while still capturing the motion of the river carving its way through the landscape.

This location is superb all year round and doesn’t require good light to gain impressive images. As will be the theme for many of the locations in this article, Glencoe best suits itself to dramatic, moody weather conditions.

An umbrella, waterproofs, and a pair of walking boots are most definitely recommended as rain is a common occurrence in Glencoe.

Park up at the large lay-by opposite the Three Sisters and walk back east alongside the road until you’re opposite an old, white building, from here, descend the hillside about 150 yards and you’ll see the river from which to shoot.

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2. Aonach Eagach Path

The Three Sisters of Glencoe steal the show while driving along the A82, but the mountains opposite them are just as steep and impressive, and are home to the narrowest ridge walk in mainland Britain; Aonach Eagach.

Scotland landscape photography

Aonach Eagach is a demanding and dangerous hike, only to be undertaken by experienced hillwalkers. However, walking up the trail by only a few hundred feet opens up some incredible and unique views back across to the Three Sisters.

Wide-angle lenses can be used to capture dramatic panoramic scenes at this location, but I prefer to use the telephoto lens here and pick out small scenes within the massif that is the Three Sisters or capture some scenes from the Lost Valley, home to the Glencoe massacre!

I often head up here with the intention of photographing weather rolling through the landscape and the layers of the mountains as the visibility changes.

glencoe scotland landscapes

Although only climbing a few hundred feet, a warm coat, waterproofs, and hiking boots are essential, and even walking poles if you’re unsure.

There is a small layby East of the main Three Sisters car park along the A82, park here and you should see the trailhead immediately heading uphill. Go only as far as you feel comfortable, but you won’t need to climb much before the views open up.

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3. Buachaille Waterfall & River

Undoubtedly, this is the most photographed mountain in Scotland, and possibly even the world!

Buachaille Etive Mor is what you’d expect a child to draw when asked to draw a mountain. It’s an incredible, mesmerising sight while driving along the A82 toward Glencoe and is not to be missed if you are a landscape photographer in this area.

The obvious and most photographed scene is the small collection of waterfalls not far from the roadside, with the Buachaille taking centre stage in the background, and who could begrudge you for wanting to capture your version of this iconic location?

glencoe landscapes

However, I’d strongly encourage you to continue walking along the river toward Buachaille Etive Mor where you’ll find plenty more unique and far less photographed compositions.

Walk as far as you feel comfortable; it’s a flat, if not slightly boggy route, but around each stretch of the river, you’ll be presented with new and exciting compositions.

A wide-angle lens is recommended here as, just like the river at the base of the Three Sisters, there is a lot to squeeze in if you include the waterfall or river in the composition. Keep that shutter speed around 1/5th to 1/2 second again to capture that beautiful texture in the flowing river.

glencoe landscape photography

As previously mentioned for Glencoe, bring waterproofs and hiking boots/wellies. An umbrella is useful here too so you can continue shooting in the rain.

To find this location, if driving out of Glencoe, turn right off the A82 about a km before the Kingshouse hotel. Drive a little less than a km down the road where you’ll see parking near the bridge that crosses the river.

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4. Beinn a’ Chrulaiste

In terms of effort required, the hike up Beinn a’Chrulaiste offers perhaps one of the best effort-to-reward ratio hikes in Scotland, rivalled only by the hike up Stac Pollaidh in Assynt further North.

The view from only two-thirds of the way up Beinn a’Chrulaiste is staggeringly beautiful.

glencoe mountains

To your left is the vast remoteness of Rannoch Moor, directly ahead is the mighty Buachaille Etive Mor and as you look further right, Buachaille Etive Beag, the Three Sisters and the rest of Glencoe reveal themselves. It truly is a view that must be seen to be believed.

This location lends itself perfectly to panoramic work, taking in the entire majesty of the scene before you, so for that reason, a wide (but not too wide) angle lens works well.

Non-panoramic aspects work just as well, either looking directly toward Buachaille Etive Mor or using a telephoto lens to shoot toward the Three Sisters or further down Glencoe. Behind your right shoulder, on a clear day, you’ll even be able to shoot Ben Nevis in the distance.

glencoe landscape photography

This hike, despite not climbing too high in comparison to its neighbouring giants, still requires respect and planning. Warm and waterproof clothing, good walking boots, food, and drink if you’re planning on staying up for a while, and a relatively good level of fitness are essential.

This location works all year round, but Autumn and Springtime is particularly stunning when you can time it with a cloud inversion and get above the cloud.

Walk Highlands is a fantastic website offering detailed routes on all major hikes in Scotland. I’d recommend checking it out to get a detailed description of this hike and where to park.

Read more: How to Shoot Landscape Panoramas Handheld

5. Clachaig Falls

This is another roadside location offering stunning views. Clachaig Falls is a picturesque group of waterfalls but with the dramatic backdrop of the Three Sisters, but this time we’re on the western side of Glencoe.

There are multiple rapids and small falls to find compositions at – it’s simply a case of finding some which also allows you to balance the backdrop of the Three Sisters into the image.

Once again, wide-angle lenses are best suited here to squeeze the entirety of the scene into the frame but make sure not to have the mountains too central, as they can suddenly appear very small on a wide-angle lens; try and keep them closer to the top of the frame.

glencoe scotland

A polarizing filter can be used here to great effect to both take the glare off of the river and also really make the greens of the mountainside pop.

As for the other locations, waterproofs and an umbrella are useful here so you can continue shooting during any passing showers.

This location works well as a sunset location in the summer months although it would also look stunning in full winter conditions.

Park in the small roadside car park near Loch Achtriochan, cross the A82 and head down the small lane running alongside the river only a short while before you start to come across the waterfalls.

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6. Buachaille Etive Beag

Buachaille Etive Beag is often regarded as the smaller sibling to Buachaille Etive Mor, despite still being a Munro (Scottish for a mountain over 3000ft) itself.

This mountain offers incredible views from the summit, but it comes at a cost; this is by far the most demanding hike of this article, intended only for experienced hillwalkers.

glencoe landscape photography

The views from the southern summit offer incredible 360-degree views but the most interesting view is that which looks directly down Glen Etive, capturing the river winding its way through the landscape and the mountains on either side, towering over the Glen.

To the West is the massif that is the Three Sisters of Glencoe and to the East is Buachaille Etive Mor.

This is a great location for a moderate to telephoto lens whereby you can pick out scenes from any direction and capture moments of fleeting light across the neighbouring mountains or down in the glens.

A wide-angle lens will tend to flatten everything a little too much and you’ll lose the sense of majesty amongst the mountains.

glencoe landscape photography Scotland

As this is a serious hike for more experienced hillwalkers, I don’t feel the need to list essential equipment as this should already be known (if you’re wondering what to take, then this hike isn’t for you).

Like many Glencoe locations, all year round works absolutely fine, especially when on the summits as you’re unlikely to have the sun blocked by any other obstructions.

As mentioned previously, Walk Highlands is a brilliant website which will give a detailed route description for this hike.

Read more: Why You Should Use a Telephoto Lens for Landscape Photos

In conclusion

Hopefully, this guide will give you plenty of inspiration and guidance on some of the best locations to photograph in Glencoe, a beautiful location that is well worth a visit, at any time of year for the keen landscape photographer.

My biggest piece of advice for photographing in Glencoe would be to embrace shooting in all weathers, because as is often the case in Scotland, when it rains, it pours!

You’ll soon learn to embrace the poor weather up here, because if there’s one landscape photography place in the world that shows its best side in bad weather, it is most certainly Glencoe.

Visit Simon's website

I am a mountain photographer based in the North of Scotland with a desire to photograph the wild and unforgiving mountain regions. I often stay on the summits for sunset and hike down in the dark, unless I intend to shoot sunrise, then I will camp on the mountain summits. Panoramic formats are my favourite and lend themselves well to the mountain scenes I photograph.

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