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Glen Etive road: One of Scotland’s most beautiful drives

Glen Etive road: One of Scotland’s most beautiful drives

In the heart of the Highlands, close to Glencoe, the Glen Etive road is 12 miles of peak Scottish scenery – mountains, moorland, lochs and huge skies. It might be short but it packs in some seriously impressive views. But could this dead-end, single-track drive be one of the most beautiful road trips in Scotland? I think so, and I’ve got James Bond to back me up.

Author Ian Fleming’s family had a lodge in the glen, and the road was used as a location for Bond film Skyfall. So whether you’re channeling your inner Daniel Craig or just looking for some Scottish scenic beauty, here’s all you need to know about driving the Glen Etive road.

Read more: Highland highlights: 13 things to do in Fort William and Glencoe

Loch Etive near Glencoe in Scotland
Loch Etive

Where is Glen Etive?

Glen Etive is in the western Scottish Highlands, 27 miles south of Fort William. To reach Glen Etive, follow the A82 between Glencoe and Bridgy of Orchy. The turning is signposted off the main road close to the Kingshouse Hotel and Glencoe Mountain Resort – on your right if you’re coming from Glencoe and on your left if you’re coming from the south.

There are no facilities in Glen Etive (no shops, toilets etc) and mobile phone signal is patchy. But you basically just carry on until you run out of road, so you can’t go far wrong!

Map of driving the Glen Etive road in the Scottish Highlands
The Glen Etive road route map

Driving the scenic Glen Etive Road

Near the beginning of the road you’ll see two mountains, which are known in Gaelic as the ‘Herdsmen of Etive’ – Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag. Buachaille Etive Mor (aka the Buachaille or the Beuckle) is one of the most photographed mountains in Scotland, and looks just like a child’s drawing of a mountain with its perfect pyramid shape.

The first part of the road follows the banks of the River Etive, which has its source on Rannoch Moor and is a favourite for whitewater kayakers – it can get wild when there’s been a lot of rain. After driving around four miles along the road you reach the Etive Mor Waterfall, a couple of minutes’ walk from the road, which makes a good photo opportunity.

Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag mountains in the Scottish Highlands
Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag

Carry on a bit further along and you’ll find the location used in Skyfall, where Bond and M stop off in the Aston Martin on the way to Bond’s childhood home, Skyfall Lodge (which was just a film set in Surrey unfortunately). The road winds on through heather-covered moorland before running into a thick forest, where it gets narrower and more enclosed.

The road then passes the Dalness Estate – which was owned by Ian Fleming’s family – as well as a couple of small lochs surrounded by towering mountains, before coming to the tiny hamlet of Gualachulain. Carry on through Gualachulain and you’ll reach the end of the road on the banks of Loch Etive, where there’s a small car park.

Driving the scenic Glen Etive Road in Scotland
The start of the Glen Etive Road

Loch Etive is 30km long, 1.5km wide and reaches a depth of 150 metres. Its vast clear waters stretch off into the distance and reflect the sky like a mirror on a calm day. And although it might feel like you’re miles away from the coast, the water is actually salty as the loch connects to the sea (if you zoom out on the map above you can see how it curves around to the west and eventually meets the sea at Ardmucknish Bay, just above Oban).

Originally the road carried on around the edge of the loch to Taynuilt and there also used to be a steamer service taking passengers to Oban in the 1840s. But today the loch is the end of the line – unless you head out on the water. It’s a great place to explore by kayak, especially on a sunny day when the water’s as still as a pond. Otherwise take a walk along the loch before retracing your steps, with the views looking completely different from another angle.

Reflections in Loch Etive near Glencoe in Scotland
The still waters of Loch Etive

What if I want to stay longer?

If a couple of hours isn’t enough time in Glen Etive for you and you want to stay longer to spend more time exploring and do some of the area’s walks, there are a few different options.

Wild camping is permitted in Glen Etive, so you can just find a spot by the lake or along the river and pitch your tent for the night. Be aware that there are no facilities though, so you’ll need to bring everything you need and make sure to take your rubbish away with you – the area’s had a problem with litter – and it’s a popular spot so can get busy in summer.

Yellow gorse flowers by the banks of Loch Etive
Gorse flowers by Loch Etive

If you don’t fancy camping, there are a few rental properties in Glen Etive – an 18th-century bothy with six bunks (from £75 a night, minimum stay three nights) and a four-bedroom rental house which sleeps eight (from £250 a night, minimum two nights), or a cosy two-person chalet with Rayburn (from £100 a night, minimum two nights) .

Or you can experience life like a laird at the Dalness Estate. The estate’s refurbished Victorian lodge sleeps up to 14 and comes with its own housekeeper and chef. A three-night stay costs £3600, but there’s also a more modest four-person cottage available to rent.

Views along the Glen Etive road in the Scottish Highlands
Views along the Glen Etive road

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Driving the Glen Etive road near Glencoe: A road trip past lakes and mountains on one of Scotland's most scenic drives, a location from Bond film Skyfall | Scottish Highlands | Things to do in Glencoe | James Bond Skyfall locations | Scenic drives in Scotland | Scotland road tripLooking for Scotland's most beautiful road? Take a scenic road trip on the Glen Etive road near Glencoe: A stunning drive past lakes and mountains, a location from Bond film Skyfall | Scottish Highlands | Things to do in Glencoe | James Bond Skyfall locations | Scenic drives in Scotland | Scotland road trip

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les prettyjohn

Monday 6th of September 2021

we visit every time we go to scotland, peaceful and relaxing, great article on a great place. thank you

Ceranna

Friday 5th of February 2021

My favourite part of the world! But it can get really busy in high season. :)

Brit

Friday 13th of November 2020

One more tip for both of you, just off the A82 sits the Kings House Hotel. It is a great place for lunch or if later in the afternoon for Tea and Soup. The hotel is right on the West Highland Way, so if you fancy a hike you can start from the carpark.

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Thanks for the tip!

Nazneen Amin

Thursday 12th of November 2020

I did this road in October 2020after reading your blog! It was truly stunning and breath taking drive. I told my boys that we would be doing the bond route in Skyfall...they were thrilled.It had remained one of our main highlights from our visit in the highlands. We also saw some amazing red deer at Glen Etive drive that It was totally awesome. I m returning next year , only to experience this drive again !

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 23rd of November 2020

That's brilliant, so glad you enjoyed it – and amazing to see some deer too!

Steve

Thursday 12th of November 2020

Thank you for taking the time to reply...