Lochaber: The Outdoor Capital of the UK
Ice Factor is located in the West Highland village of Kinlochleven, sandwiched between the stunning Glencoe Mountains to the south and Ben Nevis to the North.
The drive from Glencoe village to Ice Factor takes about 15 minutes and is one of the most stunning drives in the Highlands. Follow the famous ‘high road’ along side the stunning Fjord-like Loch Leven for a view of more mountains over 3,000ft than in all of England and Wales combined!
You won’t miss us – we’re located in a wonderful Edwardian stone building (the biggest building in the area). Previously an aluminium smelter, at one time producing the finest grade aluminium in the world before closing in 1996, we are now home to the Mountaineering Council’s National Ice Climbing Centre.
Ice Factor has won several architectural and environmental awards for the building’s conversion, and was listed as the most environmentally friendly business in Europe for taking a building that used to operate at +2,000 degrees to an ice climbing wall that operates at minus 8 degrees!
It’s safe to say that climbers and hill-walkers should be in their element with Ben Nevis and many a Munro close by.
Boat hire, pony trekking and riding are within easy reach and Coastal Cruising and Coach Tours are organised by local operators.
Low cost/no cost days out that we recommend are:
The Glencoe to Kentallen Cycle and Path
Budget on 2-4 hours. Start at Crankit Up Bikes in Glencoe who offer daily bike hire (owned by Mountaineering stalwart Davey and Fiona Gunn). Cycle to Crafts and Things in Tigh A’Phuirt ½ mile from Glencoe Village. There is a superb range of books, artwork and crafts on display.
Move on to Ballachulish, visit the hardware store for advice on local fishing/permits and tackle. The Visitor Information Centre is opposite with helpful staff willing to advise on other aspects of your stay. The path moves through the back of the village on the old railway, past stunning scenery to the Dragon’s Tooth Golf Course. They offer pay by the round sessions, which is great fun in an idyllic location. Great snack menu/atmosphere.
Follow the path past the spot where James of the Glen was hung (see Kidnapped) take in the stunning views of the Firth of Lorne down to Mull, with sea eagles, basking sharks, minky whales and abundant sea birds. Arrive at the Holly Tree Hotel in Kentallen for a great meal in stunning location (great patio area to watch the kids from, whilst they crab on the beach or race along the pier).
Onich Hotel – Firm favourite with climbers and walkers, family run hotel. Sits on the loch and in wonderful managed garden setting, glorious sunsets.
The Glencoe Lochan Forest Trail.
(Bikes can be hired from Crankit Up Bikes). Head through the village of Glencoe, good wee cafe in the village. A visit to St Mary’s Church is recommended (selection of second hand books for sale) along to the folk museum which is great for giving a history lesson about the Glen. Pass the memorial and cross the bridge then turn left up to the Lochan. There are a variety of paths all set in stunning woodland with amazing views (whatever the weather). Head along to Clachaig for a meal in front of the roaring fire and vibrant live music/lectures.
The National Trust for Scotland Visitor Centre
This is a must visit location for any family holidaying in Glencoe. The centre has a great cafe and shop, as well as knowledgeable staff who can offer advice and help for your trip. There are a range of forest walks and tracks to the scene of the infamous Glencoe Massacre. The NTS Ranger service provides a range of family/kids centric events including land rover safaris, guided walks, and mini beast hunts.
The Kinlochleven Circuit
The village has a range of paths, ask Ice Factor staff for local area path network (free). Suggested itineraries include walking to the old First World War POW camp, which takes in some of the last remaining Caledonian Forest, the walk/cycle up to Mamore Lodge and along the gamekeepers path to the Loch – amazing scenery throughout or a simple stroll to the Gray Mares Tail – Waterfall is a must.
There are a range of low level paths all along the river front or down to the old pier in Kinlochleven.
A justifiably popular walk is from Glencoe to Kinlochleven along the Devils Staircase. From Ice Factor walk to Blackwater Damn – allow 2-3 hours, there is an cemetery for the workers at the damn (featured in the book Children of the Dead End). “ABOVE and over all, the mystery of the night and the desert places hovered inscrutable and implacable. All round the ancient mountains sat like brooding witches, dreaming on their own story of which they knew neither the beginning nor the end. Naked to the four winds of heaven and all the rains of the world, they had stood there for countless ages in all their sinister strength, undefiled and unconquered, until man, with puny hands and little tools of labour, came to break the spirit of their ancient mightiness.”
The Lost Valley
Not an easy trail this and not recommended for young children. The path winds its way from the car park in Glencoe, over the wooden bridge and steeply up to the gorge (please note there have been a number of accidents here) follow the trail till you come to the boulder morrain. Then move steeply up the rock slab on the left to follow the path to the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley is a hanging glacier feature, where the glen was damned by glacial deposits. The effort/and care of getting here is well worth the trip.
The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary, Barcaldine
Follow the A828 coastal route from Glencoe to Oban. The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary has been a firm favourite with families for a generation, with seals, pups, otters, eels and a big variety of fish. Regular feeding schedule is a must for families with smaller children. Stop off at Castle Stalker on the way – great cafe, and garden centre nearby.
Silver Sands of Morar and Arisaig Beach
Another must visit location. World Class beach with stunning views of the islands. Great romantic location, paddling pools, camping, great golf course, a super day out for any family holidaying in Glencoe.
Steall Falls Glen Nevis
Follow the road to Fort William, and the signs for Glen Nevis, Drive to the end of the road and park. Follow the path past the waterfall (please note, this site has also had a number of accidents and care must be exercised / not suitable for young children). Continue along the well made path for about 30 minutes until you come to the Steall Waterfall. One of the stunning locations in the area and the scene of many Harry Potter scenes. There is a wire bridge crossing the river to the Lochaber Mountaineering Club Hut.
Glencoe Folk Museum
The Glencoe Folk Museum is housed in an 18th Century thatched cottage, the museum’s collections include costumes, china, toys, domestic and medical utensils, and Jacobite memorabilia. Topics to discover include the massacre of Glencoe, agriculture, costume, medicine and toys. Friendly helpers are always nearby to answer any questions you may have. The museum is open from Easter – October 10am to 4.30pm. Last Admission 4pm.
Adults £3.00 / Under 16’s Free.
Other days out:
- Boat Trip from Fort William at the Crannog (great restaurant)
- Gondola Trip at Nevis Range Ski Centre
- Visit the Nevis Centre – indoor ten-pin bowling/soft play and amusements
- Staff at any of the locations you’ll visit on your trip will always be delighted to help share ideas of great family days.