Day out: Kinlochleven, Highland

Unwind in a Norwegian-like valley among old woods, great peaks and glinting lochs

Hiker, town, loch and mountains
Published: February 28th, 2022 at 6:05 am

Garbh Bheinn is a slumping brute of a mountain, shoulders bare and beaten, the colour of February rain. Kinder in character is Mam na Gualainn, softly ridged and rambling with a simpering south face. And then there is Sgorr na Ciche – the unmistakable Pap of Glencoe – its peak hooked, dusky and ominous, like the fin of an orca rising above the waves.

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These high, burly mountains demand attention, yet there is something about Loch Leven beneath them that lures the eye. Perhaps it’s the patchwork of silver and blue, created as the wind chases ripples across the water; or the way the half-reflected mountains are held on the surface as if their weight means nothing. What is certain is its beauty, and on a sunny day in spring or summer there are few better places to be.

Loch and mountain view
Looking west from Kinlochleven up Loch Leven/Credit: Getty

Things to do in Kinlochleven

At the far-eastern end of Loch Leven is the busy little village of Kinlochleven. More than 100 years ago it was the site of an enormous aluminium smelter that employed some 700 workers. Today, it is the popular 96-mile-long West Highland Way that provides vital support to the local economy. Around 85,000 people take on the hike every year, and most of them spend their final night in Kinlochleven.

Additional biking and walking trails, as well as Ice Factor – the National Ice Climbing Centre – provide further temptations for outdoor enthusiasts. No surprise, then, that there are numerous places in the village to seek shelter for the night, including MacDonald Hotel and Cabins. 

Once settled, it’s time to explore. Experienced walkers can head for the big peaks, but there are plenty of low-level adventures to be had, too. Take the short, steep path from St Paul’s Church to the vivacious Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall. If you have energy to spare, continue north from the cascade to Mamore Lodge and its sylvan estate, or to make it a six-mile walk, head north-east beside the soaring Mamores to 350m-high Loch Eilde Mòr.

For a more leisurely day out, take a 20-mile circular drive around Loch Leven. The road hugs the shore and there are plenty of picturesque stopping points. Walk the short, flat Lochan Trail at Glencoe, dip a toe in the brackish waters of Loch Linnhe or dine al fresco with mountain views at Lochleven Seafood Café.

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Sun over loch
It's a short drive to nearby Glencoe Lochan/Credit: Getty

Where to stay in Kinlochleven

MacDonald Hotel and Cabins

Affordable, comfortable and friendly, MacDonald Hotel and Cabins has fine views of the loch. Camping (£20 for two), cabins (£45 for two, £70 for four), hotel (from £115 for two). macdonaldhotel.co.uk

Cabins in a mountain village
Enjoy loch views from MacDonald Hotel and Cabins/Credit: MacDonald Hotel and Cabins

Authors

Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamSection editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the Section Editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.

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