Buachaille Etive Mor in Autumn

It was one of those days when the words simply weren’t sufficient to describe what I could see with my eyes.   Dark, brooding clouds hung heavily over the mountains yet in spite of the poor light, the damp conditions only served to emphasise the vividness of the Autumnal colours.  I don’t know how many different shades of browns, russets, greens, oranges and yellows there are in the English language but I think it’s safe to say that the images here will do a far better job than my powers of description.

I was with my son, looking for a place to wild camp for the night since we had a day’s rock and ice climbing booked at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven the following day (look out for a future post about this).  We turned off to Glen Etive and soon stopped in a passing place to take a quick photo of Buachaille Etive Mor, its dark mass towering over the expanse of moorland below.  The colours were just stunning.

Glen Etive in Autumn

The intense Autumn colours provided photogenic sights all the way down Glen Etive.

I’ve camped overnight in my campervan several times now in the Glen.  It’s a place that’s often frequented by walkers with several good flat areas for tents, wild swimming pools and roadside camping spots.  I’d read that there had been cases of weekend campers leaving litter-strewn sites this year but hadn’t realised that wild camping is now being restricted, as it already is in some parts of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.  Now there are signs along the roadside politely steering people towards the car park and small grassy campsite right at the end of the road at the head of Loch Etive.  It’s such a shame that the minority spoil things for those who appreciate wild country and the ‘leave no trace‘ philosophy.

Camping now discouraged down Glen Etive

By the time we reached the end of the road (it takes a full thirty minutes to drive down the Glen) the wind was blowing strongly off Loch Etive, funnelled between the steep hillsides.  The trees and waves are evidence enough of the fierce winds that whip up off the loch, and the dark clouds hung menacingly over the hills.

Lonely tree at the head of Loch Etive


The head of Loch Etive



At the head of Loch Etive


We battened down the hatches, spending the evening playing games inside the cosy van.  Meanwhile outside, the wind strengthened.  It soon began to rock the van and whistle outside the windows.  It must have been about midnight when I was conscious of the rain splattering against the windows.  I slept fitfully, occasionally waking to hear the rain and wind outside.

My alarm clock woke us at 7.45am but it was barely light.  It was still tipping it down outside on a miserable and gloomy morning.

As we drove back up the Glen after breakfast we found the river, which had already been full, become transformed into a torrent.  The noise of the white water, churning rampaging down the rapids, was impressive.  The steep mountain sides were adorned with white ribbons of water, gushing down into the valley bottom.  When rain falls heavily like this, mountain rivers can be in spate in no time at all and it was reminiscent of my munro-bagging expedition to the Fisherfield Hills in similarly appalling weather conditions.  I’d never seen so much water in the River Etive before.

The River Etive in spate


The River Etive in spate


Glen Etive in Autumn


The River Etive in spate


Buachaille Etive Mor in Autumn

Back at the A82 we turned right to pass through Glencoe, stopping for a side view of the Buachaille this time.

On the return journey home I stopped to take a picture looking down Glencoe.  With the Autumnal colours and overcast skies the view looks somewhat different to the same view in mid-summer (below).

This Autumn has provided some intense colours but while photogenic, the stormy conditions were a timely reminder that winter isn’t far away.

Glencoe in Autumn DSC_0044





9 Comments on “Photo essay – Wild autumn weather in Glen Etive

    • Hi Andy,

      Yes, perhaps it’s something to do with the dry and mild September we’ve just had – the colours seem so much more vibrant this year.

  1. Wonderfully evocative description (again) of the Highlands and glens. Brings back happy memories of climbing the Buachaille and camping in Glen Etive. Saddened to read of further attempts to restrict camping in the area as one of my favourite wild camps was right at the end of the Glen by the old jetty on the loch. Last time I was there, the lumber companies had erected a barrier so you could drive no further than the car park 😦

    • Thanks very much. Your wild camp spot is in fact still there and the ‘designated’ campsite for the Glen now. This is where we stayed the night but you’re right, you can’t go beyond this point any more. It is a shame that camping is now being restricted but I guess we should direct our comments at the litter louts spoiling things for the responsible majority.

      Logging seems very active just now and much more so that last time I was down the Glen walking a couple of years ago. In fact, just near the old jetty they’re constructing a new floating jetty in order to take the timber out by boat, and avoiding too many timber lorries on the single track lane – a great idea.

  2. great pics can you post site,s we the responeif camper can wild camp thank,s bill.t

  3. Beautiful pictures of one of my favourite places – last time I was up there on foot was on the Rannoch Moor bit of the WHW and the colours were so different, so much greener! I’m looking forward to exploring more and I know what you mean about there not being enough words for all the colours. I live in/near the Campsies and until I moved to Scotland I had no idea there were so many colours of grass!

    • Hi Katherine,

      That’s exactly right – it was just the sheer number of different shades of grass and heather that was so spectucular, even on a dull day. You couldn’t really do justice in describing it – pictures do a far better job !

  4. Pingback: Wild camping in Scotland – Camper vans and motorhomes | Wild about Scotland

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