A Guide to Elopements & Small Weddings in Glencoe, Scotland
A Guide to Elopements & Small Weddings in Glencoe Scotland
Glencoe Elopement & Wedding Photographer
In recent years Scotland has become one of the most popular places in the world for elopements and & small weddings, with people travelling from all over to tie the knot in our rugged glens. The breathtaking lochs surrounded by mountainous landscapes, ancient castles steeped in history, the unspoiled lands of the remote isles and an epic coast line make it easy to see why!
I'm a wedding photographer who specialises in elopements and small weddings in Scotland and given the current restrictions on larger celebrations due to the Coronavirus, I thought I'd share some of my knowledge and experience with couples who may be considering an elopement. In a 3 part blog series I explore different places in Scotland that you can elope to and share some tips along the way!
Magical. That's the best word describe Glencoe. It truly is a wedding photographer's dream. Below I am going to give you some ideas on where to have your elopement ceremony, when to have it and also show you some stunning places to take your wedding photographer for some snaps.
Glencoe Wedding Ceremony Locations
There are no shortage of ceremony locations in Glencoe. In fact everywhere you look would make a pretty epic backdrop for your elopement. I've included a few below but I highly recommend going up a day or two before and picking your favourite spot.
Buachaille Etive Mor
At the centre of Glencoe is Buachaille Etive Mor (aka the Buachaille or the Beuckle) which is one of the most photographed mountains in Scotland for a reason. It's very distinctive pyramid shape dominates the landscape and there is also the famous "wee white house" that sits at the foot of the mountain which must be one of the most instagrammed houses on the planet! It can be a little boggy underfoot if you go off the path which is fine for a quick photo but maybe not so much for a humanist wedding ceremony as they normally last about 30 minutes. If you walk down the path towards the wee white house then you'll find a stoney beach next to the River Etive which gives you the perfect place for your ceremony.
The James Bond Skyfall Location
If you've seen Skyfall then you may remember this famous scene from the film...
Well you can get married here! To find the Skyfall location drive down the winding single track road which follows the River Etive down the Etive Road which runs between the two mountains Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag. The exact Skyfall location is on your left but it can be tricky to find so here it is on Google Maps. I wouldn't recommend getting married in the exact spot as it is right by the road but you can venture down off the road and still get the famous view.
If you're looking to go more remote then it doesn't get much more so than Loch Etive. The stunning 12 mile drive down the Etive Road ends at the banks of the 30km long Loch Etive. There is a wee beach and also a spot to park your car. On thing to note would be that it's between a 30 to 45 minute drive to reach the loch due to the winding single track road. Also please be careful when driving around the blind corners as it's quite common to come across herds of deer hanging about on the road especially during the winter months. On a still day the water will be icy still and reflect the surrounding mountains.
This one is a bit of a hidden gem! I certainly didn't know it existed until a Charlye & Josh from America picked it for their ceremony. To reach the banks of Lochan you drive through Glencoe Village and look out for the signs posts for the car park. There are 3 walks you can do, I recommend the red one to find a location for your ceremony as it's the shortest route to the loch. The red walk is also wheelchair accessible. After about a 15 minute walk you'll arrive at this spectacular spot...
It always reminds me of the photos you see of the Canadian rockies which is quite strange as I discovered when researching this blog post that it was created by Earl of Strathcona who was, for a while, the governor general of Canada. He brought back with him his Canadian wife who became a little homesick so he landscaped the whole area around the house to look like the Canadian Rockies.
This location also has the added bonus of being surrounded by woodlands which is always great for a quick snap...
Glencoe Mountain Resort
I have never actually photographed a wedding ceremony at the Glencoe Mountain Resort but I have hiked to the top of it with a wedding couple for a few photographs. This one is most likely the most adventurous one in the first and it does involve a fair bit of hiking. You start by getting the chair lift up the mountain which is super fun...
After you get off the chairlift it's around a half an hour's steep hike up to the top of the mountain...
At the top you are rewarded with breathtaking views over Buachaille Etive Mor...
View Point - Starting Point of the Five Mile Walk
Midway up the glen there is a parking place which is the starting point to a popular 5 mile walk. Worry not though, this spot is not a 5 mile walk away! The viewpoint is just a small but steep wander up from the car park. You can see the walk here with the car park down below...
The great thing about this spot is that you get pretty high up without being too far from the carpark. The view down the Glen is breathtaking and you won't see many tourists up here.
Another advantage of this spot is that if it gets super windy up at the view point then there is cracking wee ceremony location across the road from the car park. It's on low ground so you're less exposed to the elements...
That's just some of the possible locations for your intimate wedding ceremony in Glencoe. I love exploring and look forward to finding new spots in the future.
Three Sisters View Point
I won't lie, this one has a short but steep ascent to the viewpoint but it's one of my favourite views in Glencoe. It's only about a 10 minute walk and has a path leading right to the top. Your reward is a stunning view down the glen surrounded by the entire Bidean nam Bian (The Three Sisters) range.
The best time of year to get married in Glencoe
So we've covered the where, let's move on to the when. You've got to love the Scottish weather! Where else in the world can you get four seasons in one day? I've photographed weddings in Glencoe in every season so below I will go through each one and let you know my thoughts...
In my experience the transition period from the end of winter to the start of Spring always has the potential to be a bit wild in Scotland. From late February to mid March there is a good chance of getting some snow on the lower ground. So if you're looking for a winter wonderland then this might be a good time of year for you...
The obvious risks of this time of year are snow storms like the infamous Beast from The East. There are snow gates at the entrance to Glencoe at Tyndrum and the exit at Ballachulish which may be closed under extreme weather. To be honest, this is super rare and even with moderate snow fall the main roads are well treated although I wouldn't recommend venturing down the smaller single track roads.
From mid March to the end of May the chill in the air will slowly start to drop and the snow will lift from the lower ground. April and May actually record the least rainfall of the year but still pack your waterproofs for those April showers!
Don't expect much in the way of spring flowers unless you venture into the woodlands. Most of Glencoe is on moorland so you don't get much growing on it other than heather and the occasional thistle! If you fancy some woodland photos then can always take the 10 minute woodland walk to the spot that was used for Hagrid's hut in Harry Potter movies. The easiest way to get there is to park up at the Clachaig Inn and then follow the path up through the woods. You can find the exact location of the hut here.
The Glencoe landscape changes colour in the summer. The grass on the moors turns from deep orange to green and I love the way the mid sun bursts through the clouds creating rays against the mountains.
You've got the obvious advantage of the higher temperatures but with this comes the increase in the number of tourists in the area. Most the places above are a bit off the beaten track but if you'd like to have your ceremony at the wee white house in the height of summer then it might be worth considering doing it in the morning or early evening. It's not so much the tourists themselves, they just give their best wishes and never interfere with proceedings but the car parks can become pretty full and the roads super busy. In the evening you also can get beautiful golden light flooding down the glen.
The last thing I should mention in regards to summer weddings in Glencoe are our little friends, the midges. For those reading from overseas, midges are tiny annoying flying insects. You'll start to notice them around mid-May but these are non-nibbling boys. In early June the nibbling females will start to come out. Glencoe isn't too bad for them but you will experience swarms near water, especially the still waters of the lochs. While the bites themselves aren't serious (just annoying!), It's a good idea to pack some midge repellent but don't worry if you forget as I always have some in my camera bag.
Like Spring, Autumn tends to be a dryer season with the added bonus of less showers. So if you want to play the odds came for the weather then it may well be worth considering. The hills with be alive with the autumnal colours and the sounds of deer rutting. Rutting season is when Stags display their dominance by fighting and roaring and happens from the end of September to November. It's important to keep your distance from them during this time as the last thing you want is a confrontation with a 38 stone testosterone fuelled Stag.
With the temperature beginning to drop then it would be sensible to bring a warmer jacket. You can wear your jacket when travelling from one place to another and take it off for the ceremony and photos.
With the snow gathering on the top of the mountains, once again the Glencoe landscape is transformed. Winter is your best bet on getting some friendly deer in the background (or sometimes foreground!) of your photos. They much prefer to hang out in the higher ground but when the snow covers the grass then they all jaunt down to the lower ground for a munch.
Needless to say it can get pretty cold! If it gets super cold then I do the couple photographs in short sessions and then we can grab a quick heat up in the car and then back out out for some more snaps.
It might be a good idea to opt for an indoor ceremony in the winter months and then heading out for photos afterwards. If the weather turns out to be alright on the day then you could still have the ceremony outdoors but it's always important to have a back up in place.
The recently renovated Kinghouse would be my top pick for an indoor ceremony. Situated right in the heart of Glencoe, the new parts of the hotel have been designed with the stunning scenery in mind. To see more of the Kingshouse you can check out Charlotte & Walker's awesome wedding on my blog here.
The last consideration when organising a winter wedding in Glencoe is daylight (or lack thereof!). With the sun setting between 3.30pm and 5pm during the winter then it's better to have your ceremony a wee bit early to give you plenty of time to go for photographs afterwards. The advantage of the shorter days is that if you do get a sunny day then you'll be treated to a golden hour (the hour before sunset). The sun sets right down the glen filling it with gorgeous golden light...
Your Glencoe Wedding/Elopement Day
I love that every wedding and elopement is totally unique to each couple. With that said, I thought I'd run through different parts of the day and show you what other couples have opted for to give you some ideas about what might work for you.
When it comes to elopements most couples get ready in the same place, sometimes the same room. I recommend getting a hotel or Air B n B close to Glencoe to save unnecessary travel on the day. There are loads of options to check out at booking.com however the ones I can recommend are The KingsHouse and The Ballachulish Hotel. Both these places are experienced in elopements and if you speak to them beforehand they may be able to offer indoor ceremony options if the weather is bad. If you feel like treating yourself then you could go for the suite at The KingsHouse which has the balcony with this view...
Photography wise I usually start coverage just at the closing moments of getting ready. It's purely candid at this point and a great way to start your gallery. The beauty of the wee wedding means that we've got plenty of time to document both wedding partners donning their best!
While I am on the subject of getting ready then I recommend hiking boots to keep your feet dry. Also remember and pack a rain jacket or an umbrella just in case!
After you're both ready then it is time to travel to the ceremony. With elopements most couples opt to walk down the "aisle" together so there is a thing called a "first look". Basically it's a way for the couple to see each other in their wedding attire for the first time. You pick a beautiful setting, One of you stands and waits and the other comes up and taps your shoulder. It's a great way to do it if you've chosen to come down the aisle together too, you can see how it looks in the photos below...
It's time to tie the knot! Yay! Most couples choose to have a humanist wedding ceremony. If you've never been at a humanist wedding then here is Claire the Humanist to briefly explain what it is. Claire says, "Humanist weddings are people focussed one-of-a-kind, love-filled ceremonies full of joy!".
Claire conducts lots of ceremonies in Glencoe and knows it like the back of her hand. Oh and she's hilarious and wears funky shoes so definitely give her a shout if you're going down the humanist route.
Claire signing the all important marriage papers, using a guest as an improvised table...
There are other humanists out there, many of whom can be found through the Humanist Society of Scotland, Caledonian Humanists, Independent Humanist Ceremonies and Fuze Ceremonies. When you make enquiries it might be an idea to ask celebrants if they've conducted a ceremony in Glencoe before or if they know the area well before booking. The celebrants are always super helpful and will answer any queries you may have.
When I am photographing the ceremony I just capture it as it happens. I like to mix it up by taking wider shots to include the epic landscape and closer shots to show the joy and emotion. One thing is for sure though, you won't notice me!
Time to Explore
After the ceremony it's time to explore! The great thing about Glencoe is that there are loads of stunning places to see within a small radius. This means that you can easily check out a few locations for some photos.
When it comes to picking the locations then we can have a chat before the wedding day and see where you fancy. On the day itself then there will be also some impromptu spots along the way if I spot some pretty light!
It also gives us a chance to check out places that I wouldn't recommend for the actual ceremony like Rannoch Moor. As the name suggests, it's a Moor and can be a bit sludgy under foot which isn't great for a 30 minute ceremony but we can go there for a quick snap.
I like to keep it natural and fun with the couple shoot so absolutely no awkward cheesy photos!
We can even pop in to one of the local hill walker bars for a quick dram of whisky and a cheeky wee pint!
And if we're still out at sunset and the weather plays ball then we can end the day by taking in a glorious golden hour.
Where can we stay?
I touched on this earlier in the getting ready section of the guide but I thought I'd go into a bit more detail. Where you chose to stay depends on two things, if you'd like a backup indoor ceremony option in case the weather is particularly bad and also how many guests you're expecting to attend your wedding.
Accommodation with an indoor ceremony option
The Kingshouse Hotel
The Kingshouse Hotel is the perfect choice if you're looking for hotel with an indoor ceremony option especially if you're having a larger number of guests as it lots of gorgeous rooms they can stay in. You can have your ceremony in the dinning space with the amazing views which I mentioned earlier in the guide but they've also started using The Way Inn for more intimate ceremonies. The Way Inn is the traditional hillwalker pub which has remained untouched during the refurb. It's full of it's original charm and has a cosy wee fire that you can tie the knot in front of.
Glencoe House falls into both categories as you can stay in the main house which would give you an indoor ceremony option or you can stay in the awesome Strathcona Lodges which wouldn't give you the indoor ceremony space but an ideal location for accommodation (there are 6 one bedroom lodges in total). I've yet to shoot an indoor wedding at Glencoe House (lucky with the weather!) so no photos to share but the weather is on your side then it's located in the same grounds as Glencoe Lochan.
The Ballachuilish Hotel is located about a 20 minute drive from the Glen Etive so great for getting ready for an outdoor ceremony but also with the added bonus of a drawing room which can host a ceremony if need be. Again, I've been super lucky with the weather so haven't photographed a ceremony there but I have capturing speeches and dinner in the drawing room and it's a fabulous space. It also has a scenic wee spot across the road next to the water which I often use for first looks before heading down the glen for the ceremony.
If you're happy to take a gamble on the weather and maybe brave a little bit of rain if it came to it then there are plenty of options for accommodation without an option for an indoor ceremony. With that said, you can get married anywhere in Scotland so if it came to it then you could get married inside these places, maybe something to keep in mind when picking one.
Glencoe Mountain Resort
The Glencoe Mountain Resort has a choice of two different funky looking Micro lodges! They come with comfy mattresses but just remember to bring your own bedding/sleeping bag! Ideal if you fancy going up on the ski lift and getting married here...
Numerous Airbnb Options
Aside from the above there are plenty of options for private rentals on Airbnb. I've listed a few below but there are plenty more where they came from!
- The Boathouse Pod. Sleeps two, one bedroom.
- Holiday House. Sleeps five, two bedrooms, three beds. 20 minute drive from Glencoe.
- The Boorach. Studio. Sleeps two, two single beds. In the village of Glencoe.
- Apartment with mountain views. Sleeps two, one bedroom, two single bedrooms. 3 miles from Glencoe.
Want to see more?
Looking for more inspiration for your Glencoe elopement? Look no further! Here are blogs posts from some of the magical adventures that I've had the joy to photograph...
- Theana & Sam - Start of The Five Mile Walk
- Gwen & Scott - Etive Mor
- Katie & Brian - The Kingshouse
- Jasmin & Laurence - Glencoe Mountain Resort
- Charlye & Josh - Glencoe Lochan
- Charlotte & Walker - The Kingshouse
- Tom & Su-Lian - Glencoe in the snow
- Chris & Victoria - Sky Fall View Point Glencoe
- Marcel & Phyllis - Glencoe Mountain Resort
- Lanette & Ross - Glasgow then Glencoe
Get in touch
Thanks so much for reading and I hope this will help you with your plans. I have a special elopement and small wedding package, if you'd like the details then please send me a message and I will pop them over.