Small loch in Glen Etive, Scotland
© Oliver Hellowell/Minden Picture
An island in the Highlands
Here in the Scottish Highlands, there's something about the rugged environs of Glen Etive that has tickled the imaginations of both ancient and modern storytellers. A glen is a long, narrow valley and this one is especially beautiful. It has strange footnotes in both Irish and Scottish folklore. The name itself translates to 'little fierce one' and was given in honor of Etive, the Gaelic goddess long associated with Loch Etive.
According to an Irish myth, the tragic heroine Deirdre and her lover, Naoise, sought refuge in Glen Etive after they were forced into exile. In Scottish folklore, Glen Etive is said to be the home of a mythical creature called a fachan—a giant cyclops with one leg, a single tuft of hair, and a lone hand protruding from its chest. Glen Etive has caught the attention of modern storytellers drawn to its history and beautiful scenery as well. A surprising number of TV shows and major films, like 'Braveheart' and the James Bond installment 'Skyfall,' have shot on location here.
Glen Etive is also part of one of Scotland's 40 National Scenic Areas, and is a favorite destination for white water kayakers, who journey here to shoot down the series of rapids, falls, and pool drops along the River Etive. Hikers trek the mountain trails around Ben Starav to the southeast and the Glen Coe mountains in the north. Some of these hikers are known as 'peak baggers,' who make it a game to summit every peak in the region that’s 3,000 feet or higher. So far, more than 6,000 or so people have completed the entire list of 282 Scottish peaks, or 'munros' as they're known locally.