If being pulled over by a police officer in a peaked cap doesn’t get your heart racing, then perhaps being stopped by a furry beast with antlers might. I’m not going to lie, though – when went on our recent road trip to Glen Etive in my home country of Scotland, it was with the full intention of being frisked by the local wildlife. What I hadn’t realised however, was how tame some of the red deer around Glencoe actually are.
We took the first left sign posted “Glen Etive” after the Glencoe Ski Resort heading north on the A82, which led us down a winding single track road through the glen. Despite the passing places provided often along the narrow track, if you’re not comfortable with reversing your vehicle, then I’d suggest giving this one a miss. I’m not by any means suggesting you need to be The Stig, but you’re highly likely to have to reverse back into a layby if you meet an oncoming vehicle. Additionally, there are sharp bends, hills and holes in the road to negotiate too.
We drove along the road for around 30-40 minutes, stopping occasionally to enjoy the dramatic highland scenery that looms up around the River Etive – a water source popular with whitewater kayakers. There is also a wealth of mountains to climb if you’re into that, too. The well known and towering Buachaille Etive Mòr and Buachaille Etive Beag stand to the north of the glen, while Ben Starav provides a decent ascent, accessible from the single track road down through Glen Etive – to name but a few.
It wasn’t long before we were stopped by a young stag and hind occupying our path through. We pulled into the nearest lay-by to watch them – however, as soon as I stopped my car the young stag came over and demanded I rolled down my window.
He was confident enough to stick his head through my window in search of something edible and gently lipped my hand in a polite gesture of inquisitiveness. His lady friend followed suit a little more cautiously.
Now, I love deer (what animals don’t I love, really?), and I have been up close to a few in my life but nothing filled me more with such childish joy in that moment, than having a wild animal interact with me in the delicate fashion that deer do. Knowing that carrots were a safe and favourite food for the beasts, I’d brought a couple of bags along for intended distribution. What I had not intended on was losing a whole bag to the first two young deer that we met, nor was I expecting the rate at which the carrots would be consumed. The deer didn’t hold back.
The young stag was especially forward. He didn’t hesitate in pushing the far more polite hind out of the way to scoff more carrots and soon caught on to the source of lunch. His attention was then turned to my new car, which I must admit I was watching carefully as I’d only bought it a week prior to the trip – and he had very sharp horns…
We drove another ten minutes or so along the track once the two deer had devoured the first back of carrots, playing musical passing places with on coming cars and camper vans. As the valley opened up, we caught sight of a main herd, enjoying a lazy afternoon in the sun by the side of the road. It consisted of several stags – one clearly more mature than the others who was taking it upon himself to filter traffic through – and around 15 hinds of varying ages and body conditions. Again we pulled over and watched the deer from the car as the other two cars that had also stopped at that time, threw bits of food out their car windows for them. The didn’t stay long, and once we were alone again, Riley and I got out to say hello. The large stag, however, was a straight to the point kind of guy and didn’t hesitate to show me his impressive set of antlers if I was too slow in delivering the goods.
As I’m a “do it for the photo” kind of gal, I decided it was worth it to place a carrot in my mouth as it was the closest I was going to get to some deer kisses. It was an intimate moment – intimate as in I saw right down the back of the dude’s throat and what he had for breakfast that morning. Worth it? Absolutely. I just had to watch my face on his antlers as he lowered his head to chew the carrot.
We were super lucky, the sun was out (a rare sight for Scotland in April) and the road wasn’t too busy so we were allowed some private time with the deer without them being distracted by other passers-by. I was able to take some good close-up shots, and the deer were more than happy to pose for a snack. Our lunch was had in the safety of my car, away from the local residents who would have more than likely continued to pester us for food had we eaten outside on the hill.
Though I couldn’t have imagined something much nicer at the time than enjoying a picnic in the sun surrounded by quietly grazing deer in front of a snow-tipped, mountain backdrop.
With the second bag of carrots down and feeling more than satisfied with our little day trip to the Highlands, Riley and I decided to turn around and head back (the road leads to a dead end by Loch Etive so it’s one way in – one way out).
If you fancy continuing down the route, you’ll stumble across the spot where Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench stood while filming the 2012 Bond film Skyfall, overlooking the valley. Glen Etive was one of the many spots in the area used for filming but even if you’re not driving an Aston Martin DB5, you can still appreciate the Hollywood-esque vibe while you’re cruising through this breathtaking Scottish glen.