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Fort William May Surprise You

Scottish Highlands Photographed by Robin Dalton



Yes, it’s true. I am currently packing my bags for another trip to the Scottish Highlands. You will, however, never guess my final destination this time.


It seemed impossible at first as I wanted:

  • Morning coffee with a view.

  • Perhaps a loch with some mountainous majesty in the background.

  • Easy access by rail and bus for exploring mountains, glens, and the isles of Skye.

  • Maybe a hike from the town centre to a superb view of the highest mountain in the British Isles, The Great Glen, and one of the most beautiful lochs in the Highlands.

  • A museum complete with a Jacobite collection of international importance.

  • Access to hill walking and climbing.

  • Downhill mountain biking.

  • A distillery nearby wouldn’t come amiss.

  • Of course, shops, restaurants and pubs

  • And, finally, dinner with a view


The solution? Fort William!


I can already hear you groaning, see your raised eyebrows. However, there is no better place to base yourself for exploration of the Western Highlands. Yes, alright it rains a little and Ben Nevis seems to be perpetually covered in clouds. In fact, it is believed by some that the word Nevis comes from the Gaelic word for heaven or clouds, so Ben Nevis could be thought of as ‘mountain with its head in the clouds’ or ‘cloudy mountain‘. The top is covered in snow for most of the winter and spring while the summit is shrouded in clouds 300 days a year. Even hidden from view it exerts a powerful pull on the imagination.


The town lies on the shores of Loch Linnhe for around 3 miles. During the summer months the loch is aligned with the setting sun and is a popular destination for photographers. The town centre is clustered around the High Street and Cameron Square, 200 m SW or train and bus stations and easy to get to on foot. As part of the West Highland Line, the station sees six trains in each direction per day, being four standard trains, The Jacobite (an 84 mile round trip railway journey on the same steam train used in The Harry Potter films) and the Caledonian Sleeper. Of the standard First ScotRail trains, three a day run from Glasgow via Fort William and on to Mallaig, with one running just from Fort William to Mallaig, timed to connect with the Caledonian Sleeper. The Caledonian Sleeper, which starts and terminates at Fort William, arrives early-morning from London via Edinburgh and leaves early-evening along the same route. In addition Scottish Citylink buses link Fort William with Glasgow and Edinburgh via Glencoe and Crianlarich, as well as Oban, Inverness and Portree on the Isle of Skye.


Glen Nevis and Ben Nevis are three miles north of the Town Centre. There is a 7 mile hike from the town centre to Cow Hill, the summit that blocks the view of Ben Nevis from Fort William, with superb views of Ben Nevis, The Great Glen and Loch Linnhe. You can also walk 3 miles from Fort William to the scenic Glen Nevis in an hour or so. Also in the Town Centre is the The West Highland Museum. Its collections tell the story of the region and its history. Their most renowned and unusual collection relates to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause. But they also hold a wealth of curious and fascinating collections relating to less well-known aspects of the lives of the people of the West Highlands.

It grew up as a settlement next to a fort constructed to control the population after Oliver Cromwell’s invasion during the English Civil War and then Jacobite uprisings in the eighteenth century. Named Fort William after William of Orange with the settlement around it called Maryburgh, then Gordonsburgh, Duncanburgh and finally Fort William after Prince William, Duke of Cumberland or more popularly known as The Butcher of Cumberland. It should come as no surprise that there has been some talk of changing its name. But for the moment it is still Fort William.

Whether or not you are planning an active hillwalking, mountain biking, sea kayaking holiday or merely want to soak up the beauty and history of the Western Highlands or maybe just a convenient stop to see the Skye, Glencoe, Glen Nevis, Glenfinnan Fort William really is the perfect base. Oh, and remember when I mentioned ‘dinner with a view’? At the old Town Pier you will find the delightful Crannog Restaurant. For delicious meals with a fantastic view or a cruise down Loch Linnhe in search of the family of porpoise who live in there, salmon, common and grey seals and maybe even a golden eagle don’t let yourself pass it by.

Commissioned and published by Aviemore Business Solutions here on the 13th of December 2010 and on Facebook here



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