The historic town of Fort William lies on the shores of Loch Linnhe at the southern end of one of the longest glens, The Great Glen. Fort William lies at the foot of Glen Nevis and is overshadowed by the mighty Ben Nevis, the remains of an ancient volcano and the highest mountain in UK at 1, 344m high. Ben Nevis is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation based on geology, natural history and culture.
Glen Nevis is a spectacular glaciated U shaped valley bounded by hills- Ben Nevis, Càrn Mor Dearg, Aonach Mòr, Aonach Beag and the Mamore range. The Glen and surrounding hills offer some of the finest hill and low level walking in Scotland. There are also range of mountain bike trails to suit all fitness levels and tastes, including cross country cycle routes, forest tracks and downhill trails.
Glen Nevis also has one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Scotland, An Steall, which cascades from a hanging valley (Coire A’ Mhail) into a deep side gorge.
The chair lift (The Nevis Range) up the northern slopes of Aonach Mor throughout the year affords some spectacular views of the hills and lochs of Lochaber. The Gondola Top Station also is good place for some challenging downhill mountain bike trails, and for a range of winter adventure sports. The Ben Nevis Range offers some of the best off-piste skiing for the intermediate and experienced skiers, as well as a beginner area and snow school.
Fort William has a reputation as an adventure capital supporting a huge range of outdoor activities. Adventure activities include rock climbing, ice climbing, snow boarding, skiing, paragliding, mountaineering, abseiling, bridge swinging, hire wire, canyoning, gorge walking, via ferratta, white water rafting, coasteering, mountain biking, quad biking, segway and paint balling. A great place for an adrenaline rush and to discover your adventurous side. Other outdoor pursuits include river and loch fishing, golf and target shooting.
Fort William is at the end of the West Highland Way (93 miles from Milngavie) and at the start of the Great Glen Way ((73 miles to Inverness). The Great Glen Canoe Trail starts at Corpach, 4 miles north-west of Fort William. The route is along a 60 mile stretch of the Caledonian Canal, which includes man made canals and open waters, between Corpach and Clachnaharry (Inverness).
There are some great places to visit in and around Fort William including historical sites and monuments, a museum and a distillery. The town also offers a range of shops, cafes and restaurants and a harbour.
Fort William has had an eventful history since its establishment as a military base in 1654. Most infamously the Fort served as a base from which Government troops marched into Glencoe, a deployment which led to the infamous Glencoe Massacre of 1692. It has also been a focal point for rebellion being besieged twice in the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745.
Little remains of the Old Fort, other than its enclosing seaward wall, its entrance archway (located off site at Craigs burial ground), and the parade ground. The parade ground has been converted into an attractive "open area" with shrubs and benches. However, the town still celebrates its past through statues, the names of some of its buildings and in the interesting collection of artefacts in the West Highland Museum.
The West Highland Museum is one of the oldest museums in Scotland and brings to life Lochaber's rich and colourful history through displays, objects and artefacts, including a fine collection of Jacobite memorabilia.
Old Inverlochy Castle and the Ben Nevis Distillery and Visitor Centre are within a short distance of the High Street. The Ben Nevis Distillery and Visitor Centre is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland.
Old Inverlochy Castle dates from the 13th century and was built to serve as a feudal stronghold for the Lords of Badenoch and Lochaber. The castle is thought to have been built on the site of an ancient Pictish fortress city. There are three informative interpretation boards in the grounds, providing an interesting insight into the construction and facilities of the castle and on key events in the history of the castle. You can take a circular walk from the Old Fort in Fort William along the banks of the River Lochy or drive to the castle directly.
Visit The Glen Nevis Visitor Centre to find out more about Ben Nevis, the early climbing history of Ben Nevis and the observatory, as well as local history and culture. This is also good place to find about the many local walks in the Glen, local weather conditions, as well as start point for climbing Ben Nevis.
Short cruises can be taken along Loch Linnhe from the town pier, adjacent to a local seafood restaurant. There is also a small seasonal passenger ferry from Fort William to Camusnagaul in Ardgour.
Fort William is also a start point for one of the great rail journeys in the Europe, if not the World. You can climb aboard the steam train, the' Jacobite', and take this stunning railway journeys from Fort William to the small fishing port of Malliag, crossing the 21 arched viaduct of Glenfinnan, made famous the Harry Potter films. There is a short stop off at Glenfinnan Station which provides the opportunity to visit the Station Museum and admire the iconic Glenfinnan Monument and Glenfinnan Viaduct at the foot at Loch Shiel. The route is renowned for its spectacular scenery of lochs, glens and bens.
Glen Nevis and Fort William have also served as film sets for scenes from Braveheart, Rob Roy, Highlander, Highlander III: The Sorcerer, Restless Natives, Monach of the Glen and Local Hero (internal Houston scenes). An Steall in Glen Nevis featured in the Harry Potter movie Goblet of Fire in Harry's battle scene with the dragon in the Triwizard Tournament.
Fort William is also close to Neptune’s Staircase, at Corpach, a series of eight locks that allow boats to navigate through a steep section (70 feet) of the Caledonia Canal. The Canal runs between eastern and western Scotland and includes parts of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness.
The Treasures of the Earth at Corpach contains one of the largest private collections of crystals and gemstones in Europe, as well as a fine collection of marine fossils. There is also a shop where you can buy selections of gemstones, beads, jewellery, healing crystals, crystal balls etc. The Commando Memorial is about 10 miles north east of Fort William, near Spean Bridge.
The Commando Memorial commemorates the British Commando Forces in the Second World War. The Memorial is sited by the training grounds and depot where the troops undertook their gruelling training course. . There is also an interesting exhibition on the Commando Forces at the Spean Bridge Hotel. There is also a historic walk starting at the Commando Memorial that includes a section of Wade’s military road with its High Bridge (built in 1736) and a more recent Viaduct (circa 1930). The bridge is associated with the first shots being fired in the 1745 Uprising in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Whilst in the area, take time to visit Glen Roy National Nature Reserve, approximately 13 miles north of Fort William. The Parallel Roads at Glen Roy consists of series of parallel horizontal lines of hill sides of Glen Roy, Glen Goy and Glen Spean. The 'Parallel Roads' provided early evidence of existence of glaciers in Scotland and an insight into the deformation of the Earth's crust in glaciated areas. An interpretation board (Lochaber Geopark 19) explains the origins of the Parallel Roads.