Britain’s Best Getaways: Fort William, Scotland
Fort William, in the area of Lochaber close to the shore of Loch Linnhe (one of Scotland’s longest Lochs), is the second largest settlement in the highlands of Scotland. Its close proximity to Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain – makes the area perfect for walking, hiking, hillwalking and climbing! Fort William, which is surrounded by mountains, also makes for a picturesque break from the city and this, mixed with the many activities that can be enjoyed in the area, makes Fort William the outdoor capital of the UK.
Fort William was originally named after William of Orange. The area has been renamed a number of times before circling back to the name Fort William (after Prince William Duke of Cumberland). The Fort itself was built in 1654 led by Oliver Cromwell. Initially made only of wood, the Fort was intended to pacify local clans such as the Camerons (who were the dominant clan in the area at the time). In 1690, a substantial Fort was raised in its place made of stone walls and it was this which was named Fort William. The Fort was dismantled in 1894 but you can still see some of the Old Fort in front of Lochabar College.
More information about the history of the Fort can be found in the West Highland museum at Fort William.
Aside from seeing the Fort, there are a number of other great activities you can take part in whilst in Fort William. Here are some of our top picks:
- Take a hike – There are lots of great routes in or near Fort William for hiking, but we would recommend the popular West Highland way route which ends in Fort William. This 96 mile/154km route starts at Milngavie, follows the shore of Loch Lomond, climbs the Devil’s staircase and finishes at Gordon Square in Fort William. The scenic walk cuts through a range of habitats and landscapes that will allow you to see some of Scotland’s wildlife, flora and fauna (so bring your binoculars). For more on the route, and to plan your hike, click here. Alternatively, you could try the slightly shorter route, Great Glen Way. This 79 mile/127km route between Fort William and Inverness is for the most part low level, making it easier for first time long distance hikers. The route is also great for cyclists! For more about the route, click here.
- Take a cruise down Loch Linnhe – For stunning views and the chance to see some of Fort William’s great wildlife, you should definitely take a cruise trip. We would recommend Souter’s Lass cruise. For more information, click here.
- Have a cycle – There are a number of routes and trails you can take in Fort William whether you are a total beginner looking for something gentle or more experienced and want adrenalin pumping action. For more on cycling in Fort William, click here.
- To ski or not to ski – During the winter, weather permitting, the Nevis Range Mountain Resort provides access for ski and snowboarders lovers to Ben Nevis. This is a couple hours outside of Fort William so it is a drive away. A 12-15 minute mountain gondola ride – the “only of its kind in Britain” – will take you from the resort to the slopes. The gondola goes up to 2,150 feet into the air and has some breath-taking views so worth a visit even if you’re not planning on skiing. For more about the resort, including info about the gondola, click here.
- Check out the festival – Every year in February, the town hosts the Fort William Mountain Festival to celebrate the town, its culture and its surrounding, inspirational mountains. The next planned 2015 festival includes workshops, films inspired by the area, races and a number of other fringe events. For more about the festival, click here.
It’s worth mentioning also the Old Inverlochy castle ruins which are worth a visit. Also worth mentioning are the Highland Games which happen across Scotland from July to September and consist of traditional Scottish activities such as dancing, tossing the hammer and more. Be sure to check that out next time it swings round in Fort William. Lastly, if you’re an avid Harry Potter lover, it’s definitely worth checking out the town Glenfinnan only17 miles away whose viaduct featured in the movie series!
If scenic walks, relaxing lake views, wildlife and nature are your thing, this is definitely the getaway for you to recharge those batteries! For more information about Fort William, and to plan your visit, click here.
You’ll need a place to stay during your getaway to Fort William. We’d recommend the Corriegour Lodge Hotel for a really dramatic setting. The hotel is located right on the shore of Loch Lochy in Fort William (consider it your own personal Scottish beach!) and is a 20 minute drive into the city. The hotel is described as a ‘total experience’, a retreat where guests can go and relax and enjoy the sheer and stunning beauty and tranquillity of the area. An integral part of this experience is the dining, which by all accounts is showstopping. Head Chef, Ian, is one of Scotland’s youngest, most talented chefs and he is, of course, spoilt by the abundance and quality of the area’s natural larder. The hotel’s aim is to bring you comfort, and will even provide you with a reel if you want to spend your time on the Loch catching ‘the one that got away’. Alternatively, you can make your way into the city and have a walk around the shops – the city is pedestrianized so your walking will not be disturbed by cars.
Enjoy Fort William, Scotland!
Fort William image by Gaplto West Highland Way image by Bart von Dorp Fort William cycle world cup 2009 image by Douglas Cook Nevis range gondola image by calflier001 Inverlochy Castle image by Peter Broster