Yes, itâ€™s true. I am currently packing my bags for another trip to the Scottish Highlands and yet another stay at The Crianlarich Hotel, however, this time we are also going on to another destination….. You will never guess my final destination this time:
It seemed impossible at first, as I wanted:
â€¢ Morning coffee with a view, perhaps a loch with majestic mountains in the background.
â€¢ Easy access by rail and bus for exploring mountains, glens, and the isles of Skye.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ A museum complete with a Jacobite collection and other curious and fascinating finds.
â€¢ Access to hill walking, climbing, kayaking, downhill mountainbiking.
â€¢ A distillery nearby wouldnâ€™t come amiss.
â€¢ Of course, shops, restaurants and pubs
â€¢ And, finally, dinner with a view
The solution? Fort William!
I can already hear you groaning and see your eyebrows lift. However, truly there is no better place to base yourself for an exploration of the Western Highlands. Yes, all right, it rains a little and Ben Nevis seems to be perpetually covered in cloud. 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 â€˜mountain with its head in the cloudsâ€™ or â€˜cloudy mountainâ€˜. Even hidden from view it exerts a powerful pull on the imagination.
The town centre is clustered around the High Street and Cameron Square, just south west of 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. At the foot of Ben Nevis you will find one of the oldest (established in 1825) licensed distilleries in Scotland and a â€˜free wee dramâ€™ in the Visitor 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 The Great Glen, Loch Linnhe and, of course, Ben Nevis. You can also walk a shorter 3 miles from Fort William to the scenic Glen Nevis in an hour or so. Donâ€™t forget to take a look at the historical finds in The West Highland Museum located on Cameron Square.
Whether or not you are planning an energetic hillwalking, mountain biking, kayaking holiday or merely want to soak up the beauty and history of the the Western Highlands or maybe just a convenient point to see Skye, Glencoe, Glen Nevis or Glenfinnan, Fort William truly is the perfect base. Oh, and remember when I mentioned ‘dinner with a view’? A cable car will take you to the top of Aonach Mor ski range where you can ride the mountain gondola and enjoy a meal in the Snowgoose Mountain Restaurant at 2150ft! Or if you are wanting to keep your feet on the ground, at the old Town Pier you will find the delightful Crannog Restaurant. For incredible food, ambience and a fantastic view or a cruise down Loch Linnhe in search of the family of porpoise who live there, salmon, common and grey seals or maybe even a golden eagle, donâ€™t let yourself pass this by.