Image by zoonabar
Situated on the shore of Loch Linnhe and in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, it’s no wonder that Fort William is often referred to as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’. On the edge of the town, you’ll find a footpath which takes you to the top of the mountain, and many more paths that head into the surrounding wilderness.
Within the town itself, there’s plenty to keep you entertained – pubs, restaurants, the West Highland Museum, and of course, Inverlochy Castle.
Here’s your guide to exploring Fort William and the surrounding area in one day:
The morning: explore the outdoors
View of Ben Nevis from the West - Image by overgraeme
A crisp, early morning is the perfect time to explore the area’s natural wonders. If you’re only here for the day, you’ve got a choice between Ben Nevis or Glen Nevis, a site considered to be one of the best glaciated valleys in Scotland, and certainly one of the most beautiful areas.
The sheer size of this mountain attracts many climbers, looking for a challenge each year. However, if you’re seeking the views, but not so much the exertion, there’s the Nevis range mountain gondola system.
The gondola takes you up Aonach Mor, a smaller mountain in the Nevis range, which gives you stunning views of Ben Nevis and the surrounding area. In around 15 minutes, it reaches 2,000 ft. up the mountain, making it the perfect morning excursion.
A few miles from the town, this bleakly beautiful highland glen offers some of the best scenery in the region. It’s also a place steeped in history – the area has been home to the Cameron clan since 1536, and was a key site during the Jacobite rebellion. Today, the descendants of the Cameron clan operate a holiday park in the area.
Highlights of the glen include the Lower Falls, an impressive waterfall, where you can see millions of gallons of water crashing over the rocks. The area was also the location for the film, Braveheart – and there’s even a car park named after the film.
Lunchtime: explore Inverlochy Castle and dine at the nearby hotel
Inverlochy Castle - Image by Bert Kaufmann
After exploring the stunning scenery, which surrounds Fort William, it’s worth heading back to civilisation to explore the area’s history, and to get a bite to eat. Inverlochy Castle and the nearby Inverlochy Castle Hotel make for a great combination of fascinating history and traditional Scottish culinary delights.
The castle was built in 1280, and there’s still an impressive amount of the original structure that remains. The great stone walls have witnessed many significant moments in the history of the Highlands – from the Battle of Inverlochy in 1431, where the Lords of the Isles fought the Royalists, to the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645, where Royalist James Graham, Earl of Montrose, attacked the Duke of Argyll’s men in front of the castle at dawn.
Inverlochy Castle Hotel
After centuries of history, you’ll be in need of a hearty lunch, and the Inverlochy Castle Hotel won’t disappoint. Just a short walk away from the castle, the hotel has a restaurant serving lunches and – if you’re feeling particularly luxurious – a pink afternoon tea that includes a selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes, washed down with a bottle of Gobillard Brut Rosé.
Afternoon: journey through the history of the Highlands
Jacobite Steam Railway - Image by string_bass_dave
After lunch, there’s still plenty to explore. For instance, the Jacobite Steam Railway takes you through some of the Highlands’ most beautiful scenery, or if you want to find out more about the history of the area, the West Highlands Museum is a good starting point.
Jacobite Steam Railway
Widely regarded as one of the greatest railway routes in the world, the Jacobite Steam Railway starts near Ben Nevis, travelling through Arisaig, past the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar, before arriving in Mallaig, where you’ll find Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch in Europe.
One of the highlights of the trip is travelling across the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct – a view many people now recognise from the Harry Potter films as the route the Hogwarts Express takes on its journey to the school.
West Highlands Museum
For a relaxed afternoon in Fort William itself, head to the West Highlands Museum on the high street. The museum has several fascinating collections, including:
- The Fort – a collection containing cannonballs, thumb cuffs, birching tables and more from the governor’s room at the old fort
- The Jacobite – includes artefacts relating to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause
- Highland Life – a collection exploring the traditional Highland way of life for crofters
- Military – an exhibition of uniforms, medals and weapons from the Highlands’ military past
- Archaeology – from Neolithic axes to Bronze Age hanging bowls, this collection delves deeper into the area’s past
- Victoriana – discover more about Queen Victoria’s interest in the Highlands, with a series of Victorian artefacts
All in all, the museum is well worth a trip for anyone that wants to find out about the history of the Highlands – from Neolithic times to the Second World War.
Evening: enjoy the Highland cuisine
Fort William at night - Image by malikyounas
As you can see, Fort William looks beautiful lit up at night, and it’s the perfect place for a relaxed evening dining out. Here are just a few of the best restaurants and pubs in the area:
In a beautiful loch-side location, the Crannog Seafood Restaurant is a great place to sample traditional Highland cuisine, with freshly caught seafood from the region. The name ‘Crannog’ sums up the Highland fisherman’s concept of catching, curing and cooking the best fish on the west coast of Scotland.
The Lime Tree is an award-winning restaurant and an art gallery, making it a feast for the eyes, as well as a culinary delight. The restaurant serves a range of delicious Highland-inspired dishes – from Scottish twists on other cuisines to traditional Highland foods.
Popular with walkers, the inn is at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, and is the perfect place to relax after exploring the area. With live music, real ale and traditional pub food, this laid-back inn is the ideal place to reflect on your day in Fort William.
So, there you have it – a day in Fort William. From stunning scenery you can explore on foot, by cable car or steam train, to the history of Inverlochy Castle and the West Highlands Museum, a day in Fort William is one to remember.
If you want to stay longer in this beautiful area of the Highlands, browse our tours to find your perfect Highland break.