Around Fort William
The main street is lined with stores to serve your every outdoor need from crampons to croutons. For really foul days, and Fort William does get more than its fair share, there is a small cinema in Cameron Square (Tel 01397 705095) behind the very well stocked Tourist Information Office.
Fort William is an important rail link and summer steam trains run on the West Highland Line to Mallaig through some spectacular scenery that you would not see from the road. The West Highland Museum in Cameron Square is another wet weather retreat but one you should take in even if you are lucky with the weather.
The road up Glen Nevis is popular, usually dotted with Continental hitch-hikers thumbing a lift back to the camp-site or youth hostel a mile or so into the glen. This is the area where most ascents of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis at 4,406ft (1,345m), commence.
Hundreds climb the Ben everyday through the summer.
Unfortunately, because it seems so easy, many visitors set out with only running
shoes or worse. This maybe fine on the ascent but coming back down from such a long
hike is usually arduous even for seasoned and well-equipped walkers. Do not attempt
it without proper footwear and clothing. The summit can be covered in snow all year
Unfortunately, because it seems so easy, many visitors set out with only running shoes or worse. This maybe fine on the ascent but coming back down from such a long hike is usually arduous even for seasoned and well-equipped walkers. Do not attempt it without proper footwear and clothing. The summit can be covered in snow all year round.
A herd of Highland cattle wander freely through the upper reaches of Glen Nevis, often standing in the burn to cool down or to munch the greener grass on the other side. The valley road terminates in a wonderful, mountainous corral lined with silver birch and rowan trees. There is a waterfall, Steall, a short distance on up the ravine from where it is possible to walk through to Corrour Station on Rannoch Moor, some 16 miles (26km) on.
Fort William is also the southern gateway to the Caledonian Canal at Banavie, where Neptune's Staircase climbs from sea level to 80ft (24m), through eleven hydraulically operated locks. This stretch of the canal enters Loch Lochy 8 miles (13km) to the north-east and carries on through Loch Ness to Inverness.
North-east out of town is the Nevis Range at Torlundy where enclosed gondola cars take skiers or summer sight-seers to the summit of Aonach Mor mountain at 4,006ft (1,221m). The cable car takes 12 minutes to reach 2,300ft (701m) where there is the Snow Goose Restaurant, a fine sheltered view point with tea and scones at hand.
Back in Fort William, the best eating house with lovely views across the loch is the Crannog Seafood Restaurant on the Town Pier (Tel 01397 705589). They serve succulent seafood from their own fishing boat, but book ahead if you do not wish to wait.
Nearby is Seal Island Cruises which spends 90 minutes sailing Loch Linne. The Crofter Pub, 7-11 High Street, serves good food in a nice setting and at a fair price. You may be enticed into McTavish's Kitchen in the High Street which advertises its Scottish show held nightly.
Returning to the Fort William area via the Corran Ferry, the A82 winds past North Ballachulish and crosses the mouth of Loch Leven towards the village of Glencoe. Ballachulish is an ideal place to rent a cottage or spend a few days in hotel accommodation with fine walks along a lochside that is surrounded by some of Scotland's most dramatic scenery. The Isles of Glencoe Hotel in Ballachulish also offers good leisure facilities as well as a pleasant restaurant.
The village of Glencoe is a popular stopping place and holiday centre with a 'heather thatched' museum and memorial to the massacre that took place further up the glen. As you enter Glencoe, there is a palpable melancholy about the place, perhaps generated by the glowering forms of the Three Sisters, dark, foreboding mountains that dominate the glen. Or perhaps there is still a sense of the terrible murders that took place here. In February, 1692, the MacDonald's of Glencoe, a powerful clan, were put to the sword or perished in the freezing snow that night when the Campbell's, their guests, turned against them in a politically motivated operation.
The National Trust for Scotland has created a visitor centre at the foot of the glen to describe and commemorate the incident but perhaps no greater intimation can be gained than by standing and looking back down upon Glencoe itself, the 'Glen of Weeping'. The true Gaelic unfortunately translates as 'Glen of the Dog'.
Beyond, the A82 passes the White Corrie Ski Lift at Glencoe. The glen has seen skiing here since 1917 when the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club started using the slopes for skiing around the Black Rock Cottage base. Then there is the massive cone of the Buachaille Etive Mor to the right before the road runs over a bleak moorland plain and progresses into Argyll.
From the village, the B863 carries on around Loch Leven to Kinlochleven, one of the first industrial towns in the Highlands where Scottish and Irish itinerant workers in the 1900s were paid six pence an hour constructing the Blackwater Dam. Many died in the snow trying to make their way back to lodgings from the pub. The dam was part of a larger project to establish an aluminium smelter here in 1904.
The full story is told in the Kinlochleven Visitor
Centre. The West Highland Way, a famous walk from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow
to Fort William, passes through Kinlochleven.
Thursday, December 26th, 2019
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