Things to do in Fort Williams

The serene Fort William town is a testament to the natural beauty of the western Scottish Highlands. Snugly positioned on the shores of Loch Linnhe, Fort William is considered a gateway to the highest mountain peaks of the UK- Ben Nevis and nearby Munro mountains. With Aonach Mòr to the east and Glenfinnan to the west, it comes as no surprise for visitors to discover that there are plenty of things to do in Fort Williams.

Encapsulated by the Glen Nevis valley, where you can explore forest trails and challenge yourself on the ski runs at nearby Nevis Range Mountain Resort, Fort Williams is a popular hub for climbing and hiking. Of the 100,000 annual visitors who visit the Nevis Range from 1 June to the end of September, 20,000 come from the Fort Williams’ Mountain Bike World Cup and an additional 40,000 are coach-riding tourists.

Located at the western end of the Great Glen, Fort William was built using stone in 1654 and then rebuilt in 1690. Formerly used as the base for the hunt of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the fort’s strength was proven during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Some time later, in 1896, Fort Williams went down in history as the first British town to illuminate its streets using hydroelectricity.

Fort William is a Scottish gem in the Highlands, and it is regarded as the largest town in the Lochaber region. The A82 road — which links Glasgow with Inverness — snakes throughout the town. Whether you’re fascinated by the town’s past or simply want to get a breath of fresh air in new surroundings, it’s well worth taking a moment to learn about the most exciting attractions in Fort Williams.

Hike to Steall Falls

Channel your inner wanderer by visiting Steall Falls. Otherwise referred to as An Steall Bàn or Steall Falls, this natural attraction ensures a refreshing morning or afternoon. Accessible via a moderate walk, the waterfall spits out 120 metres of fresh water to its descent in Glen Nevis near Fort William, Highland, making it the second-tallest waterfall in all of Scotland.

During the hike, you’ll have the opportunity to traverse across a 3-wire bridge. The hike is 2.2 miles long and should take you around 40 minutes from start to finish. Although much of the terrain is rocky, the stream-splattered pathways tend to funnel into the Eden-like valley, making the journey well worth it.

Hike the Steall Falls

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Snow-blanketed Glencoe Mountain is home to Scotland’s original snowsports resort, which was founded in 1956. In the summer, the resort is a popular spot for mountain biking and camping, with various pods scattered around the Golden Eagle-speckled site.

Based in the Highlands, the trails are ideal for riders of all ages. In terms of skiing and snowboarding, visitors can glide across 24.3 kilometres of slopes from mid-December to early April between the hours of 9:00 am and 4:00 pm. What’s more, nine lifts are available to guests who wish to carve their way down the slopes, which peer above the powder-white setting at elevations of 360 and 1,070 metres.

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Day trip to Glen Coe

One of my favourite places to visit near Fort Williams is Glencoe. Glencoe is a village and one of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland. You will see waterfalls and stunning valleys crowned by dramatic peaks.

Visit the Glencoe Folk Museum and learn about the Glencoe massacre of 1692. See the stunning Three Sisters Of Glencoe and don’t miss the Lagangarbh Hut. The Lagangarbh Hut can be photographed from afar but with good hiking shoes you can venture much closer to it.

I highly recommend driving on the James Bond Skyfall Road which looks incredible. The road itself is very narrow but there are passing points for cars to stop and pass each other. The landscape is really dramatic, the closest I’ve seen to a Norwegian scenery. Well worth it.

Lagangarbh Hut - Wee White House in Glencoe

Climb Ben Nevis

Let’s face it, many come to Fort William to climb Ben Nevis. But be warned, this is no easy task. Even the easiest of trails will still be a demanding hike, which takes around 6-9 hours. Beginners should take the Mountain Path, which is also the most popular trail up.

Just make sure to bring food and plenty of water with you. Ideally, you’d want to start the hike first thing in the morning to be able to descend while there’s still light. There are group hiking activities organised almost daily where you can go up Ben Nevis with a guide.

May to September is generally considered the ideal time to climb Ben Nevis.

Whether you make it to the top or not, I highly recommend a stop at the Ben Nevis Inn on your back to central Fort William. Ben Nevis Inn serves fantastic local food and if you’re keen on local specialities, I highly recommend the venison sandwich with blueberry chutney.

Also, inside Ben Nevis Inn you will see photos displayed by local photographer, Alex. They are really great and cost just £20 each, a perfect souvenir from Scotland. Alex is now in his 80s and, together with his photographer wife, continues to promote Fort William through his photos.

Not far from the Ben Nevis Inn is the Fort William golf club where you can relax with some of the most incredible views of the nearby towering mountains.

Climbing Ben Nevis trail starting point

Walk Across Neptune’s Staircase

The name of this local attraction reflects the mystique of the staircase lock, which is one of eight on the Caledonian Canal. Found in the old worldly village of Benavie, which is located four miles in a northerly direction from Fort William, Neptune’s Staircase was built by Thomas Telford sometime between 1803 and 1822.

With Ben Nevis as the backdrop, this incredible feat of engineering is well worth charging the camera for. It rises 19m (62ft) above the canal for a quarter of a mile and if you choose to discover the staircase by boat, you can expect the journey to take approximately 90 minutes. Since its origins, when it was a hand-powered phenomenon, Neptune’s Staircase has been transformed into a hydraulic-powered man-made contraption.

Neptune's Staircase in Fort Williams

Visit the West Highland Museum

A trip to one of the most time-honoured museums in the West Highlands will be one to cherish. During the year 1922, Victor Hodgson formed the Fort Williams’ very own West Highland Museum with the help of a team of history fanatics. He was born in 1875 to Midland Railway director Henry Tylston.

Years of intense studying aided Hodgson in painting a clearer picture of the archaeology and history of the Western Highlands. Inside this local attraction, which concealed various artefacts and furniture within its four walls, he worked as secretary. Many of Hodgson’s descendants continue to collaborate with the Museum until now.

The Museum exists for the sole purpose of collecting, preserving, and displaying items of cultural and historical importance associated with the West Highland area. Listen carefully for West Highland Museum’s former caretaker, Edith MacGregor. Despite his death in the 1960s, he can still be heard typing.

Fort Williams West Highland Museum

Admire the Old Inverlochy Castle

Sketched into the historic landscape one mile away from the centre of Fort William, Old Inverlochy Castle is accessible via the A82 road in the opposite direction of the town that leads towards Inverness. This enchanting 13th-century castle came to be circa 1270–1280 under the command of John “the Black” Comyn, who was better known as Lord of Badenoch.

Old Inverlochy Castle was the famous site of two ferocious battles. One year after Robert the Bruce claimed victory to the Scottish throne in 1306, King Robert seized and burned the castle. Now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland, the castle is believed to have been constructed on the site of a Pictish structure and settlement, which, according to historian Hector Boece (1465–1536), was a metropolis that was obliterated by Vikings.

Since it was initially built, the design of Old Inverlochy Castle has been fairly untweaked. When you visit, you’ll be able to relive the story of how the castle came to be in your own shoes. It goes something like this:

The clansmen of Alexander MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, claimed triumph over King James in 1431, in the first ever Battle of Inverlochy. The Clan Cameron took the reigns until 1501, which was four years before Alexander Gordon, 3rd Earl of Huntly took over ownership of the crumbling castle. King James IV commissioned Gordon to conduct renovations on the castle for it to be used as a Royal garrison.

Some time after, his brother William Gordon, Laird of Gight, became the ruler of Inverlochy. In a disastrous turn of events, he was slaughtered leading the Camerons at Flodden. Soon, the castle would be chosen as a designated checkpoint for the royalist troops of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose. Graham is remembered for victoriously fighting the Covenanter forces of the Marquess of Argyll during the second Battle of Inverlochy, which erupted on 2 February 1645.

The estate was snapped up by James Scarlett, 1st Baron Abinger in the 19th century, before he proceeded to build a Scottish baronial style mansion to the north-west – Inverlochy Castle Hotel. A few small upgrades (of which you can see during your visit) were made by Lord Abinger in advance of the visit of Queen Victoria in 1873, including battlement and loop restoration.

Old Inverlochy Castle from northwest

Take the Jacobite Steam Train ride

West Coast Railways describes this 84-mile round trip as the “greatest railway journey” in the world. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies, you’re sure to find the views aboard the Jacobite Steam Train very familiar! The train, which carves through the lush green Fort Williams landscape, was depicted as the Hogwarts Express on the big screen.

Running seven days per week, the coal-fueled Jacobite Steam Train starts spluttering plumes of smoke from a location that looks out onto Ben Nevis. Everyone who hops aboard will find themselves in a trance as they pass by Arisaig station, Loch Morar (deepest freshwater loch), and River Morar(shortest river in Britain). The final stop is Loch Nevis which stretches westwards from Camusrory and spills out into the Sound of Sleat.

Many come to see the Jacobite steam train cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct. For a great photo, I recommend visiting the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre car park around 30-40 minutes before 10.45 am or 3.00 pm. The best view point is around 30 minutes walk on the main road from the Glenfinnan Monument.

Jacobite steam train ride Fort Williams

Visit the Earth Museum

The planet that we live on is certainly one to marvel at. From the vibrant nature to the diverse wildlife, Mother Nature really must be applauded for her wonderful work. Some of her most impressive feats of creation are on display at the Earth Museum, which presents visitors with a fascinating and educational outing.

Inside the Earth Museum, you’ll get the chance to gaze at glittering gemstones, raw minerals, and jagged specimens from across the globe. Perhaps the most interesting takeaway for most visitors is that these shimmering crystals harbour individual magical properties, with some believed to possess the power of healing, while others are capable of enhancing third eye stimulation.

Some of the zircon crystals on display at this museum have survived in impeccable condition for 4.3 billion years! Don’t forget to check out the Cosmic Origins exhibit to load up on your knowledge about the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to the Moon.

Address: treasure of the earth, Corpach, Fort William PH33 7JL
Opening times: Daily 10am – 4pm

See the Glenfinnan Church

Glenfinnan Church, otherwise known as St. Mary and St. Finnan’s Catholic Church, demonstrates exquisite Pugin architecture in a pristinely historic destination on Belford Road that looks out onto the haunting shores of Loch Shiel. Based 15 miles west of Fort William on A830 to Mallaig, Glenfinnan Church is arguably one of the most eye-catching things to do in Fort William.

Construction of the late Early English style, this masterpiece of the designer Edward Welby Pugin was finalised in the year 1873. After absorbing the soul-stirring atmosphere, prepare for a photo-worthy walk along the church’s southern edge, where you can observe the serene shores of Loch Shiel lapping up against the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Station walking path.

Glenfinnan Church in the highlands Scotland

Take the Great Glen Cycle Route Fort William

Covering 73 miles of land between Fort William and Inverness, the Great Glen Way Cycle Route is ideal for mountain bikers who want to get lost in the Scottish nature. Cherished and preserved by local council Rangers, the jaw-dropping cycle route trails in the direction of the Caledonian Canal and the banks of Loch Lochy, Loch Ness, and Loch Oich.

The route also weaves through woodland, including Creag nan Eun Forest, in the direction of Fort Augustus. As you approach the final section along the River Ness, you’ll be within easy access of Inverness Castle. This segment of the route is naturally embellished with black hexagon thistle. Make sure you charge your camera to capture the Ben Nevis range, which serves as the perfect backdrop.

Cory from You Could Travel cycling on a cycling path in the UK

Lochaber Geopark

The Geopark is praised for its astonishing geological heritage, which is certainly one of a kind. A journey to these parts of Fort William will open you up to a majestic world laden with cloud-covered mountains, mysterious rivers, alluring lochs, artistic cliffs, curving coasts, and the most enticing sandy beaches in Scotland.

Learn about the ever-changing landscape at this Geopark. The volcanic and glacial terrain touches a handful of unique territories, including Rannoch Moor in the South, Glen Garry in the north, and Loch Laggan in the easternmost segment of the Highlands. You’ll also discover the quaint western isles of Canna, Eigg, Muck, and Rum.

Cairngorm Mountain

Tie up your laces, fill a backpack, and set off on a hiking trip to the sublime summit of Cairn Gorm. Recognised as Britain’s 6th tallest mountain, Cairngorm Mountain summit path can be accessed from the windswept ridge climb that extends past the lower Cas loop in the direction of the upper mountain trail. The mountain is around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Fort William.

An unforgettable opportunity to take in crystal clear views of the Scottish Highlands, Cairngorm mountain forms part of the Cairngorms range and more expansive Grampian Mountains. The attraction in Fort William is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights, since the elevation towers to 4,084 ft AMSL.

Cairngorm Mountain in snow

Cruise on Loch Linnhe

You’ve hiked, you’ve walked and you’ve climbed. It’s now time to relax with a boat trip on the lovely Loch Linnhe. There are many local cruises to take from the loch shores some of which are better depending on the season.

I recommend the seal island cruise if you’re visiting anytime after march for a chance to see local wildlife. Evening cruises run after May and are ideal for photographers who want to catch the perfect sunset over the mountains and glens of Lochaber.

My favourite are the winter cruises when all photographers can see the top of Ben Nevis all covered in snow. It will be fairly cold during winter in Fort William, so I highly recommend dressing up warm!

Cruise on the Loch Linnhe in Fort Williams

Ben Nevis Distillery

Whiskey lovers really don’t want to miss this one. Ben Nevis distillery is a well-known distillery situated beneath Ben Nevis. The British Isles’ highest mountain ascends to 1,345 m (4,413 ft) above sea level and even when you’re at the bottom, you can admire all-encompassing views from the distillery.

A trip to this coastal distillery will teach you about the independent enterprise’s production techniques. Since its inception in 1825, the whiskey at Ben Nevis distillery has been created using water from Allt a’Mhuilinn – a stream merging two glistening pools that gush from Ben Nevis, Coire Leis and Coire na’Ciste. Nikka Whisky Distilling of Tokyo, Japan claimed ownership of the business in 1989, where tasting sessions can be arranged for new whiskey drinkers.

Ben Nevis Distillery

Where to eat in Fort William

Crannog Seafood Restaurant – The best place for a fancy seafood meal. While the place is fantastic, it’s also incredibly popular which means that tables book up well in advance. It’s a good ideal to call a couple of days prior to have your table reserved for you.

The Geographer – Another great local gem, The Geographer is a incredible restaurant with one of the best burgers in the town of Fort William. I recommend trying their mac and cheese. Really great and delicious.

Ben Nevis Inn – As previously mentioned, my favourite place to eat in Fort Williams is the Ben Nevis Inn. I recommend their beer on top with their traditional fish and chips or venison sandwich.

Inside Ben Nevis Inn on a rainy day

Where to stay in Fort William

To be close to all the attractions in Fort William, you will want to get your accommodation as close to the town centre as possible. If you’re climbing Ben Nevis, I highly recommend staying at the Ben Nevis Inn, as it’s literally at the foot of the mountain.

Fort William Studios – A home away from home with everything you may need including a fully equipped kitchen.

Cruachan Hotel – Situated in the shadows of Ben Nevis and overlooking the picturesque Loch Linnhe, this hotel offers bed and breakfast accommodation 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of Fort William.

Victoria House Bed and Breakfast – Situated in Fort William in the Highlands region, with Ben Nevis Whisky Distillery nearby, this accommodation offers free parking and access to a hot tub!

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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