Fort William is nestled in the heart of Lochaber; an incredibly scenic area of the West Highlands that encompasses Scotland’s most westerly point (Ardnamuchan Lighthouse), its deepest loch (Loch Morar) and highest mountain peak (Ben Nevis). Known as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’, its mountains, lochs and coastline create a picturesque playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
With gorgeous coastal gems, stunning lochs and amazing mountain scenery, Lochaber has everything you could want from a holiday destination. Winding from the natural wilderness of Knoydart in the north down the coast to the Ardnamurchan peninsula and stretching inland to a land of glens – Glen Spean, Glen Nevis and Glencoe – this area of the West Highlands is dripping in spectacular scenes. Sandwiched between the magnificent Ben Nevis and lovely Loch Linnhe, the area’s main town of Fort William offers a wide range of activities for outdoor lovers, as well as breath-taking views for those wishing to simply soak up Highland scenery.
There are two routes that lead to Fort William from the north: along the A82, whisking you from the folds of the Great Glen and skirting the edge of Loch Lochy, and via the equally scenic A86 from from the Aviemore and Cairngorms National Park area; winding past the delightful Loch Lagan (of Monarch of the Glen fame). With its central location, Fort William is a great base for exploring in all directions: west to Mallaig along the awe-inspiring Road to the Isles; south towards the Oban area; east into the majestic glens and their spirit-lifting scenery.
Regarded as one of the country’s most stunning journeys, the Road to the Isles snakes west for 46 miles from Fort William to the picturesque fishing village of Mallaig, threading through jaw-dropping scenery.
From Fort William the road hugs the shores of Loch Eil before arriving in Glenfinnan, at the head of Loch Shiel. The Glenfinnan Monument and 21 arch Viaduct are amongst the most-photographed sights in the Highlands (the Viaduct also famously featured in the Harry Potter films). From Glenfinnan the road winds through glens and along the shores of Loch Eilt before rolling along coastal roads to the charming town of Arisaig (with fantastic views to the Small Isles and gorgeous beaches). Between Arisaig and Morar you’ll find more cinematic scenery at the picture-perfect Camusdarach Beach – the impossibly beautiful film location for ‘Local Hero’. Soak up this island-dotted seascape as you journey along the last section to Mallaig, basking in beautiful views on the edge of the land. From here you can take a ferry over to the Isle of Skye or a boat up to explore the unspoilt Knoydart area. This route is also the last section of the West Highland Railway Line (which has been voted one of the most scenic train journeys in the world), and in the summer months you can also travel on board the Jacobite Steam Train. Whether you go by road or rail, this spectacular stretch of Lochaber is sure to sweep you off your feet.
To drink in the coastal scenes of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, you can detour onto the A861 at Lochailort, following the path of Loch Ailort as it leads to the sea. You’re in for more stunning views as the road grips the coastline and then weaves inland. At Salen the road forks as Loch Sunart unravels before you – you are then guided by this sea-loch as it reaches out to meet the body of sea. The road meanders along until its end at the mainland’s most westerly point – Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. It is an area brimming with secluded bays, wonderful views and remote beauty – ideal for those wishing to really get away from it all.
To return to Fort William rejoin the A861 at Salen, the great finger of Loch Sunart pointing back towards Loch Linnhe. The road clings to the edge of Loch Linnhe and then bends around to clasp Loch Eil on the loop back to Fort William.
The magnificent glens run like a spine down the east side of Lochaber, with Glen Nevis nestled between Glen Spean and the southern end of Great Glen, and Glencoe. With deep lochs wedged amongst rugged mountain landscapes, it is an area that can shower you in glorious vistas. Glen Spean and the southern section of the Great Glen unfold in the area between Fort William to Invergarry, including Spean Bridge (where the A82 and A86 meet) and Roy Bridge, as well as Loch Arkaig and Loch Lochy. There are many ways to fill your days in Glen Spean, from fishing and golfing to wildlife watching and walking.
On the doorstep of Fort William, mighty Ben Nevis draws many visitors to the area who are keen to walk and climb its towering ridges. If you want to experience the magical views from the Nevis Range without walking or skiing its slopes, you can take a trip up Aonach Mor on Britain’s only mountain gondola. The journey takes 15 minutes to the top of the 2150ft mountain that stands beside Ben Nevis and you can enjoy panoramic views to make your heart soar.
Following the A82 south of Fort William leads to majestic Glencoe, watch guard of Loch Leven – a sight that begs to be photographed. Glencoe is well-known for its awe-inspiring beauty and fascinating history, and has been voted the most romantic glen in the country. This famous Highland glen frequently features on visitors’ must-see lists, and with its spectacular mountain peaks and loch-side setting it is easy to see why.