For many, the Highlands simply are Scotland. They display a glorious series of amazing landscapes and intriguing locations. A key one of these is Fort William, often known as the UK’s outdoor capital and home to Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK, at a height of 1,345 metres.
There’s a good range of accommodation in the Fort William area, including plenty of self-catering holiday cottages.
Mountain Biking and Scotland’s Wildlife
Fort William really is the great outdoors, and the things to do here reflect this. It’s a well-known centre for mountain biking, with a reputation founded on hosting the Fort William Mountain Bike World Cup.
It’s not restricted to a championship activity though – there are plenty of family-friendly bike routes as well as varying grades of tougher routes available at the Witch’s Trails in Leanachan Forest.
These bike trails provide excitement and stunning views in the shadow of Ben Nevis itself. There’s also a coffee shop at the base of the 4,000 foot Aonach Mor route, and, for those who persevere, the Snowgoose restaurant at the top.
In addition, you can always explore a number of unwaymarked trails in the Fort William area.
Fort William is also home to the big five of Scotland’s wildlife species: golden eagle, red deer, red squirrel, otter and harbour seal.
You can watch and photograph these creatures in their natural habitat by taking a wildlife safari. Organised trips include cruises on Loch Shiel and searchlight safaris in search of pine martins.
In winter you’ll witness vast herds of red deer coming down from the mountain tops to shelter from the harsher conditions. At the other end of the scale, why not take a guided expedition to search for Scotland’s elusive otter population?
Walking Up Ben Nevis
The mountain, or munro, dominates the landscape around Fort William. The climate is not always that mild – the northerly latitude makes for some arctic temperatures – but Ben Nevis is well worth braving harsh, chilly winds for.
The good news is that you can walk up it. There’s a clearly marked mountain track leading all the way from Glen Nevis at the base to the summit. If you’re unsure about the scale of your ambition, there are guided walks available, where an experienced Ben Nevis mountain guide will take you along the track and up the mountain.
There’s another walking route up, by the narrow, rocky Carn Morg Dearg Arete, which offers stunning views of the north face.
For something more challenging, try the scrambling route up the mountain. Scrambling comes somewhere between walking and climbing, and involves ascending Ben Nevis’s North Face via the Ledge Route. For this you’ll need the right safety gear, and experience. There are separate scrambling courses available for varying levels of ability.
Finally, there is climbing, going up the mountain on the Tower Ridge, Observatory Ridge or North East Buttress. These routes are for people with a good degree of mountain climbing fitness and experience.