Fort William is a wonderful place with lots of sights to see, the city is opening up so there’s many new places to discover with amazing food (GF + vegan) and hiking routes around the magnificent mountains that surround the city.
Fort William is known as the UK’s “outdoor capital”. Situated on the northeastern shore of Loch Linnhe and Ben Nevis (UK’s tallest mountain) which makes it the a wonderful place for those who love exploring nature on their own. With several hillwalking trails, mountain climbing and bike paths, different kinds of snow and water sports, the town is Mecca for the adventure traveler. Convenient to set out from here for day trips to popular places like Glencoe or Glenfinnan.
Climbing Ben Nevis
If you ever come to Fort William and not during winter time as I did (except if you’re super adventurous) you have to climb up to the top of Britains highest mountain. Although I left this experience out for now as the top was covered by snow and it was quite bad weather too, it is something that is definitely on my bucket list. Ben Nevis is actually not that high in comparison to Italy, France, or Austria but even with its 1,345 metres it’s relatively accessible and manageable day of hiking for most people who have an adequate level of physical fitness. It does however take about 7–8 hours, is steep in sections and advance preparation is mandatory; the views and the sense of achievement are absolutely worth it.
Boat trip across the Loch
You’ll probably need a rest day from hiking, or even if you simply wish to enjoy some scenic view, a boat trip across Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil is a wonderful option to choose in Fort William. It’s also a great opportunity to spot seals or the odd porpoise, or enjoy a golden sunset. However, you do need to pick the right boat trip for your perfect itinerary. You can choose from the Steam Train cruise, The Seal Island cruise, The Bay cruise, and the sunset evening cruise on Loch Eil. (Also check time tables as winter season tends to be different from tourist seasons).
Explore the heart of the Town at Cameron Square
Cameron Square is the place to be for those who like to shop, socialize, and enjoy yummy meals. In fact, it serves as the heart of Fort William.There are plenty of shops, cafés and eateries nearby and the West Highland Museum. Cameron Square served as a meeting place for important events such as signing up to fight with the British army. Today, this pretty spot hosts live concerts. A bronze statue of a Ford Model T was placed in the square to commemorate a car that drove to the summit of Ben Nevis in a legendary publicity stunt in 1911.
Craft beers and gluten-free pizza
To finish off your long days of hiking or boating what else would be more perfect than to enjoy a craft beer (or cider) along with some delicious food?
My favorite place of all to eat was The Highland Cinema Café (found on Cameron Square), where you can enjoy unique gluten free and vegan meals as well in a cosy setting with a warm fireplace before sitting in to the movies.
I had a gluten free pizza with vegan cheese, walnuts, basil and beetroot pesto.
The Wildcat is another popular destination but due to this reason we couldn’t sit in as the place is always full. Serving homemade sandwiches, wraps, soups, and sourdough plates as well as good coffee and cakes. Their emphasis lays on local suppliers and producers where possible, with the sourdough is produced at a micro-bakery just down the road.
Three Wise Monkeys is a cool climbing centre, where you can drop in for a few hours or book an introductory session if you’ve always want to have a go. They also run the Fort Coffee Collective cafe, which you can pop in anytime whether you’re climbing or not.
The Highland Bookshop
This fantastic independent bookshop is a real treat, and I could have spent hours and hours at The Highland Bookshop. I managed not to buy any new books, as my backpack is already too full but if I could, I would buy half of the store. There are loads of titles on climbing, travel, and walking which I never even seen before – and a whole section of second-hand books up on the second-floor.
The Highland Hospice
If you love to spend your time looking for gems in second hand store, you’ll love this little nook just right in front of the Highland Cinema and Café. The wee shop of Highland Hospice is full with beautiful and well kept items, starting from lovely dresses and shoes, to nice hats, vintage bags, unique jewelry and even decoration items. The prices are rather on a higher end for a second hand store but the quality of the products explain it. If you have good eyes you might manage to get away with a real kilt (like I did) for only £10.
West Highland Museum
The museum is famous for its Jacobite exhibits but also for housing an excellent archaeological collection of local history collection – with fascinating objects such as Rob Roy’s sporran to treasures from a shipwrecked Spanish Armada galleon.
>Entrance is free and you’ll end up in a lovely little store offering unique souvenirs which are worth to look at as I never came across such products anywhere else in the Highlands so far.
Old Inverlochy Castle
There are more than 2000 castles in Scotland. You can’t leave a town without visiting their very own castle. Though Old Inverlochy Caste is mere ruins of their formerly grandiose selves, built in the late-13th century, the informative boards give you a great insight of the (sometimes eerie) history of the castle. It’s worthy of a walk around, at least for an hour, and presents a pretty spot for a picnic.
Catch The Jacobite Steam Train
Fort William is the starting point of one of the ‘greatest rail journeys in the world’. The Jacobite steam train, which goes from the Highlands to the Islands, became very popular since the making of Harry Potter movies. The 84-mile route from Fort William to Mallaig takes you across the Glenfinnan Viaduct and deep into wild Scottish landscapes.
You’ll arrive on the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig – which is a quite small fishing town that basically can be covered in 2 hours. We stayed here for 3 days and enjoyed the nearby sandy beaches of Morar and the 3 hiking routes that start from here. Despite being so small, Mallaig is an important stop for tourists as from here you can get to any of the nearby islands – Eigg, Skye or Rúm. It’s also another great option to explore see life – we saw a beautiful porpoise while returning with the ferry.
The little town is also home of Haggard Alley, a fantastic Harry Potter Shop. Though small, this is a wonderful shop selling Harry Potter merchandise.
A brand new bakery just opened not long ago (sometimes you can catch gluten free options as well).
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Imola Toth