See and Do
best places to visit
Find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Fort William and surrounding areas. Located on the north-eastern shore of Loch Linnhe, Fort William is known as the UK’s “outdoor capital.” Behind Inverness, it’s the second largest settlement in the Highlands. Famous for its multiple hillwalking trails, mountain climbing, bike paths, and snow and water sports, this Scottish town is a mecca for adventure travel. It’s also home to Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain, which makes this a popular destination for climbers.
One of Fort William’s main draws is Ben Nevis, which is Gaelic for malicious (or venomous) mountain. If you’re stuck on it during a storm or thick fog, you’ll understand how this impressive crag earned its moniker. At 14,411 feet, Ben Nevis’s summit is a long way up – about eight hours of climbing there and back to be exact. Many hikers choose to pitch a tent for the night, so they can enjoy the breathtaking sunset.
That said, the paths to the top can be quite steep and treacherous, so inexperienced hikers and those traveling with young kids may be better off admiring the reddish granite peaks from below. If you attempt the climb, be well prepared with extra snacks, water, and a change of clothes. It’s often wet and slippery.
Your reward for a long, steep hike to the top: a breathtaking panoramic view. Mountains and lochs of the Scottish Highlands stretch as far as you can see, which is about 150 miles on a clear day. If the fog doesn’t roll in to spoil your vista, you can even catch a glimpse of the Irish coast.
Nevis Range Mountain Experience
As mentioned above, no trip to Fort William is complete without a visit to Ben Nevis. Do it in style with the Nevis Mountain Range Experience. Your heart will skip with excitement as you soar 650 meters above the ground in a mountain gondola. Located on Aonach Mor, Britain’s 8th highest mountain, the gondola was built to carry skiers, but has been lauded for its unparalleled views.
If you’re lucky enough to go on a clear day, you’ll be left speechless by the beauty extending in every direction. Lakes, valleys, coniferous forests, and patchwork farmers fields blanket the region while massive granite hills surround you. Run through the fields, climb among the trees, or bike down the hilly trails to truly enjoy the clean mountain air.
Traveling during the winter? Lucky you! Grab a hot chocolate at the top of Aonach Mor and enjoy the spectacular landscape while you ski or snowboard your way down to the valley.
The walk to Steall Falls from the Glen Nevis car park is majestic. Ears will delight in the calming sounds of wind, rushing water, and footsteps on the rocky path below. An easy but sometimes slippery trek, the well-worn path to the falls takes you through deep green, moss-covered trees that look as if they could start walking and talking at any moment. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons the makers of Harry Potter chose this spot as the setting for an intense Quidditch match.
You may hear the falls before seeing them in the heart of the dramatic Nevis Gorge. As you get closer, you’ll notice a steel rope bridge hovering precariously over the water below. It’s best to wear hiking boots or a good pair of running shoes if you’re planning to traverse the wobbly (but strong and sturdy) wires. Your reward: an up close and personal view of the falls, the second highest in Scotland at over 394 feet.
If you time it right, you can catch a glimpse of the Jacobite Steam Train billowing across a nearby bridge. Have your camera at the ready! Even better, you’ll be able to watch the locks in motion and marvel as two bridges swing out of the way to allow a passing boat to enter before closing and allowing the lock to fill with water. When the area is devoid of action, and you’ve tired of walking the endless paths and admiring the view (a hard thing to get bored by), wander through the nearby shops or grab a bite at a local restaurant
Old Inverlochy Castle
You can’t visit Scotland without stopping to see a castle. While some exist as exquisitely preserved buildings that reek of history, others, like the Old Inverlochy Castle, survive as mere ruins of their formerly grandiose selves. Don’t let that fool you.
Built in the late 13th century, the Old Inverlochy Castle may be small, but its history is mighty – and you can read about it on the informative boards positioned throughout. Built by the Comyns of Badenoch, Old Inverlochy Castle changed hands multiple times throughout history, most often as a result of warfare.
This small stone ruin may be crumbling in many places but wandering around it provides a sense (sometimes an eerie one) of what it might have been like to live in the center of the first and second battles of Inverlochy.
West Highland Museum
Visit the West Highland Museum, and you’ll be greeted by a newly placed Ford Model T. In 1911, a similar car drove to the summit of Ben Nevis in a legendary publicity stunt. You can see a film about it during your visit. You’ll also make fast friends with many incredibly friendly (and knowledgeable) volunteers. Each volunteer is passionate about the history of Highland life and can guide you through the museum’s multiple displays, including those about Bonnie Prince Charlie (a.k.a. Prince Charles Edward Stuart) and the Jacobites (supporters of King James VII of Scotland and II of Britain).
Conveniently located in the center of town, The West Highland Museum was founded in 1922. Here, you’ll find the Goldman coin collection, polished stone axes, ancient pottery and stonework from a wrecked Spanish Galleon, and 1,500-year-old artifacts from a crannog site.
Explore The Road To The Isles
Jacobite Steam Train
Climb aboard the Hogwarts Express – oops, we mean Jacobite Steam Train. Most famous for its role as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies, the Jacobite chugs its way along 84 miles of railway between Fort William and Mallaig.
Book a first-class seat for the best, open-coach views as you pass Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch, and Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch. You’ll also cross over the stupendous, 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct, which was made famous as the bridge to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Book a high tea to enjoy as you whip along the tracks – it will make your journey feel even more authentic.
If you can tear yourself away from the magnificent vistas, stop by the gift shop for some Harry Potter-themed memorabilia. An important traveler’s tip: book a visit between late April and Early October to ensure your spot on the train – it doesn’t run during the late fall and winter months
If you aren’t paying attention on your way into town from Mallaig, you could miss this quaint church, and that would be a shame. It’s easy to do. You’re driving along, gaping at the astonishing hillsides, squinting at the sun shimmering off Loch Shiel, and then you see something amazing flash by. Our advice: slow down and keep your eyes open. The church, which was consecrated in 1873, is found about 30 minutes outside of Fort William and rests just above the lake.
Also known as the Church of St. Mary and St. Finnan, this Gothic building is small but impressive. Inside, you’ll find an understated altar lying below a bright and colorful stained-glass window in a unique flower pattern.
Glenfinnan Viaduct. The viaduct is constructed of mass concrete being 380 metres long and 30 metres high, with 21 arches and spans the River Finnan at the head of Loch Shiel. It was the completed in 1898 and is the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland. The Glenfinnan Viaduct has featured in a number of films and TV series including Ring of Bright Water, Charlotte Gray and The Monarch of the Glen and the Harry Potters movies (Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, and The Goblet of Fire). Loch Shiel has also featured as Hogwart’s Lake. Some of the best beaches in the West Highlands are found along the coast between Arisaig and Malliag, including the Silver Sands of Morar and Camusdarah Beach. The latter was made famous as Ben’s Beach in Local Hero.
There are some lovely walks in Morar, Mallaig and Arisaig along the shores of Loch Morar, along the coast and in the hills. The Sound of Arisaig offers some excellent sea kayaking with stunning views to the Small Isles and Skye; the numerous skerries also afford good opportunities to a range of coastal wildlife including otters, seals and seabirds. Other activities in the area include fishing (loch and sea) and deer stalking. Sailing in the Western Highlands probably ranks amongst the best for spectacular scenery and beautiful coastline ranging from sheltered sea lochs to open tidal challenging waters. Malliag Harbour and Arisaig Marine provide pontoon facilities for those wishing to explore the stunning coastline of the Highlands and the Hebridean Islands. There are also regular Calmac ferry services to the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna) and the Isle of Skye. You can also take a ferry to the Knoydart Peninsula, a rugged, remote wilderness region, situated between Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn.
Treasures of the Earth Museum
If you’re a fan of geology, this museum is for you. If rocks bore you, this might be one to miss. Home to a private collection of crystals, gemstones, and fossils, Treasures of the Earth Museum makes looking at rocks a precious experience (get it?). Where else can you enter a cave in which crystals change color and glow?
Originally built as a Catholic church, Treasures of the Earth is small (a half hour is likely all you’ll need to see everything on offer) but it has an impressive array of exhibits, including fossilized dinosaur skulls.
Kids and grownups alike will enjoy touching seven-foot-tall amethyst geodes, which were formed over 200 million years ago.
Some of the fossils date back 500 million years – not bad for a tiny museum in the Highlands. Another bonus: the gift shop. With a wide array of fossils, jewelry, and gem stones to choose from, you’re sure to find a treasure with a reasonable price tag.
Saint Andrew's Church
This quaint church can be found just off the northern end of Fort William’s High Street. Set back from the street by a churchyard and surrounded by stores, this historic building is easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled. A member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Saint Andrew’s appears simple, but the intricate details (i.e. detailing on the organ’s pipes and elaborate ceiling bosses) are remarkable. The Caen stone altar is the church’s focal point, but the salient choir stalls lining the sanctuary are especially impressive.
During the week, you’ll likely find yourself alone to admire the church’s stained-glass windows in peace and solitude. If visiting for a Sunday service, you’ll probably be asked to join the other constituents for tea. If you’re one of those lucky enough to be invited, stay! The community is a kind one, and they tell wonderful stories
Ben Nevis Distillery
If you like Whisky then why not visit the Ben Nevis Distillery to sample the local delights. See the Ben Nevis Distillery Website for more info.
The Great Glen
The Great Glen Way (Scottish Gaelic: Slighe a’ Ghlinne Mhòir) is a long distance path in Scotland. It follows the Great Glen, running from Fort William in the southwest to Inverness in the northeast, covering 125 kilometres (78 mi). It was opened in 2002, and is designated as one of Scotland’s Great Trails by Scottish
Natural Heritage. The Great Glen Way is generally walked from southwest to northeast to follow the direction of the prevailing wind. It can be walked in 5–7 days, or cycled in 2–3 days. The trail is maintained and improved by the Great Glen Ways partnership, which consists of Highland Council, Scottish Canals and Forestry and Land Scotland. About 30,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 4,500 complete the entire route. A 114-kilometre (71 mi) temporary model railway known as The Biggest Little Railway in the World was laid and filmed over the Great Glen Way in the summer of 2017.
Glencoe and Loch Leven
Glen Coe is probably Scotland’s most famous and most scenic Highland glen – and deservedly so. Visitors from all over the world flock here year after year, inspired by the sheer scale and grandeur of its surrounding mountains and fascinated by the intrigue of its turbulent past. Visit the Glencoe Visitor Centre which explores this magnificent playground. Walk up the ‘Lost Valley’ beside the famous 3 Sisters mountains which faces Aonach Eagach ridge, one of the most famous hill walking challenges in Scotland.
Glen Etive where the latest James Bond ‘Skyfall’ was filmed before driving through remote Rannoch Moor.
Loch Leven is a lovely drive down the low north road to Kinlochleven, famous for its Aluminium Factory which is now the Ice Factor – a huge indoor climbing centre with the biggest indoor ice climbing facility in the world. Some stunning walks enjoying mountain and loch views here before returning via the south road which runs high along the mountains back to the A82 to Ballachulish, famous for its Slate quarrying history, but stopping at ‘Crafts & Things’ for the best chocolate cake in the area. Day trips allow you to visit other area of Scotland returning back to youre B&B take a breath and plan another day trip…
Oban Castel Stalker and the gateway to the isles by taking the ferry (Isle of Mull, then see Puffins on Staffa, Fort Augustus, Loch Ness looking after Nessie, Urquhart Castle head to Inverness, Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Skye, Dalwhinnie Whisky Distillery, Loch Laggan and ‘Monarch of the Glen’ country then to Aviemore)
Glen Roy National Nature Reserve
The world-renowned ‘Parallel Roads’ of Glen Roy are embossed on the landscape like the remnants of a massive engineering project. Below, the River Roy splashes down its rocky course, surrounded by a narrow strip of woodland, where buzzards circle overhead.
The Parallel Roads of Glen Roy slash through the landscape here and their straight, precise form makes it easy to see why this glacial leftover baffled scientists for so long. Take time amongst this vast landscape to appreciate the tremendous forces of nature. Wildlife here includes red deer, ravens, buzzards and the occasional golden eagle, with pockets of native birch and oak woodland rich in spring flowers. Facilities include a car park and viewpoint with interpretive panel. There are no formal paths, but the Parallel Roads and other key features are easily seen from the public road.