Visiting Fort William on the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way

By Mark Wright

Two of our most popular routes in Scotland, the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way share one very special location, Fort William. The 95 mile West Highland Way begins in Milngavie near Glasgow and travels alongside Loch Lomond and over Rannoch Moor, reaching its destination in Fort William. The 73 mile Great Glen Way on the other hand sets off from Fort William, and journeys alongside Loch Lochy and Loch Ness following the geological fault line through to Inverness. Many walkers choose to combine these two great routes creating a magnificent 168 mile tour of the Highlands.

Whether choosing one of these routes or combining both our walkers frequently request a rest day in Fort William, either to fit in some extra outdoor or cultural activities, or simply to soak up the serene atmosphere of this delightful corner of Scotland. Let’s learn a little bit more about Fort William shall we?

Fort William, nestled beneath Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, is the largest ‘town’ in the Highlands, only the city of Inverness, the end point of the Great Glen Way, has a larger population. Located at the head of Loch Linnhe it’s perfectly placed as a gateway to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes, including Glen Coe and of course the Great Glen. It’s fair to say that Fort William encapsulates the very essence of Scotland’s rugged beauty and beckons adventurers, history enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike, promising an unforgettable Highland experience.

The town’s history is interwoven with the turbulent past of the Scottish Highlands. Originally established as a military garrison by Cromwell’s forces in 1654 to pacify the Highland clans, it was later ruined, before being rebuilt in 1690 and named after King William III. Born in 1650, William III, probably better known now as William of Orange, was King of England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702.

Over time, Fort William evolved into a bustling settlement and trade hub due to its strategic location. The Caledonian Canal, designed by engineer Thomas Telford in the early 19th century, passes through Fort William, linking the east and west coasts of Scotland. This engineering marvel played a crucial role in the town’s development, fostering trade and transport in the region. Of course today, the Caledonian Canal is also the fascinating backdrop to the Great Glen Way walking trail.

Ben Nevis is a mecca for walkers and climbers, offering exhilarating trails with breathtaking views. Many of our walkers choose to add a day after their West Highland Way, or ahead of their Great Glen Way holidays to experience this majestic mountain. Whether scaling the summit or exploring its foothills, ‘the Ben’ promises to be a memorable occasion.

Glen Nevis, adjacent to the Ben, enchants walkers on the final stretch of the West Highland Way. With its atmospheric woodland, lush greenery and meandering river, the glen is a haven for nature enthusiasts. It’s regarded as one of the finest examples of a glaciated valley in Scotland and has several spectacular waterfalls cascading into the River Nevis, most notably Steall Falls. Walkers bound for the Great Glen Way might consider a rest day beforehand exploring Glen Nevis from Fort William.

If you’re looking for some additional adventure beyond walking the West Highland Way and Great Glen Way, then Loch Linnhe provides great opportunities for kayaking, while Loch Eilt is perfect for paddle boarding. Fort William also boasts world-class mountain biking trails such as the renowned Witch’s Trail as well as a network of trails to suit all abilities around Nevis Range Mountain Resort.

If you do decide to partake in a spot of paddle boarding, scale Ben Nevis or go biking through the woods, please do take care not to come to harm and risk tainting the memory of your walking holiday.

There are a number of cultural attractions in Fort William too including the West Highland Museum where you can delve into the region’s history and view Jacobite artifacts, Highland weaponry, and learn about the life of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, and leader of the unsuccessful 1745 Jacobite rebellion.

Why not board the iconic Hogwarts Express, also known as the Jacobite Steam Train, for a nostalgic journey through stunning landscapes, including the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct?

Finally, if food and drink is your thing then take time to sample some of Scotland’s best whiskies at the nearby Ben Nevis Distillery and learn about the region’s whisky-making heritage. Enjoy delicious Scottish cuisine at charming pubs and restaurants, savouring traditional dishes such as haggis, neeps and tatties, as well as the finest smoked salmon, and freshly caught seafood.

Fort William isn’t merely a town, it’s an embodiment of Scotland’s captivating spirit. When visiting Fort William you should anticipate a blend of natural beauty, history and adventure, all accompanied by a warm Highland welcome. The town exudes a laid-back atmosphere, making it a great place to celebrate after walking the West Highland Way or equally so, gear up for your Great Glen Way adventure. 

To learn more about the West Highland Way, the Great Glen Way or any of our walking holidays in Scotland, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email us [email protected] or call us on 017687 72335 to speak with one of our friendly Sales and Support team.

Client Feedback

Your staff seem really enthusiastic about your holidays and are very helpful when needed. It seems that our enjoyment of our holiday is important to your staff.

Westmorland Way, September 2023
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Mickledore simply do ‘ what it says on the tin’ and that works for me.

The Ridgeway, September 2023
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The whole trip was just fantastic, I have recommended it and you to so many people. All we had to think about was the walk each day and what we were going to see. The organisation of it all was faultless and left us to just enjoy it all.

West Highland Way, September 2023
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