Scottish Highlands

I am trying to find a good base for 3 or 4 days to explore the Western and Central Highlands first week in June. Fort William is the largest place but all the guidebooks say it is very unattractive. I want to be in a central enough location to be able to drive short distances to other areas and have some time for some easy hikes. I am getting discouraged looking because it all sounds very touristy.
Any suggestions?

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3048 posts

It depends on exactly what you want to do and where you want to go. Inverness is an excellent base. Its tourist information center is the best I've seen. Lots of good day tours available there and the staff are very knowledgeable.
If you'd prefer a smaller base, I'd suggest Aviemore (or Kingussie or Boat of Garten) in the Cairingorm moutains. Lots of good hikes/walks and plenty of other outdoor type activities available. Inverness and Aviemore are about 45 min. apart by train. We have enjoyed staying in both places.

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
237 posts

I don't have any direct advice but I'm hiking from Fort William to in Aviemore in May so I can report back then. Aviemore is in the Cairngorm National Park and may be worth a look. It has easy train access from Edinburgh. =Tod

Posted by Mary
Mt. Pleasant, SC
34 posts

Oh dear. Thank you very much for the quick reply. I looked into Inverness but my son who is going with me has been there and doesn't want to go back. We are looking for something farther west.

Posted by Mary
Mt. Pleasant, SC
34 posts

many more thanks but Aviemore is farther south than we want. Anyone been to Fort Augustus? something along the Lochs? but not in the middle of all the Nessie attractions?

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

There's nothing wrong with either Fort Augustus or Fort William. I'd probably go with Fort William since there's more places to eat and wander at the end of the day. Fort Agustus has the staircase locks, but really not much else. However, the monster stuff is all the way down at the other end of the loch around Drumnadrochit.

Posted by Joel
Tempe, AZ, USA
976 posts

Mary - Inverness, our family stayed there for 4 days a few years ago and had a great time.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3048 posts

While Drumnadrochit does have most of the 'Nesie' stuff, it is a nice little village and would make a good base. You can take the bus to Inverness and there are several excellent pubs that also serve very good food. There are several hotels in and just outside the village. We stayed with friends there once, so I can't make any hotel reccomendations.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1270 posts

We didn't have any problem with Fort William. Its location is very convenient, you can get started on your day's agenda quickly - it takes a while to get out of Inverness which is also too far east for access to many of the tourist spots. From Fort William you can easily reach Plockton, Loch Torridon, Skye, Eileen Dornie, Loch Ness, and Glencoe. Also, there are lots of shops......Check out Huntingtower Lodge, just west of town, directly on the Loch. Good views, pleasant owners. Its decor is modern, not "chintz." ......We ate dinner one night at the Ben Nevis Inn which caters mostly to Ben Nevis climbers. The other nights we stopped for dinner while driving around - it stays light quite late.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4298 posts

Fort William has a lot of Tourist Tat as they say. But it also has a lot of amenities. I stayed in Spean Bridge which was smaller, but fewer amenities. I've also stayed in Strathpeffer which is north and west of Inverness. I stayed at the Richmond, which has changed hands a few times so check the reviews. The building itself is really great and if they are running the wee pub that they have that is even better. More recently I've stayed on the Black Isle which is bit further east than I think you want, but the Anderson is great in Fortrose. A bit Fawlty Toweresque, but not over the top and it has good food. It really is not that far from the Inverness area to the west. And if you want to walk staying a bit further east is okay as you can then get to the Cairngorms if all is wet and wind in the west. You might want to look at Beauly. Pam