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Fort William. Scotland

I am currently on a 5-week solo trip around Scotland. Today is day 13. I've just spent three nights in Fort William.

I wanted to write about Fort William, because Rick's guidebook is pretty sour on it. (He says "just passing through" is the perfect plan here.) I think he (or whoever wrote this section of the book) was here on a miserable, rainy day. (He also says The town is clogged with a United Nations of tourists trying to get out of the rain.)

In fact, this town is by no means a great place to visit, but it's a very convenient place to stay to explore this part of Scotland, especially if you're traveling without a car, as I am. The main drag is a pleasant place for a stroll, and althought there are plenty of tourists, I definitely wouldn't describe it as "clogged."

From here you can visit a lot of stunning sights easily. (I did hire a guide to take me around Glencoe and Glenfinnan, but I also could have taken a train to Glenfinnan and spent some time there hiking and exploring.) And I did an absolutely fabulous hike into the hills overlooking Fort William, a hike that starts and ends right here in town (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fortwilliam/cowhill.shtml). And there are others nearby of varying difficulty.

I also had three dinners in Fort William, and all were excellent. One negative is that most of the restaurants here don't take reservations and are completely full at peak dinner time. But I managed to find great places to eat and drink.

I've been lucky to have nice weather the last few days here, and that certainly helped. Today I'm leaving for Skye, and it's cloudy and drizzly. Hoping for more good weather in the days to come.

Sure, if you have a car, there are other places to consider staying in the area that have more charm. But I've enjoyed traveling around Scotland by bus and train. It's a lot less stressful than driving, dealing with parking, and buying gas at the equivalent of about $8 a gallon. I've stayed in places that so far are varying from nice to adequate, all within easy walking distance to bus and train stations.

Posted by
1319 posts

Hi Lane -

Nice to see some love for Fort William. I’ve always had a soft spot for the place. It’s not meant to be a pretty village to swoon over. As it’s name suggests, in both English and Gaelic, it was first and foremost a military base and has become a staging post and jumping off and re supply point for routes to and from the Highlands. Its grey, rugged character can be forgiven as it sits close by some of the most spectacular hiking routes in Scotland.

It gets a bad rap, but like I said it has a special place in my affections. It does what it says on the tin and providing you don’t approach it as some Brigadoon-esque fantasy, it’s just fine.

Hope the rest of your trip goes well and the weather is kind to you!

Ian

Posted by
6781 posts

Lane,

That's a nice write up on Fort William. Due to it's geographical position the town does get a huge amount of rain. I was once there for 5 days, and it rained all the time without cease. Not just 'normal' rain, but monsoon rain.
I didn't know Rick had that description of the town, but even after my experience I wouldn't be so negative. I have also been there in tropical (for Scotland) weather, and all types of weather in between.
It's like Inverness and even Oban, both of which many people are very negative about.
The towns fulfill a function, and do so well. Not everywhere can be chocolate box (I'm not really sure what people expect Scottish towns to be like), and not everyone is driving either.
I look forward to reading your trip report.

Posted by
4359 posts

I agree completely, Lane! We stayed there for 4 nights WITH a car in 2016 because it was so convenient. We had good food, a really nice B&B, and lots to do in the area.

Posted by
2475 posts

Hi, Lane,
I’m really impressed (and inspired) that you’re getting around so well with public transportation only.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you for the great information on Fort William. We were there briefly twice, and I have always been interested in exploring more of the town and area. I am returning to Scotland in October and the tour spends 3 nights in Fort William, the suggestions here give me ample info to plan my extra time there.

The first time (2011) the weather was wretched but we enjoyed darting in and out of places along the Main Street. In 2023, the weather was beautiful, although we only had about a 3 hour layover waiting for a bus to Oban- again enjoyed our time there, excellent lunch and the Morrison’s was a great place to restock our supplies.

All of the command suggestions in this thread are much appreciated. You “regular” writers are a treasure.