Welcome to the Fort William Logistical Centre page here on Summitpost.
This page is an ongoing effort to provide up-to-date information necessary or useful to people wishing to use Fort William, and to a smaller extent, the greater Lochaber area, as their base for their outdoor activities.
If by any chance you know of anything that is useful for inclusion on this page, such as news relevant to outdoor enthusiasts in the Fort William area, or new hillwalker-friendly establishments in the area, drop me a message, and I will see to it. Relevant news will be posted in the bottom section, and if necessary, other sections will be updated to reflect changes to ensure that this page will be a comprehensive and up-to-date guide to Fort William and the beautiful hills around it.
In case you believe that entries are lacking in the amenities section, feel free to drop me a message about those as well. I do find it necessary though to keep this page simple and well-structured, and therefore, I will judge items by the following two rules before I include them;
First; you must first ask yourself the following question: "Will this be of any use to John Doe Climber?" If it's not, it probably won't be included here. This is why Achintee Farm House is included, and Best Western isn't. Most climbers don't want to spend 100 quid per night 3 miles off the nearest trailhead, and the ones that do will probably already have booked it anyway. Places like these are simply not relevant enough, and besides that, it will only clutter this page and the last thing I want here is an unmanagable page with loads of useless information.
Second; if you request an addition, keep in mind that I only accept first hand experiences and absolutely no commercial advertisements or anything which resembles those. I will edit additions mercilessly if I think it's necessary. Also, if you have stayed somewhere and you have some bad experiences with some place, think by yourself; "was it really bad, or was it my behaviour that caused it?" I for example had an awkward moment in the Ben Nevis Inn once when I had gotten a wee bit too drunk after a nice day on the hills and decided that in order to fit under the showerhead, it would be better to bend the plumbing, instead of bending my knees a wee bit to fit underneath it. Needless to say, the owner wasn't too pleased, and the fact that he didn't bar me from ever staying there is in my opinion more worthy of a good review than a bad one for not being particularly outgoing towards his guest the next morning after I broke him the news. In any case, if I decide to include your news, additions or reviews on this page, you will of course be credited for it.
I do hope that you will enjoy this page and find it a useful resource.
Fort William is the largest city on the Scottish west coast north of Helensburgh. It's basically the center of all of the Western Highlands, an area of about 10,000 square kilometers (4,000 square miles)
Fort William in particular serves the Lochaber area, which encompasses everything south to Ballachulish and Glencoe, east to Invergarry and Tulloch, north to Loch Cluanie, and west to Kinloch Hourn and Mallaig.
Because of this, in addition to the tourist infrastructure and the great number of visitors here every year, one will find many more amenities and services here then in most other places of a similar population. On this page, a number of these amenities of particular interest to the hillwalker/climber scene will be included, with additional information about transportation links, weather and other items of use to hillwalkers.
They're usually cheaper than taking the train, although both have special offers (usually when booking way in advance or flying in through Prestwick airport), so when you're looking for the cheapest deal, you should still check out both. The bus also comes where the train doesn't. If you're looking to go to Skye, or Glen Coe, or even Inverness from Fort William, the bus is the way to go. Also, the bus is about an hour faster on the Glasgow-Fort William route, although less comfortable.
Local busses are provided by Highland Council, and operated by Rapsons.
These busses are fairly cheap, and serve the local area around Fort William. (Kinlochleven, Ballachulish, Glen Coe Village, Spean Bridge, Invergarry and Roybridge) Also they provide services in and around town.
Timetables and further information can be viewed here
From Dumbarton: A82 Northbound to Fort William.
Edinburgh, Stirling and Fife (Newcastle)
M9 to Stirling, A84/85 to Crianlarich, A82 Northbound to Fort William.
Arbroath; A92 -> Dundee; A90 -> Perth; A85 to Crianlarich, A82 Northbound to Fort William.
England (Except Newcastle & Northumberland)
Carlisle -> M74 Glasgow, A82 to Fort William.
A96 to Keith, A95 to Kingussie, A86 to Spean Bridge, A82 to Fort William.
A82 Southbound to Fort William.
Skye / Kyle of Lochalsh
A87 to Invergarry, A82 to Fort William.
Fort William is the terminus of both the Great Glen way and the West Highland Way.
Another interesting walk-in is to get off at Corrour Station, cross Rannoch Moor, and entering through upper Glen Nevis. I've done this in 7 hours, but make sure you're equipped for an unexpected bivy, especially during winter. Although most of the trail is flatland, weather can hit hard in the Western Highlands, and on Rannoch Moor in particular.
There's a bothy at Staoineag, approximately 1,5-2 hours out of Corrour Station, administered by the MBA. Also, crossing the ford at Abhainn Rath, two miles up from Meannannach can be tricky, if not impossible in winter or after heavy rainfall.
Fort William is probably the only community its size in the Highlands without an airport. Nearest public airport is at Oban, thirty miles south, but from this airfield, and only since recently, one can only book flights to a handful of Inner Hebrides. Nearest airport with commercial service to places further afield is at Inverness. (Mostly UK and Ireland)
Most low-cost carriers arrive at Prestwick, near Ayr, 45 minutes south of Glasgow.
Other airlines usually fly in and out of Glasgow International airport, near Paisley, and Edinburgh International airport, just west of Edinburgh.
From Inverness there are busses running to Inverness city centre and Nairn. Prestwick airport has it's own SPT station, between Prestwick Town and Troon, where you can take a train to Glasgow (45 minutes) or Ayr (5 minutes)
From Glasgow Int'l get a airport bus to Paisley Gilmour Street, and from there an SPT train onwards.
From Edinburgh there are plenty of city busses running back and forth to the airport.
If you're rich enough you can propbably fly in to Fort William by helicopter without breaking a leg first.
Usually the only time when climbers or hikers fly into Fort William by helicopter is after they had an accident, or did something stupid in the hills and need airlifting to NHS Belford.
There's a marina in Fort William, and there's a foot ferry to Camusnagaul on the other side of Loch Linnhe. Marine options are fairly limited. Make sure you stay out of the Gulf of Corryvreckan when sailing in, unless you have balls the size of Jupiter, a death wish, or both.
If you don't like it, wait for fifteen minutes... In case fifteen minutes is too much to ask, a current weather report for Fort William, updated every 10 seconds is included below.
A word of warning to first-time Nevis Range hillwalkers;
Do note that conditions down in Fort William, Glen Nevis or even at the halfway Loch can be as different from those higher up in the hills as those in Greenland are from Florida. And in 99% of the cases Florida is down and Greenland is up. I've experienced warm, calm weather with mostly cloudy skies down in the Glen only to be "surprised" by a full-blown blizzard at the Carn Dearg plateau.
Since most people visiting the area for the first time (and thus, more likely to be doing something that could lead to a embarrasing encounter with these folks ) are walking the tourist trail, use as a rule of thumb that if the wind picks up mercilessly by the halfway Loch, (sudden sustained jump of more than 3 beaufort from the point where the trail starts bending "inward" to the saddle) as well as an increased intensity of precipitation at this point, the weather is likely to deteriorate much more further up. If you are not equipped for this, or even in doubt, turn around before the crossing of the Red Burn.
Also, if you are not familiar with the mountain, experienced with, and equipped for the weather, you have no business being up there if there is more than 50 mph winds, less than 100 yards of visibility, or heavy preciptation already at the halfway Loch. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if it's raining heavily at 600 meters, with the ceiling being down to 900 meters or less and high winds what the conditions at the summit might be. Lochaber MRT have their hands full with people ignoring these signs, don't be their next example of a stupid tourist being discussed over a pint in the Ben Nevis Inn.
The old ways of weather forecasting...
Fort William is home to pretty much all the creature comforts one can imagine. I won't be listing every single one of them on this page, just the ones I've used and think are good. If anyone thinks I'm missing out on one, drop me a message and I'll see to it.
Wee bunkhouse right down by the footbridge over the River Nevis, just below the Ben Nevis Inn and the start of the tourist trail up the Ben. Extremely friendly owners, with a cute sheepdog, Bessie.
Because of it's small size, it's recommended to call in ahead of time, otherwise it's likely to be booked.
Just up the hill from Achintee, at the end of the road from Claggan. Recently got taken over by a Kiwi guy who's running the place now.
During high season usually packed, here too it's recommended to call in ahead of time. In the summer season, the restaurant upstairs is open and they serve great food and beer. Tourist trail starts in front of the door.
Nice independent hostel in the town centre, on Alma road by the hospital and the railway station. A bit far from the hill, but nonetheless a nice place, and arguably the best choice if not everyone in your group is as enthusiastic about the outdoors as you are.
The only "Alpine" hut in the whole of Scotland, in Coire Leis, just below the Ben's crags. The CIC hut was built in 1929, and has been maintained by the SMC. Applications to stay there should be sent in as early as possible, because the hut is usually booked. This needs to be sorted with the honorary custodian, whose contact details are on the SMC website.
Airds Crossing / High Street, directly on your left hand side when you walk into town from the railway station through the tunnel underneath Belford Road.
Largest outdoor store in Fort William.
+44 1397 708981
28 High Street. Franchise of a much larger chain operating throughout the UK. Fort William store is not as specialized as Nevisport, nonetheless worth having a quick look when needing gear to compare prices. Blacks also often have deals on OS maps.
The top floor of the bunkhouse. Opening hours are a bit shady in the winter season, and especially if you're not staying in the bunkhouse or at Achintee Farm, it would be recommended to call in before you set out.
When it is open you're in for a treat. Good food and Real Ale. They also organise ceilidhs, invite musicians, and during the winter there's usually some workshops on stuff such as hillwalking safety and winter climbing, as well as fundraisers for the LMRT. The LMRT itself also frequents the place.
Claggan road. Just a wee store, but the closest to the Ben Nevis Inn and Achintee. (20 minute walk) Recommended to pick up some groceries for use in the bunkhouse. Open until 10 pm.
Fort William's largest supermarket, at An Aird, next to the railway station and bus startion. 5 minutes from town centre, 40 minutes by foot from Achintee / Ben Nevis Inn. Cheaper than the Spar, and also open until 10 pm.
Sunrise at Glen Nevis
As of summer 2008
Highland Airways is now offering direct flights from Oban to the islands of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree. These are the first commercial flights from Oban, and although these aren't of much use to people trying to get into Fort William, they do allow a relatively cheap and fast way for a day or weekend trip out. There is also talk of (but not yet confirmed by) Loganair or Highland starting flights to either Inverness or Glasgow in the near future. This will of course be posted here if and when it materializes.