Fort William Town
Fort William in the Highlands of Scotland is the second largest settlement in the Highlands after Inverness, being a large town of approximately 11,000 residents; and is a major tourist centre in its own right being closest to Britains highest peak Ben Nevis, the home of the Jacobite Steam Train or (or Harry Potter Train) and with a number of popular hikes either beginning or ending in the town.
Ben Nevis to the east of Fort William is a hugely popular destination being easily accessible with Visitor Centre and large car park just along Glen Nevis from the town centre. In the summer months thousands of visitors to the area will choose to hike to the summit whatever the weather, and if they’re lucky will even get a good view from the summit.
The Jacobite is run by a private company West Coast Railways and generally operates between April and October. Booking ahead is virtually essential as only a very few tickets are made available on the day, if you’re prepared to queue for a couple of hours beforehand. It is said to be one of the top ten railway journeys in the world taking passengers along the mainline route from Fort William to the fishing village of Mallaig on the West Coast. The scenery is stunning along the way as it winds around and through the mountains on its way to the coast. Some 15 miles from Fort William the train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct and it is because of this that the train features in the Harry Potter movie franchise.
Fort William is also the start and end point of a number of hikes, the most popular of which is the West Highland Way which starts on the outskirts of Glasgow and takes visitors on a 96 mile trail through some of the best scenery in Scotland and ends at the south eastern end of Fort William High Street, at the statue “Sore Feet”. The West Highland Way is not the only trail though, and increasingly many visitors are returning to Fort William to begin the Great Glen Way or the East Highland Way, so there is many a reason to visit more than once!
Fort William’s history dates back to 1654 when a wooden fort was built by the English to “pacify” the Clan Cameron. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the fort was named Fort William after William of Orange husband of Mary II who was crowned Queen after the deposition of James II and VII as King of England, Scotland and Ireland. Later the fort was used to suppress the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century and although the Jacobites had captured the other two forts in the chain of three Great Glen fortifications, they failed to capture Fort William despite laying siege to it for two weeks.
The Gaelic name for Fort William is An Gearasdan which translated means “The Garrison” although the origin of this name is not known.