The Highland Route to Fort William

Our next big trip was a week in the Scottish Highlands. We stopped at various places, saw some incredible scenery, and even got a ferry out to the Western Isles. Our first major stop was the town of Fort William, however to get there, we first had a long, four hour drive, which was full of surprises…

Firstly, I must admit to a slight navigation error as we neared Glasgow. I basically ended up taking the long way round to the Eastern section of the M8 and following the motorway through Glasgow City itself, before getting back on course, instead of joining the M8 West of the city.

As we started to circle round the City Centre, we passed a large, ornate building called “Dundas Court”, shown above featuring a small Clock Tower. It was originally designed by David and James Hamilton, and opened in 1837 as a School.

A large concrete bridge carries the M8 across the River Clyde through the heart of Glasgow City Centre, and is a well known landmark in the city. Although we couldn’t quite make out any particular places of interest as we went (we have visited before anyhow) you got the sense of scale that comes with such a large city.

Leaving Glasgow behind us, we followed the M8 for roughly 15 miles until it became the M898, which brings you out at the approach to the Erskine Bridge.

This is the direct route up to Loch Lomond, crossing the River Clyde. There are two main routes to the Highlands, either the main A9 route East straight up to Inverness, or the A82, again to Inverness, but West via Fort William and Loch Ness.

The Bridge dates back to 1971, after Dr William Brown’s (1928 – 2005) designs were completed, five years after construction started. Prior to building work, the only way to cross the river here was via the Erskine Ferry, founded in 1777.

The Bridge is now the most direct way towards the A82, as the next crossing upstream is back in Glasgow itself.

The A82 runs pretty much from the Erskine Bridge all the way to Inverness, and affords some incredible views en-route. For around a third of it’s route, it runs alongside Loch Lomond, the largest stretch of water in Britain. It is contained within the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, a vast area spanning four counties.

By the time we spotted the Lake itself, we were also looking straight across at the “Arrochar Alps”, a large range of mountains which also includes a number of the Munro’s. These are mountains whose peaks are higher than 3,000 feet, named after Sir Hugh Munro (1856 – 1919, Scottish Mountaineer) who first created a comprehensive list of the mountains in the Highlands, in 1891.

We pulled up at a place called “Inveruglas”, a popular stop by the lake which features a cafe and a viewing platform. You can also board ferries around the Lake from Inveruglas Pier.

The Arrochar Alps are again visible on the left, whilst on the right you can see Sloy Power Station. It links up to Loch Sloy, up near the top of Ben Vorlich Mountain, to produce Hydro-Electric Power.

From here the route comes out almost above many of the ridges, skirting the edges of numerous gorges. It is a popular tourist route, hence the Coach we had been shadowing for the last few hours!

We were nearly at a small hamlet called “Bridge of Orchy”, which lies in the shadow of a number of peaks, including “Beinn Dorain”, shown over to the right, whose peak is 3,530 ft high.

The scenery continued to impress as we neared the border with “Highland”, the large Council Area which covers the majority of the Scottish Highlands, from Fort William, to Inverness, to John O’Groats.

Alongside us appeared the “West Highland Line”, which runs for over 150 miles from Glasgow in the South, up past Bridge of Orchy, towards Fort William and it’s Northern terminus at Mallaig, for ferries to the Isle of Sky. A branch line also heads off towards Oban, for the Isle of Mull, and the Western Isles.

The line is single track, hence the reason trains only run around every three hours, alternating in direction. Just to the South of our present position, roughly where we encountered Beinn Dorain Mountain, is a distinctive section of track known as the “Horse Shoe”, a large, tight curve in the shape of a Horse Shoe.

Leaving Loch Lomond/Bridge of Orchy behind us, we kept following the A82, until we reached our next scenic stop, in a small car park overlooking Loch Tulla.

We were visiting in March, and there was a nice dusting of snow across the peaks in the distance. To us, this was one of the most incredible views we had seen in a long time, but believe or not, the best was still yet to come!

A bit further North up the road was “Lochan na h-Achlaise”. It is the sister Lake to Loch Ba, just behind us on the far side of the road.

The road kept on twisting and turning through the mountains, until we reached the famous Glen Coe, a large Glen which was once an ancient super volcano.

The Glen is also home to the Glen Coe Ski Centre, which draws tourists from all over the world every year. Glen Coe is widely thought of as one of the most beautiful views in Scotland, and we would have to agree!

As you are leaving the Glen, you will go past the “Meeting of the Three Waters”, a small Waterfall which consists of three different streams/rivers which meet here.

The rest of the area around it is known as the “Three Sisters of Glen Coe”, a collection of three distinctive ridges.

Our next stop was Fort William, the gateway to the Highlands…

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