After a stunning drive up through the beginnings of the Scottish Highlands, we arrived at the Great Glen, as we pulled into Fort William…
Status: Highland Unitary Authority, Town, Scotland
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Loch Eil, Duncansburgh Parish Church, Donald Cameron Statue, War Memorial, High Street, West Highland Museum, St Andrew’s Church, Gordon Square, West Highland Way, Gordon Square Statue, Caledonian Canal etc
Fort William is a sizeable stop in the Highlands, as it is the second largest settlement in the whole Council Area, after only Inverness. It is a big centre for Tourism, particularly for exploring the surrounding Highlands, and is also located on the West Highland Line, with trains coming from Glasgow in the South, and running North over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig, for ferries to the Isle of Skye.
The town centre itself is quite historic, and there a number of interesting buildings and monuments to discover. We started at “The Parade”, a large green open space in the centre of town.
In the background stands Duncansburgh Parish Church, completed to designs by David MacKintosh (1848 – 1891, Architect from Oban) in 1881.
There are two major monuments located here, starting with the statue of Donald Cameron, 24th Lochiel (1835 – 1905, Scottish Conservative, MP for Inverness-Shire). Sculpted by W. Birnie Rhind, the Statue was unveiled in 1909, with Donald in his traditional Scottish Attire.
Stood parallel with Donald is the towns War Memorial, originally erected after World War I in memory of the troops from the town and wider area killed in battle.
At the bottom of the Memorial 1939 – 1945 was added a few decades later, to mark the second deadly World War.
The Soldier atop the Monument is presumably from the Queen’s Old Cameron Highlanders, many members of whom are listed on the Memorial, from both World Wars.
Striking quite a pose on the towns skyline, but not part of the Parade itself, being further along on Bank Street, is the Episcopal Church of St Andrew’s.
Built concurrently with Duncansburgh Parish Church, it opened a year earlier, in 1880. The Architect was Alexander Ross (1834 – 1925), this time hailing from the East in Inverness. It is by far the tallest building in Fort William, visible from all over town.
Like many towns in Scotland, Fort William is quite picturesque to explore, with some fine architecture lining the High Street, typical of Scottish buildings from the 18th and 19th Centuries.
It’s also the perfect place to stock up on supplies, be you camping, hiking or just enjoying the area.
For visitors to the town interested in it’s history, you can take a tour of the West Highland Museum, which is located on the Southern side of Gordon Square in the middle of the High Street (out of shot to the right).
The square also marks the end of the “West Highland Way”, a 96 mile footpath from Milngavie, just outside the City of Glasgow, up through the Highlands to Fort William. It is a well known trail, with some incredible scenery. It is estimated the path is used by around 80,000 walkers every year and broken into stages the whole route is doable.
The featured statue represents a tired walker, resting his weary feet after reaching the finish line in Fort William. The original finish line was considered to be quite lacklustre, so Gordon Square was revamped to create a new one, and on the pavement in front of the statue is a Caithness Stone map of the walking route.
Fort William lies on the shores of Loch Eil, a vast Lake which flows into Loch Linnhe South of the town itself.
This makes it jointly the last major body of water to the West on the Great Glen Fault, preceded by Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness to the far end at Inverness.
Ferries are available daily from Fort William to Camusnagaul on the far shore, whilst boats can also navigate through Loch Eil into the Caledonian Canal, and along the entire length of the Great Glen Fault Lakes.
Fort William is a lovely little town, with one of the most impressive backdrops in the UK. Vast mountains, beautiful crystal blue Lakes, and some familiar Scottish Architecture all compliment each other nicely.
The town is, however, slightly overshadowed by one of it’s neighbours, as we would find out as we continued our road trip up the A82 towards Loch Ness, and finally Inverness…