Sunday, November 18, 2012

Scottish Hols- Fort William

You might think that going on holiday to Scotland in mid-October is a little bit bonkers and you might be right. This year things were just a little bit out of our control though. One of the challenges is that in the highlands and islands some of the tourist attractions close down for the Winter. (No I don’t mean theme parks – but the Castles and if not the castles then their tea rooms (Duart Castle’s tearoom was closed when we visited for instance.

However some parts of the highlands support a winter tourist season as well as a summer season. Aviemore is perhaps the best known place for winter sports in Scotland, however Fort William would seem to be pretty popular for both winter and summer activities as well.

The candidates for the day were a visit to the Gondola on the Nevis Range of mountains, Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal and  a cruise on Loch Linnhe. As luck would have it eh weather was at its best around mid-day so we decided to visit the mountains first and then Neptune's Staircase second. The cruise wasn’t running that day which decided whether to that for us.

The Gondola gets skiers up the mountains in the Winter and cyclists, walkers, hangliders, paragliders and climbers up in the Summer months. (Probably climbers and walkers also go up at other times though.)

The Gondola station is not far from Fort William and whisks you from 300ft to 2,150ft in mere moments about 15 minutes. One thing is true the view is spectacular and we were lucky to have a clear day.

At the top of the Gondola ride there were two walks to Mountain Viewpoints (Sgurr Finnisg-aig and Meall Beag)  as well as a restaurant. So we did the two walks and then had lunch. The longer one involved less climbing.

Meall Beag – Views over Fort William and Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil

It always surprises e is tat even when you are quite far up the mountain and presumably the catchment area for water is quite small that can be some significant streams.

Mountain Stream – Allt an t-Sneachda

The stream in this valley is Allt Daim, according to the amp it reaches 1220m at the top. Allt means river or burn or stream in Gaelic.

Allt Daim

This is the view from the other viewpoint - Sgurr Finnish-aig

This is the walk to the nearest viewpoint – not far but a bit of a climb (for a Flatlander), the path is pretty good though.

Path to Sgurr Finnish-aig

After a sandwich in the cafe we headed back down having enjoyed some very clear views from the mountains. The next think to explore was the Caledonian Canal.  Not many people seemed to be on the Gondola just after lunch.

I did look rather wistfully at the mountain bike trails, although I am a that special breed of flatland mountain biker – I reckoned I could have given those trails a go – after all it can’t be that hard cycling downwards.

 Winking smile

Gondola – Fort William

Before exploring Neptune's Stairs we walked up the Caledonian Canal and then under it through a tunnel to the other side and then back down the other side. It is quite a wide canal and the tunnels we quite dark – although the picture makes them look lighter. Just before we went through a Quad bike pulled a trailer through.

Tunnels under the Caledonian Canal

Caledonian Canal (near Fort William) – looking North-East

Cyclists on along the banks of the Caledonian Canal near Fort William

More Cyclists on along the banks of the Caledonian Canal near Fort William

Ben Nevis seen from the Caledonian Canal, Fort William

Neptune’s Staircase – Caledonian Canal

The views were glorious, but I wasnae so impressed with the staircase not quite like the one near Devizes.

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