Situated on the shores of Loch Linnhe under the highest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis, Fort William is well-known as ‘Outdoor Capital of the United Kingdom’. Known as one of the most scenic highlands in the world, it offers incredible opportunities for sightseeing and adventure. Having only 3 days will force you to make some hard choices. However, by organizing your itinerary in advance and prioritizing which destinations you would really like to see, you can make the most of your vacation. Our suggested itinerary ensures that you truly experience the rich culture and the natural wonders of the Scottish Highlands; to see the most in 3 days. Ready to go?
Things to know before traveling to Fort William, Scotland:
Language – English is official language of Scotland. Since the country has slowly turned into a multi-cultural society, which is now clearly visible almost everywhere, you’ll often hear people on the street, shops and restaurants speaking just about anything from Scots (known as Ulster Scots) to Chinese to Arabic.
Currency exchange – The official currency of Scotland is the British Pound (GBP), the same currency used in the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland is a well-developed country with a good banking and financial infrastructure. This means, exchanging money is easy and follows the same standard to elsewhere in Europe. You may transact with banks, foreign exchange bureaus and hotels. You may also use debit cards and credit cards but watch out for ATM fees and foreign transaction fees, which can be very high per transaction. It is also good to know that there are plentiful of ATMs available throughout the country so you will surely have easy access to cash.
Etiquette – The Scottish people are modest, traditional and conservative so it’s important to remember some do’s and don’ts to enjoy a faux pas free journey. In social meetings, people shake hands and maintain eye contact (avoid anything prolonged). Another important reminder, especially for first time visitors, is remember not to call someone Scots, Welsh, or Northern Irish ‘English’. ‘English’ denotes someone who is from England so it is more appropriate to use ‘British’ as it refers to people from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Safety and security – There is currently no nationwide security advisory in effect for Scotland. Check your country’s travel advisory website to get the most up-to-date information for your personal safety abroad. Observe the same precautions with your personal safety and health as you would in any other country. Although most visits are trouble free, remain vigilant because petty crimes like pick pocketing and theft do occur especially in big cities. For medical emergencies, fire and police services, dial 999.
Where to stay – There are many types of holiday accommodation in the Scottish Highlands, from luxury hotels to cheaper accommodation like country cottages and bed and breakfasts. There are also plenty of apartment rentals if you prefer the comfort and convenience of having your own place with cooking facilities. The most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Fort William?” Without a doubt, the best area to stay in is the town center to get easy access to most attractions and to get more hotel options. If you plan to take a camper-van, there plenty of caravan parks Fort William and Glen Nevis area with good facilities.
Hotels to consider in Fort William:
Getting around – Fort William can be easily explored on foot or on a bicycle. You can either bike on your own or you can join one of the guided biking tours offered in the city. Also, traveling using public transportation in the Scottish Highlands is relatively easy as all roads are well-maintained and the public transport system is one of Europe’s finest. Renting a car and driving on your own is another great option which gives you complete control of the trip.
Detailed itinerary: Best of Fort William, Scotland in 3 days
A blend of history, culture and adventures, Fort William offers endless possibilities for every type of travelers. It boasts a certain charm that transports every visitor to a time of the early Celts and Picts, Vikings, monarchs, royals, nobles and great explorers. To get to Fort William from Edinburgh, hop on the train that runs via Glasgow. Travel time is approximately 5 hours and one-way fare costs €30 – €70 depending on the season. For time table and train ticket information, visit ScotRail website.
If you get in town early enough, then take a short hike to Steall Falls, said to be Scotland’s second highest waterfall.
In the afternoon, check off the next thing on your wanderlust wish list, which is to canoe or paddle in the Great Glen Way, the long-distance canal along Scotland’s lochs (lakes) to Inverness. You can either go on a day excursion from Fort William the foot of Ben Nevis or go on a multi-day expedition, both of which will let you see the mysterious Scottish lakes, ancient forests, historic castles and forts.
Because the fun does not stop when the sun goes down in Fort William, celebrate your first night in the city with a nightcap at the Ben Nevis Bar. By 9 PM, this hot spot is packed with both young and old, hikers and tourists, all vying for great live music (Fridays and Saturdays) and some Whiskey Sour.
If breakfast is not yet included in the price of your accommodation, then start your second day in Fort William by going to one of the best breakfast and brunch spots in the center. You may also try the restaurants at the foot of the mountain like Glen Nevis Restaurant and Ben Nevis Inn. A complete Scottish breakfast often includes yogurt, porridge, sausage, toast, baked beans fruits and tea.
For fun-loving and adventure-seeking travelers, follow the Tourist Path to Ben Nevis, which is a 4-mile trek each way to the highest mountain in the UK. Considered as one of the best day/multi-day hikes in the country, this beginner-friendly hiking trail pass through beautiful native bush, jaw-dropping scenery and breathtaking views over the Scottish Highlands. Prepare for an amazing experience as you hike up and down the trail you will surely feel that you are transported into another world. Most of the trail is uphill so assess your physical condition before you go.
End the day with a refreshing distillery tour and whisky tasting at Ben Nevis Distillery, one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland. When you join a guided tour, you will be able to learn about the whisky making process, meet the mythical giant Hector McDram in an audio-visual presentation and of course, you can experience a few tastings of their renowned whisky.
Today marks the end of your adventure in Scotland. Taking in to consideration that you still need to travel back to Edinburgh from Fort William, consider booking an international flight back home in the evening. Spend the rest of your day checking out some attractions in the scenic town that you might have missed. You could even squeeze in some souvenir shopping before you travel to by train back to the city. You may also embark on one of the most scenic train journeys in the world by boarding the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig. The 1-hour train ride takes you past the most photographed of Scotland’s Highlands and will terminate at Mallaig, the gateway to the Isle of Skye.
Have you been to Fort William or anywhere else in Scotland? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Ben Nevis mountain range and the town of Fort William from Trislaig. Scotland (Targn Pleiades / Shutterstock)