Fort William

Fort William was an excellent base for us for exploring the surrounding area. It's not charming in itself but has all the essentials.

Day 1: Chester to Fort William

Today was another pretty complex trip with a couple of train connections but no issues for us. We had a little time in Glasgow between trains and a station change so we saw some old buildings. We got Pret a Manger sandwiches for lunch.

bird on statue
No respect.

We had great scenery on the train. And things got a bit more relaxed. The train split at Crainlarich, with only two cars going on to Mallaig. Some people hollered at the train to wait (I believe what he shouted was something along the lines of “can you not f*king wait?!) and it did. Other passengers ended up on the wrong part of the train after it split, and they talked to them for quite a while. And at one point we waited while a woman came back for her hiking pole. Sheep run from trains, by the way.

Our place in Fort William was a steep walk up a hill. We had a nice room done in shades of purple — about three. We cleaned up, then went to dinner at Crannog Seafood Restaurant. It was a bit pricey, but so far the best meal I’ve had on the trip. Then we stopped at Grog & Gruel for two pints of Williams Red. Another good beer. Then the Ben Nevis for a pint of Dark Island; almost a milk stout. We had our first rain on the way home.

We saw very interesting-looking dog. Half its head was like leopard print, its body was striped. Quite striking.

Day 2: Ben Nevis

Our first Scottish breakfast: bacon, egg, sausage, mushroom, tomato, potato scone, toast, juice, coffee. Then we headed to Ben Nevis. Altogether we walked from about 10:00-4:00 and felt like this at the end.

old person and sign
And yes, this is what we feel like after about eight hours of hiking.

We had an Irn Bru along the way too! I remember Irn Bru and it’s been years since I had one. We also briefly gained a hiking pole. Someone found it in two pieces on the trail, and gave it to us since he had them already. We turned it in at the visitor center.

We stopped for beer at Grog & Gruel and ended up having dinner. Steve had a cheeseburger, I had a wild boar burger. Both were good. Today we drank Ale of Leven and An Tellerach, or something like that. Both beers were good too. We switched after the first round, then settled on Ale of Leven. A nice dog in the bar reminded us of Steamboat, my brother’s old dog and our favorite dog ever.

We were beat so we had an early night tonight. It’s a good thing our laundry has three days to dry – it’s not drying very quickly!

Day 3: Glencoe

We took the bus to Glencoe today. We saw lots of motorcycles on the road. Then we had Black Gold and a nap, then Indian food at Cafe Mango. The menu was crazy: Thai and Indian, and things sorted by sauce. Steve had me order for him. Our server teased us about taking away our starter silverware because we didn’t deserve it. Oh, and garlic naan again, now that we know it exists! We saw a guy at the restaurant roll a cigarette, then go smoke it and come back in.

Our hosts invited us to have “a dram” with them when we got back. They’re a nice couple who moved to Fort William from Manchester six years ago.

We kept running into these four Germans. At the pub, then the bus station, then we saw them again later. Steve dubbed them Dieter and the gang. And he keeps seeing that cute little bird with orange, that won’t hold still for a picture. (That we later learned is an English robin.)   

We were able to give someone directions to the Spar store. I think that means we’re locals now. It’s interesting to see signs in Gaelic, though we’re happy they translate them!

Essentials​

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Lodging

Steve and Michelle were great hosts, offering information on restaurants and walks, walking sticks and umbrellas, and even a “dram.” The room was clean, comfortable, and beautiful. Breakfast was hearty and tasty. It is a steep climb off the main road, but then most of Fort William is! The view over the loch was stunning. There was, however, a small combination lock safe in the wardrobe for securing valuables for the paranoid among like us.

Dining

The Grog & Gruel
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We drank here all three nights we were in town, and ended up having burgers (cheeseburger and wild boar) here one night. Great atmosphere, rotating selection of beer, big pile of dogs in the corner - what more could you ask for?
Crannog Seafood Restaurant
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Pricey but worth it. Best meal I had on our trip. We had grilled halibut with seafood chowder and sautéed monkfish with potato fondant and creamed leeks. Who knew leeks could be that good! Great bread too, and excellent, humorous service. We got a table without a reservation, but judging by the number of people we saw turned away, I would recommend booking ahead.
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Transportation

We were able to walk everywhere within Fort William. We took a bus to Glencoe and should have taken a bus or taxi to Ben Nevis and saved our energy for the hike!

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