The best things to do in Fort William

Written by Chris Thornton | 28th of September 2023
Things to do in Fort William

Fort William in the West Highlands of Scotland must be high on the list for Scotland's capital of the outdoors, with hiking, cycling, watersports, snowsports and three golf courses!

My wife and I honeymooned in Fort William way back in 2009; we fell in love with the area and everything it had to offer. The landscape is some of the most dramatic in Scotland, and there is so much to see and do in and around this lovely Highland town.

Here are the best things to do in the Fort William and Lochaber area.

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK, near Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. It's a popular destination for hikers and climbers, offering challenging terrains and panoramic views of the surrounding area. The mountain is also interesting to geologists due to its unique rock formations.

At its base is the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, which provides information about the mountain and the local environment. Even though Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain, it is not too difficult to walk to the top via the most accessible route; however, you will require good fitness and proper footwear.

Ben Nevis Visitor Centre on Google Maps

Ben Nevis.
Ben Nevis near Fort William.

Steall Falls

Steall Falls is one of my favourite places in Scotland. Last year, I visited with my wife and was blown away by the walk, which culminates at Scotland's second-highest waterfall.

Glen Nevis car park is available near the start of the trail, which takes you past many smaller waterfalls crashing down into the Nevis Valley below. The route opens up into a larger meadow near the main waterfall, which is only accessible by crossing a wire bridge. Not for the faint-hearted, but it's worth crossing to reach the foot of one of the most impressive waterfalls in Scotland.

If you do one hike near Fort William, it should be this one: Steall Falls is one of the most impressive locations I've been to in all of Scotland.

Route length: 2.25 miles.

Steall Falls on Google Maps

Steall Falls.
Steall Falls is one of my favourite places in Scotland.

Jacobite Steam Train

This steam train from Fort William to Mallaig is a brilliant activity in Fort William. Made famous as the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films, it even crosses film locations from the movie, including the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The train ride feels like a step back in time and takes in the fantastic scenery of the West Highlands, including Loch Eil, Loch Shiel and Loch Morar - the deepest freshwater loch in Britain. A trip on the Jacobite Steam Train is highly recommended, even if you are not a Harry Potter fan.

Jacobite Steam Train on Google Maps

The Jacobite Train on the West Highland Line.
The Jacobite Train.

West Highland Museum

Founded in 1922, the West Highland Museum is among the oldest in the Scottish Highlands. The museum contains a range of subjects from Scottish history, from archaeology to the Industrial Revolution, but primarily focuses on the Jacobite risings in the 1700s. One of the most interesting artefacts is a silk waistcoat, once owned by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie).

This museum can be found in central Fort William and is free to visit.

West Highland Museum on Google Maps

Fort William High Street

The main shopping high street in Fort William has a lot to offer, from supermarkets, outdoor clothing shops and tourist information centres to some of the best restaurants on the West Coast.

For a good meal, check out:

  1. The Geographer

  2. The Silly Goose at The Lime Tree

  3. Crannog Seafood Restaurant

  4. Garrison West

  5. The Grog & Gruel

St Andrews Cathedral can also be accessed from the High Street; this Scottish Episcopal Church has a lovely interior and many ancient headstones within its graveyard.

Explore Fort William High Street.
Fort William High Street.

Ben Nevis Distillery

Since 1825, Ben Nevis Distillery has produced its distinct brand of Scottish Whisky with water sourced from the peaks of Scotland's tallest mountains.

Visitors can reserve a premium tasting session, savouring the distinct Scotch flavours of Ben Nevis. Its location offers the added bonus of splendid views of the imposing Ben Nevis Mountain in the backdrop.

Don't miss this authentic slice of highland heritage; make sure you plan a visit to the distillery while in Fort William.

Ben Nevis Distillery on Google Maps

Ben Nevis Distillery.
Ben Nevis Distillery.

Boat Trips - Cruise Loch Linnhe

Sail upon the pristine waters of Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil, discovering Fort William from a refreshing vantage point. Keep an eye out for sealsotters, and a myriad of marine life that call these waters home.

Cruise Loch Linnhe offers a boat trip out onto the waters west of Fort William. The cruises offered are:

Cruise Loch Linnhe on Google Maps

Highland Bookshop

A paradise for readers! Dive deep into collections featuring local authors, uncovering the literary heart of the Highlands, or pick up an international bestseller for the next leg of your journey. Highland Bookshop can be found on 60 High Street.

Highland Bookshop on Google Maps
What3words: ///myself.gossiping.shaky

Neptune's Staircase

A marvel of engineering set against Scotland's natural beauty. This series of eight locks is a testament to human ingenuity, with boats gracefully navigating its intricate system along the Caledonian Canal.

Built by famous engineering genius Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822, Neptune's staircase is the longest staircase lock in Scotland and the wider UK. A walk quayside makes for a lovely day out.

Neptune's Staircase on Google Maps

Neptune's Staircase. Fort William activities.

Old Inverlochy Castle

Old Inverlochy Castle, found on the south bank of River Lochy in central Fort William, is a fantastic castle ruin for history enthusiasts. This ruin is a classic castle design with four turrets with connecting walls; it's possible to explore the interior and walk through to the river behind.

The Comyn family built the castle in the 1270s and has links to Robert the Bruce after he captured it in 1307. Be aware that "Old Inverlochy Castle" is different from "Inverlochy Castle", a very high-end hotel on the outskirts of the town.

Entry is free and open at all times of the year unless closed for repair work.

Old Inverlochy Castle on Google Maps

Old Inverlochy Castle tower ruin.
Old Inverlochy Castle.

Highland Soap Company Visitor Centre

Sharing a car park with Old Inverlochy Castle is the Highland Soap Company. This family-owned business makes some of the nicest soaps and hand creams I've tried anywhere. I highly recommend the bog myrtle hand lotion.

This large headquarters has a selection of soaps you can try at their customer sink and even offers soap-making courses. The visitor centre also includes the lovely Larder Cafe with great coffee.

Highland Soap Company on Google Maps

Highland Soap Company
Highland Soap Company.

Treasures of the Earth

Delve deep into Earth's wonders in this awe-inspiring exhibit on the north side of Fort William. Housed within a series of ancient caverns, the collection boasts an exquisite array of crystals, gleaming gemstones, and fossils that trace back millions of years, making it a must-visit for geology enthusiasts and curious minds alike.

Treasures of the Earth on Google Maps

Gemstones at Treasures of the Earth.
One of the displays at Treasures of the Earth.

Golfing near Fort William

The perfect juxtaposition of sport and nature. Take a swing amidst the rolling green with Ben Nevis as your backdrop. Three courses are available in the Fort William vicinity:

  1. Fort William Golf Club - 18 holes.

  2. Woodlands Glencoe - 9 holes.

  3. Spean Bridge Golf Club - 9 holes.

Visit Dumbledore's Grave

Another Harry Potter filming location can be found west of Fort William, at Loch Eilt. The island, which contains the fictional Grave of Dumbledore, can be seen a short distance from the A830 on the west side of the loch.

There are no facilities, information boards, or anything related to the film here, but it's great to see the famous film location in real life. The island can also be spotted from the Jacobite Steam Train.

Dumbledore's Grave on Google Maps

Loch Eilt, Dumbledore's Grave.
This small island on Loch Eilt was used as a filming location for Dumbledore's White Tomb.

Nevis Range Mountain Experience

Fort William is one of the best places in the UK for Snowsports, with the Nevis Range overlooking the town. The winter season runs between late December and the end of March and offers skiing and snowboarding.

If you aren't an adrenaline junkie, you can still ride the mountain gondola system to the top of the range, take in the stunning view and then head back down. Just riding the gondola is a lot of fun and great for small kids.

Nevis Range on Google Maps

Nevis Range Mountain
My wife Janette at the top of Nevis Range.
Nevis Range Gondola.
Nevis Range gondola.

Lochaber Geopark

Lochaber Geopark is an expansive outdoor playground in the west of Scotland. Celebrated for its unparalleled geological legacy, Lochaber Geopark offers a journey through time. Traverse towering mountains, serene lochs, winding rivers, rugged coasts, majestic cliffs, and pristine sandy shores.

Keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that calls it home and delve into the millennia-long narrative of how these landscapes came to be. Geotours are a fantastic way to learn about some of the most interesting areas of the park.

Lochaber Geopark Website

Red Squirrel Lochaber.
A squirrel within Lochaber Geopark.

Spean Bridge Commando Memorial

This memorial is dedicated to the commando's contribution and sacrifice in World War 2. The commando training ground was at Achnacarry, a short distance from the memorial location. The site's main feature is an impressive bronze statue standing 17ft tall, commemorating 1700 commandos who died and many more who were wounded.

Located about 15 minutes from Fort William in Spean Bridge, the Spean Bridge Commando Memorial is a touching place to visit with panoramic mountain views.

Spean Bridge Commando Memorial on Google Maps

Spean Bridge Commando Memorial.
The bronze commando sculpture at Spean Bridge.

FAQs on things to do in Fort William

Here are a few frequently asked questions on things to do in Fort William:

How do I spend a day in Fort William?

It depends on what you like; there is no end of walking trails, hill climbing, and outdoor activities.

I would check out the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, then perhaps Old Inverlochy Castle, then Highland Soap Company.

Which is nicer, Oban or Fort William?

Oban is the more picturesque town, but Fort William is more functional. There are more places to stay and more activities in Fort William.

Why do tourists visit Fort William?

Fort William is known as the outdoor capital of the Highlands, so most people come for mountain climbing (Ben Nevis), mountain biking (Great Glen Way), hillside trails and the scenic walk to Steall Falls. The winter season also has a popular snowsports scene at Nevis Range.

Ben Nevis mountain range.
The mountains near Fort William are breathtaking.

How many days do I need at Fort William?

Three days is recommended for sightseeing around Fort William if you have your own transport.

What is there to do between Fort William and Oban?

Here are a few suggestions:

Is Fort William, Scotland, worth visiting?

It really is; Fort William is the ideal base for exploring the west of Scotland. There is so much to see and do in the area, especially if you love outdoor activities. We visited Fort William last year and loved visiting Old Inverlochy Castle and Steall Falls.

What is Fort William Scotland known for?

Fort William is known for its hillwalking and mountain climbing due to it being located at the foot of the largest mountain in Britain - Ben Nevis.

Key information on things to do in Fort William

  • The Scottish town of Fort William is found on the west coast of Scotland.

  • Fort William has much to offer tourists, mainly outdoor activities, but there are lovely shops, restaurants and museums here too.

  • Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom, is a short drive from Fort William.

  • Steall Falls is my favourite place to visit near Fort William.

  • Fort William High Street has many lovely shops and restaurants.

  • Snowsports are available depending on snowfall in the winter season.

Loch Linnhe.
Loch Linnhe Picnic Area.


Fort William should be high on your list of places to visit if you are an "outdoorsy" person looking for activities in the Scottish Highlands. The hiking, cycling and watersports opportunities are second to none. There's plenty for the less adventurous, with museums, castles, train rides and lovely shops.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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