A lot of the time in our blogs, we talk about ‘exploring the Scottish Highlands’. But what we fail to mention is that the Scottish Highlands are big. Like, really big. Covering nearly 10,000 square miles of northern Scotland, this is an area of the British Isles that is home to a number of ancient castles, bustling towns, and incredible scenery. So let’s be a little more specific.
Fort William, for instance! This is one of the most popular places to visit in the Scottish Highlands, and with so many landmarks and activities to be found nearby, it makes a great base town for the Highlands part of your motorhome hire holiday. In this blog, we’re going to offer you a full guide to the town and what you can get up to while you’re here. So let’s get started!
Fort William: A History
Fort William is the second largest settlement in the Highlands, located in Lochaber on the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe.
It began as a simple Cromwellian wooden fort, built in 1654 to act as a base point for the New Model Army. After the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the fort was named after William of Orange – who ascended the English throne as William III – and it provided protection for Cameron settlements during the Jacobite risings of 1688.
During this time, settlements began building around the fort, creating a town that would steadily grow in size and popularity over the next few centuries. Today, Fort William has a population of around 10,500, and it is one of the most visited locations in all of the Scottish Highlands.
A Day in Fort William
In 2024, Fort William is widely recognised as the ‘outdoor capital of the UK’, and that’s due to the sheer number of things you can do there. Keeping it in the town itself, one of the first things you should do is visit Old Inverlochy Castle. This is a castle located one mile away from the centre of Fort William, built by the Red Comyns all the way back in the 1200s.
For the history buffs amongst you, this is one of the most unusual castles you can visit in Scotland, as it has remained completely unaltered since its conception during the reign of King Alexander III. If you are travelling to the castle in one of our vehicles, the ruins are located near the Highland Soap Company Visitor Centre, which serves as a good place to park while you walk around the castle and take it all in.
Other things you can get up to in town include the West Highland Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the lives of the old Scottish clans, and is known for its incredible Jacobite exhibits. It’s a fairly small museum – you can get around it in just over an hour – but it’s so worth it if you want to know more about the town you’re exploring and the fascinating history of its inception.
Other Activities in Fort William
Near Fort William, there’s also the magnificent Ben Nevis. This is the UK’s most iconic peak, rising into the sky at 1,345 metres above sea level. According to recent statistics, around 150,000 people climb to the peak every year, but even if you don’t fancy breaking a sweat, there are plenty of hiking trails around the mountain that can offer you some stunning landscape views.
As well as this, near the mountain is Britain’s most westerly railway station, where you can hop onto the gorgeous Jacobite train. If you’ve ever watched Harry Potter, you’ll recognise this train as inspiration for the Hogwarts Express, and some of its routes are even shown in the movies themselves! Even if you’re not a Potter fan, however, riding the train is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed while you’re in the area.
If trains and mountains aren’t for you, there are plenty of other activities to sink your teeth into. These include a Loch Linnhe cruise, a visit to the Ben Nevis Distillery, climbing Neptune’s Staircase, exploring the Steall Falls, and – one of our favourites – popping into the classic Highland Bookshop, which is located on 60 High Street.
Fort William: A 2024 Must Visit
We know a lot about Scotland, so it should give you confidence when we say that Fort William is an absolute must-visit. Even if you’ve only planned for a two-week holiday, and you’re trying to decide between east and west Scotland, this is a beautiful town that could easily tip the scales in a westerly direction – so long as you’re happy missing out on Falkirk, Perth, and Stirling, although we’d suggest making your holiday a little longer! No matter what you’re into, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in and around Fort William, making it a perfect motorhome destination for the whole family.