Many visitors head to Fort William to climb our highest mountain Ben Nevis. Although it’s only 1,345m (4,411 ft) high it is no easy walk in the park. Bear in mind weather conditions change quickly in the Scottish mountains. The featureless summit plateau is often shrouded in the cloud making navigating safely down tricky. Although thousands make the trek up the Pony Track every year and are rewarded by the knowledge they have climbed Britain’s tallest peak, others decide to view it from a distance.
Yet from the town itself, you can’t see most of the mountain and nothing of the summit. Some of the best views are from afar. The banks of Loch Linnhe across from the town is a good place to go. Here are my top tips (as a local) as to where to find the best viewpoint.
Ten great places to see Ben Nevis
1. Loch Linnhe at Corpach
The decaying hulk of a long-abandoned fishing boat provides photogenic foreground interest with Ben Nevis beyond. It’s an easy walk along the foreshore from either the car park at Corpach marina or Caol Village (there is parking near the shops).
2. Corpach Sea Lock
This is where boats can move through a sea lock between Loch Linnhe and the Caledonian Canal. It’s an interesting spot to go for a walk or just sit in the sunshine watching the boats manoeuvring through the lock with Ben Nevis in the background.
3. Neptune’s Staircase
Further along the Caledonian Canal from the sea lock at Corpach is the impressive flight of canal locks known as Neptune’s Staircase. Designed by one of Scotland’s greatest engineers, Thomas Telford, in the early 1800s they remain an impressive sight today. There are good views of Ben Nevis from the towpath through the trees alongside the canal. I recommend heading into the canalside cafe at the Moorings Hotel for a coffee or hot chocolate.
4. B9004 between Banavie and Gairlochy
There are plenty of places along the narrow single track B9004 where you can pull over to grab views of Ben Nevis across the Caledonian Canal and the River Lochy. Just make sure you aren’t blocking a passing place or the access to property. If you are feeling energetic you could walk the Great Glen Way that follows the canal lower down from the road.
5. The Commando Memorial
On a fine day, the view from the Commando Memorial back towards Ben Nevis is one of the best in Lochaber. The panorama takes in not only Ben Nevis but the neighbouring Ski Centre at Aonach Mor and the Grey Corries range of mountains. Even if the cloud is down, and you can’t see the view it is worth stopping here to see the statue erected in 1952. It commemorates the role this area played in the establishment, and training, of the elite commando force during World War 2.
6. The Mamores
You need to strap on your hiking boots and head up high to get superb views from any of the summits that make up the Mamores There are a variety of routes available from Glen Nevis, or the small village of Kinlochleven, but they are all for hikers with experience of walking in remote mountainous areas.
7. A861 between Achaphuibil and Treslaig
The single track A861 winds its way around Loch Linnhe across from Fort William. There is a good loop drive from Fort William. Head south from the town and take the small Corran Ferry across to Ardgour. It’s only a short crossing (less than five minutes) and the ferry runs every half hour during the day. Heading up the slipway on the other side turn right along the A861 for its entire length. The best views of Ben Nevis are along the section between Treslaig and Achaphuibil. When you reach the A830 turn right and take the short drive back to Fort William.
8. Camusnagaul Foot Ferry
If you are without a car when visiting Fort William, a good way of getting across Loch Linnhe is to take the small pedestrian ferry from the Crannog Pier. Once across the loch, you can take the walk through Crofters Woods which will take you to a great viewpoint with a bench to enjoy the view.
9. Souters Lass
This is one of my favourite trips with tour groups, or when friends come to stay. The Souters Lass leaves from the pier next to the Crannog Restuarant in Fort William. On deck provides some of the best views of Ben Nevis. There is every chance you will see some of our local wildlife as well, including dolphins, porpoises and seals. The on-board live commentary is really good at pointing out things about the landscape and natural history.
10. The Soldiers Bridge
This is a footbridge across the River Lochy, which runs alongside the railway line between Fort William and Mallaig. You might catch the Jacobite Express steam train, as it takes passengers on one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world. From here you can see the ruins of Old Inverlochy Castle with Ben Nevis towering behind. The castle ruins are worth a visit to find out about the various battles that took place close by.
If, having scouted the best places to photograph Ben Nevis you are now tempted to climb the mountain to get some up-close shots this guide from a Visit Scotland is a good place to start your planning.
This a post in the 2020 Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters series. Find out about this year-long celebration here.