There are lots of opportunities for families to get out together and enjoy the great outdoors of Lochaber whilst you are visiting the Fort William area – both on the water and on the mountains.
Be safe, but equally don’t under-estimate what you and your family can do – parents are amazingly often surprised at the outdoor skills their kids already have. As with any sport, a little bit of technique goes a long way, so John can provide not just all the kit you need, but also some instruction to get you started – or a guide for the day to take you to the best places and make sure you are safe while you are out. Over the coming months we’ll publish more details on some great spots to go to for a range of skill levels but here’s some ideas for family adventures…
Our sea and freshwater lochs, and our rivers, are a great way for a family group to not just get off the beaten track, but to get to places where there aren’t even tracks. If you’ve not tried a paddle sport before then canoeing is sitting or kneeling in an open “Canadian” style boat and you use a single bladed paddle on one side at a time. When kayaking you’re sat, usually much lower in the water, in a closed cockpit boat with a double bladed paddle. Sea & river kayaks come with fitted spray decks to keep the water out. There’s a range of different kayaks available depending on what you’re doing. Sea-kayaks can be a little rocky when you’re not moving but once you’ve got a bit of momentum they become much more stable and require much less effort to keep going in a straight line. If you’re on the river you need something much more manoeuvrable. If you are a seasoned paddler with plenty of previous experience we can hire open canoes, sea and river kayaks as well as full camping gear.
So where to go?
Loch Linnhe. It’s right on our doorstep and a great beginners paddle in an open canoe or sea-kayak for half a day over to the islands which you can see on the other side of the loch from the Snowgoose Apartments at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal. There’s often seals around and we’ve even seen the occasional sea-otter and osprey.
Loch Lochy. A lovely little paddle from the bottom of the River Arkaig along the loch-side (and we’ll tell you a wee secret to look out for – can’t put it on our website I’m afraid). By the time you’ve got back to the river your skills should have improved enough to have a play in the rapids at the bottom of the river – and if not, it’s only a short swim back to the van!
Loch Sheil at Glenfinnan. A bit of local history here, it’s the place where “Bonnie” Prince Charlie raised his standard at the beginning of the 1745 rebellion. There’s also great views of the famous viaduct that featured in the Harry Potter films and you can paddle down to the foundations of Hogwarts itself (minus the CGI castle).
Sea kayaking on the Moidart & Arisaig coast with views of the Inner Hebrides. We know lots of beautiful spots to launch a boat and explore some the skerries and islands, and you never know when there might be porpoise or dolphin around.
Canadian canoeing on the Caledonian Canal. Look out for future articles on this popular multi-day expedition but there are several options for families to paddle shorter stretches for a one day expedition – say from Banavie at the top of Neptune’s Staircase to Gairlochy at the south end of Loch Lochy with a shuttle back from there – a great day out for the family.
Again, right on our doorstep, you can get out on Loch Linnhe to feel the wind in your hair. If you’ve never sailed before John will happily show you the ropes (well not the ropes – there’s only sheets and lines on a boat, no ropes!) or if you can already sail you can hire a dingy for the day.
You might notice when you visit the Highlands, there’s a lot of rocks about! Where there’s lots of rocks there also tend to be lots of crag rats (AKA climbers). Fancy joining them?
Polldubh in Glen Nevis. On the banks of the River Nevis and the flanks of Ben Nevis (we don’t waste a good name when we find one in the Highlands!) there is a range of different grades of single and multi-pitch climbs and some bouldering. A great place to learn how to climb safely on some real rock!
The Northface of the Ben. If you have some experience of climbing there are some accessible climbs and scrambles that might suit an older family looking for some real adventure.
Why not hire a bike? Whilst the World Cup Mountain Bike course might be little beyond most families there’s lots of other, more sedate (and some not quite so sedate) tracks at the Witches Trails at Nevis Range. There’s also plenty of other places to visit by bike:
The Caledonian Canal. There’s tracks all the way to Inverness along the reaches and lochs that make up the Caledonian Canal. How far can you get by lunchtime? Corpach to Gairlochy at the south end of Loch Lochy and back is easily achievable.
Really for the more experienced mountain biker but the Laggan Wolftrax on Speyside are only an hour away by car and there are some easier trails if the not-so-daredevils in the family want to do their own thing.
There’s plenty of munroes to be “bagged” in Lochaber including… you know… what’s it called?… that big one, over there with the snow on top… it’ll come back to me…
But there’s also plenty of lower level walks more suitable for a family:
Under the Glenfinnan Viaduct and beyond. If want to learn more about the Jaobite Rebellion you can pair this walk with a look in at the National Trust for Scotland visitor centre in Glenfinnan, otherwise park your car on the west side of the river. The walk takes you under the viaduct and as far up the glen itself as you would care to wander.
Steall Falls from the top car park in Glen Nevis. Directions are simple, find Glen Nevis, drive until you can’t drive any more, park car and keep walking in the same direction. Stop when you come to the meadow with the big waterfall. Dare you cross the wire-rope bridge?
Glen Suilaig from Fassfern on Loch Eil side. See if you can find (but please don’t pick!) a white briar rose – symbol of the Jacobite cause and picked (naughty boy!) by Prince Charles Edward Stewart at this very same spot on his first night on the Scottish mainland after raising his standard at Glenfinnan.
The “Parallel Roads” of Glenroy. Actually ancient shorelines of a glacial lake that repeatedly changed it’s level during the last ice age. Educational as well a beautiful.
…Ben Nevis… I knew it’d come back to me!
Have an adventure, but please be safe!
As with any outdoor activities in the Highlands, safety comes first. Make sure you have warm and waterproof clothing in case the weather changes – this is the Highlands so have sunblock as well – it’s not uncommon to need both in one day. Have a map and a compass and know how to use them. Take more than enough food and especially water. Oh, and some midge spray might not go amiss!
Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to get back… and please do tell them when you do get back, there’s few things worse than been dragged out of your warm bed by a cold, damp member of the local mountain rescue to explain that you’ve been in the pub for the last few hours.
If you’re trying something new, it’s far safer, and much less frustrating, if you get some instruction first to learn a few techniques that will get you going. If we’ve whetted your appetite for adventure, please get in touch: www.highlandactivitybreaks.co.uk/booking-and-enquiries/