local information  

Things to do & see in and around Fort William 

  

Corpach, by Fort William, Lochaber

Corpach, some 4 miles from Fort William has long been an excellent base for a holiday or short break in the Highlands of Scotland. Perhaps because some of the very best views of Ben Nevis are to be had from here it has been one base for climbing the Ben before the construction of the pony path and the establishment of the observatory on the summit in 1883. On arrival our visitors often get out of their cars and say WoW! We believe that this view of Ben Nevis and across the water to Fort William is pretty much as good as it gets.

The Caledonian Canal & Neptune’s Staircase

The village is perhaps most famous for being right at the SW end of the Caledonian Canal where the Canal enters the tidal waters of Loch Linnhe. About a mile away – in easy walking distance is” Neptune ‘s Staircase”, the biggest set of locks on the Caledonian Canal. The Canal was completed in 1822 and was conceived as a way of providing much-needed employment to the Highland region after the Highland Clearances which left many locals in poverty without job and homes.

Steam Train

The Jacobite Steam Train runs from Fort William twice a day in summer with railway enthusiasts gathering at the level crossing at Corpach and the canal bridge at Banavie These are prime spots to photograph the Jacobite (Harry Potter express) steam train on its daily journey to or from Mallaig.

History

The west coast of Scotland and the Highlands – of which Lochaber forms part -is steeped in history. The name Corpach is reputedly based on the Gaelic for “field of corpses”, so called because it was perhaps used as a resting place when taking coffins of chieftains on the way to burial on the Isle of Iona. In around 1470 The Battle of Corpach the Clan Cameron defeated the Clan MacLean.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The Road : Although a village had been based here from around 1500, – or well before –  it remained small and isolated until 1795 when the road from Fort William reached the village.  The single track road (A830) was only upgraded in the late 1970s                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The Pier at Corpach was built in 1804-6 for the ships entering the canal at Loch Linnhe. Passengers could alight here and be transported by road to Banavie for the next stage of the journey to Inverness. The four-storeyed engine house (now demolished) was later converted into accommodation for the lock-keepers and into store-rooms, before its demolition in 1968.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The Ferry : By the time the Caledonian Canal was fully opened in 1822 by Thomas Telford, there was also a ferry service linking Corpach with Fort William. From the 1850s, when larger steamers from Glasgow began to use the canal, Corpach became established as a popular resort.                                                                                                                                                                                                              The railway : The extended line from Banavie came late to Corpach with the line taking passengers from Fort William to Mallaig not operational until 1901. The rail line towards Invergarry and Fort Augustus became operational in 1903 – with the line closing in 1947.  The US Navy had a naval base at Corpach in World War 1 as base for laying mines before being shipped through to Inverness for the North Sea Barrage.

Just up the road from Corpach village (along the B8004) is the much visited Clan Cameron Museum near to Achnacarry Castle which is still the clan seat of the Clan Cameron. Allied soldiers came to Spean Bridge & Achnacarry from Canada, Netherlands, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, along with British Commandos & US Rangers to undertake Commando training during World War II as part of Churchill’s war strategy in Europe. Visit the Commando Memorial just outside Spean Bridge and find out all about the Commando history in Spean Bridge at the local museum

The West Highland Museum in Fort William has one of the finest collections of Jacobite memorabilia from the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Uprisings and much more.  A few miles away to the west along the A830 at Glenfinnan the National Trust for Scotland operate a visitor centre where the Stuart standard for “Bonnie Prince Charlie was raised in August 1745.

Just outside Fort William, alongside the River Lochy is the Old Inverlochy Castle, an ancient, classic 13th century castle. Its location right alongside the river gives the whole building an evocative feeling of times – and deeds – gone by. Two significant battles were fought outside its walls in 1431 and 1645. It also played a part in the Scottish Wars of Independence. The original Inverlochy Castle probably pre-dates the Viking raids and is one of the oldest castles in Scotland.

The Old Fort in Fort William – just opposite Morrisons Supermarket – the River Nevis used to flow into Loch Linnhe to the south of where it does now. This was an ideal defensive position which was easily accessed from the sea during the Civil War by Cromwell’s army in 1654. A wooden citadel was built on the site to help keep a grip on the Highlands. In 1690, King William 11 /111(of Orange) supported a plan to build a much more substantial fortress on the same site when the earlier wooden defences were replaced by stone walls. The village close to the fort grew in size to become known as Maryburgh (after Queen Mary, whose consort was William of Orange. The Gaelic name for Fort William is “An Gearasdan” which is translated as “The Garrison. During the Highland Clearances some 3000 local folks per week were “shipped” from the pier at Corpach to Glasgow and Liverpool to be then transported out to the Americas, Australia & New Zealand (for example: see the town of Fort William in Canada).

 Touring & Day Trips.

There is no shortage of scenery to admire from our doorstops. Boat trips on Loch Linnhe are popular or you can drive down to Arisaig or Morar and lie on brilliant white beaches …. with spectacular views out to the Small Isles or Eigg, Muck, Rum & Skye to die for. Golden eagles can often be seen from one of Jim Michie’s “Eagle Watch” cruises on Loch Sheil from Glenfinnan.

Lochaber Geopark

Lochaber Geopark is famous for its many geological features of national and international importance which are  accessible right across Lochaber from the volcanic ring dykes of Ardnamurchan, an eroded volcano on the Isle of Rum in the west, to the amazing Parallel Roads of Glen Roy in the east. Lochaber |Geopark                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “The outstanding quality of Lochaber’s Earth Heritage was officially recognised in April 2007 when Lochaber was awarded European and Global Geopark status. Lochaber Geopark left the networks in 2011 and are now in the process of reapplying” …… and is now due t0 become a UNESCO recognised geopark in 2016.

Following the Lochaber Geopark Trails is a brilliant way to get out and about & discover our ancient geological history, fiery past, fascinating& varied landscapes and wonderful wild life.

Wildlife

As a direct result of our very varied landscape and natural environments the wildlife & flora is just as varied!  Lochaber is one of the most geological and biological diverse regions in Scotland, supporting a rich fauna and flora, with many species and habitats of national and international importance. Just grab a set of binoculars a field guide and strong boots ………. and set out to explore our glens, forests, lochs, rivers & mountains & coastline.

The complex geology of Lochaber (Tertiary igneous rocks and Caledonian metamorphic and igneous rocks) results in and supports a wide range of natural environments & habitats ranging from :

  • low lying glens, hills, lowland bog, moor & heathland, oak woods along with pine and deciduous forest; not to mention machair and coastal sand dunes; salt marsh, mudflats and coastal shingle and exposed rocky shores; plus the snow retaining gullies on the high arctic summits of 4000’ mountains; a long indented coastline; plus open seas!
  • Look out for local residents & our specialities (some of which are migratory) such as buzzard, golden eagle, osprey, pine marten, red deer, badger & fox, wild cat, otter, red squirrel, mountain hare, snow buntings, ptarmigan, raven, jackdaw, hooded crow, hen harrier, kestrel, long tailed tits, gold finch, wax wing, field fare, redwing, rock pippet , a wide variety of sea birds & gulls, black throated diver, common scooter………… the list is endless!! See also in specific locations the chequered skipper butterfly and the hawker dragonfly.

Explore our wonderful coastline, islands and a marine habitat that contains whales, seals, three sorts of dolphins, basking sharks, minke whale & orca out to sea and a host of sea birds.

Eating Out

From our doorstep, a 15-minute walk along the canal bank takes you to the Moorings Hotel, patronized by the rich and famous. Mel Gibson used it during the filming of “Braveheart” and they will provide you with a pleasant bar meal or full restaurant facilities. A little nearer  along the canal bank – a 10 -15 min walk  is the excellent “Lochy Bar” which provides remarkable value tasty meals – big portions – cheap – and unpretentious. You can, of course go to these establishments by car or taxi.

Take Aways. These are well provided for in the close by village of Caol by way of both Chinese and Indian Takeaways plus Jimmie’s Award winning fish & chip shop. All of these will deliver.

Local Food Shopping                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Local supermarkets in nearby Caol and Corpach make it easy to buy essentials. There is also a large Morrisons (easy parking) and Tesco Express in Fort William

Walking, Climbing, Paddling, Biking, Sailing, Snow sports, Fishing

As well as being a convenient base for climbing Ben Nevis and the wealth of surrounding mountains, Aonach Mòr is also on hand for winter snow sports, a trip on the Nevis Range gondola to the mountain restaurant in summer or a chance to have a go on the high ropes course.

If you are of an active frame of mind there are loads of options for independent adventurous outdoor activities canoeing or kayaking (see also www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk ), mountain biking, canyoning and white water rafting.

•  Here at Snowgoose Mountain Centre we are a long established mountain guiding, canoeing, sea & river kayaking business offering adventure days or activity breaks plus giving dedicated  instruction courses , guiding & hire services at all levels.   Both John & Tina have an in-depth local knowledge with the outdoors in the area and are happy to provide advice or information if needed. Local maps & Guide Books available for hire at a nominal fee.

The traffic is light on the B8004 – the back road to Gairlochy but you can avoid it altogether and take a walk along the banks of the Caledonian Canal or the River Lochy. Keep right on to Inverness, if you like! 70 miles away on the Great Glen long distance walk and cycle way.

Corpach is an ideal base for climbing or walking on Lochaber’s hills, kayaking its magnificent rivers or skiing Aonach Mòr, a mere ten minutes’ drive away. Paragliders can use the gondola to access a high take off point in summer.  Bikes can be safely stored in our lockable bike store and a power washer is available if they need cleaning.

From the apartments, hostel & bunkhouse you can enjoy traffic free walks along the canal side starting at your front door. We have direct access to the towpaths of the scenic Caledonian Canal and the Great Glen Way. A short drive or slightly longer stroll away the banks of the River Lochy will take you to historic Tor Castle and Banquo’s Walk,

There is also a very reasonable 18-hole golf course close by in Fort William where a round costs around £25. There are several other golf course within a 1 ½ hours’ drive at Spean Bridge, and Arisaig. The Traigh links golf course at Arisaig  is the most Westerly golf course on the UK mainland with   a series of sandy beaches run alongside the course, with stunning views to the Hebridean islands of Eigg and Rum, and the Cuillins of Skye.

What’s not to do!

John & Tina Cuthbertson

January 2016