Wednesday 25 May 2011


Breathtaking scenery. Tropical weather. Different cultures. Copious amounts of food and drink. Everything you could ask for from a break away. But when you stay in Scotland, the tropical weather is more reminiscent of a tropical rainstorm opposed to blistering blue skies. And this was no different. Welcome to Fort William at the end of May.

Day 1

I did joke with Dad earlier on that if the weather is bad, this is pretty much going to be three days sitting in the pub. The 5-day forecasts weren't helping but we were still holding out a bit of hope [because we all know, forecasts are slightly unreliable]. Imagine the despair, when it was the rain battering off my window that woke me up on Monday morning. This was going to be a long three days. The plan was to get to Glasgow early, take time over breakfast then be in Queen Street in time for the northbound train. What happened next was basically the prerequisite for the rest of the holiday - the Gourock to Glasgow trains were off. In true Scotrail fashion, they resumed quicker than expected with no explanation and we eventually found ourselves in Glasgow with some time for fuel at the Counting House.

Even more surprisingly, the 09:07 Fort William train was on time and it was time for Dad to experience the sights of the West Highland Line.

Once we had passed the build up areas of Dumbarton and Helensburgh, the day was looking up. There were some blue patches around about the Arrochar - Crianlarich areas but this was short lived. The clouds came right down and the downpour pretty much stayed constant until Tuesday with it getting worse the further north we travelled.

We arrived in fort William just after lunch and to escape the weather we darted into the first pub we could.

Through the door, we were confronted with clouds of smoke. It turns out, the open coal fire was on full burn to counteract the weather; and it was good. The rest of the day continued to be pretty much of a wash out and a lot of time was spent in the hotel and it's bar. We were seven days off June, and this video from About Lochaber pretty much sums it up.

It was proper blowing a gale, and to compound matters even worse, Fort William was hit with a town wide power cut just as we finished our tea.

Day 2

Tuesday was to be one of the main events of the few days away. The tickets were booked and collected to travel on the Scotrail service to Mallaig and finish off the full West Highland Line route. This was scrapped beyond our control before I even got out of my bed. The radio was reporting major train disruption across the whole network, specifically naming the Mallaig service as one that was indefinitely cancelled. This break was getting better by the minute. Not to be too despondent, we wandered though the high street and noticed the Jacobite steam train was sitting in the station. We might be able to salvage some kind of photograph from the holiday.

A few snaps from Dad later and it was time for lunch. We decided to head back to the hotel and sample their snack menu to leave room for a big tea.

Numerous hotel bar hours later, and we began to get more hope. The dry spells were becoming more frequent so we decided to jump into full tourist mode. Banavie was the destination in the hope to see the the Neptune's Staircase section of the Caledonian Canal.

It was quite an impressive sight but due to the weather there were no boats about and none of the locks were in operation. To compound things, just as we got to the top of the locks, we got a day's rain in 5 minutes only to brighten up again after we were suitably drenched. The word scunnered came to mind but this was short lived as Banavie provided us with a nice surprise.

Ben Nevis is the biggest mountain in the UK. Being so, you would think that you would get some kind of view of it from the town that sits at it's base. This is not the case. The summit of Cow Hill, obscures any view of Nevis range from Fort William town centre. But not from Banavie. From here, you are afforded unparalleled views of the range.

The weather wasn't ideal but it allowed Dad to see how quickly the weather can change up a height. One minute there was not bad visibility and the next, you couldn't even tell there was anything there.

Day 3

The original plan for Wednesday was to get brekkie, check out of the hotel and head round to Nevis Range and take the Gondola up to the 650m top station to let Dad get a sample of what it's like to be up a height. That plan got scrapped on Tuesday. After the train cancellations and the changeable weather, we decided to head down the road on the earlier train.

So that was that and we were in Fort William station waiting on the 11:40 Glasgow Queen Street service. however, all was not lost. The return journey down the road had slightly more visibility than Monday's journey up. As well as getting good scenery, this was quite beneficial as seeing the areas on the line helps plan a few of the future hill walks I intend to do on public transport.

2011-05-23 - Fort William (Day 1)
2011-05-24 - Fort William (Day 2)
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  1. Apart from the horrendious weather, the 3 day break was good. Nice hotel, good food and great to have Jonathan with me. Managed to get some good photos,even although the weather was poor.

  2. Hope weather bit better when we're up there in July.Glad you had good time despite the elements. Big S.

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