The Scottish town of Fort William is located in the western Scottish Highlands – and is packed with natural, historic and interesting things to do. If you’re looking for things to do in Fort William, you can count on this guide to show you the way!
One or two days here give you just enough time to see the key Fort William attractions, and for the adventurous, there are plenty of Fort William activities to get involved with too. From the peak of lofty Ben Nevis or tumbling Steall Waterfall to exploring the West Highland Museum or taking a trip on the Jacobite steam train, time spent in this part of Scotland is time well spent.
Here are the top 15 things to see in Fort William, including places to visit near Fort William as well as in the town itself. We’ve also included a few suggestions for those seeking accommodation in Fort William. Read on so you can plan your perfect visit to the Scottish Highlands!
- 15 top things to do in Fort William
- ⛰Scale Ben Nevis
- 🔍 Wander around the West Highland Museum
- 📍 See Steall Waterfall
- 🚂 Take a trip on The Jacobite
- 📸 Discover Glenfinnan Monument, Viaduct & the Visitor Centre
- ⛰Enjoy the Nevis Range Mountain Experience
- 🚴 Get mountain biking
- 🥾 Lose yourself at the Lochaber Geopark visitor centre
- 🥾 Go to Glencoe
- 🥃 Sample a wee dram at the distillery
- 🏰 Explore historic Inverlochy Castle
- ⛪️ St Andrew’s Church
- 🚗 Follow the road to the Isles
- 📸 Marvel at Neptune’s Staircase
- 🥾 Walk the Great Glen Way
- Visiting Fort William – FAQs
- Which things will you do in Fort William?
15 top things to do in Fort William
⛰Scale Ben Nevis
Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in Great Britain – is affectionately referred to as ‘Ben’ by the locals, and scaling it is one of the key things to do around Fort William. You can follow the route from the visitor centre, and wearing sturdy, comfortable worn-in hiking boots is recommended.
Do check the weather before you set off, as it’s very changeable in this part of Scotland. It’s not advisable to take this route in winter unless you’re an experienced hiker. It can get very slippery with snow and ice, so you may also need specialist equipment. If in doubt, check with the staff at the visitor centre.
🔍 Wander around the West Highland Museum
The West Highland Museum is close to the main high street and is one of those ideal things to do in Fort William in the rain or when it’s freezing cold. There are exhibits relating to local and national history, mountaineering, nature, archaeology and even fashion.
The museum on Cameron Square has eight rooms housing a wide variety of objects including coins, costumes, medals, bagpipes and even treasure from a Spanish galleon shipwreck.
📍 See Steall Waterfall
For a less challenging climb than Ben Nevis, visitors can take the path to Steall Waterfall – it’s another of those Fort William tourist attractions that’s a must for many visitors. The path is rocky and steep in places, however, so again you’ll need the right footwear. On a sunny day, packing a picnic to eat while the water tumbles makes for a lovely experience.
This is also one of the best things to do in Fort William with a dog or with kids, though the rope bridge to the falls may prove a challenge too far for shorter folk as well as canines.
🚂 Take a trip on The Jacobite
Not many people can resist a steam train, and The Jacobite is often regarded as the most scenic in the British Isles. Taking a trip on it is an essential experience among activities near Fort William – especially for fans of a certain boy wizard.
The Jacobite whisks visitors northwards to Mallaig, and each way it’s a trip of just over forty miles. You’ll have no trouble in recognising the 21 arch Glenfinnan viaduct from the movies, and where possible the train driver will stop so you can get a better look – and capture it on camera for posterity.
📸 Discover Glenfinnan Monument, Viaduct & the Visitor Centre
Taking a ride on The Jacobite steam train isn’t the only way to discover Glenfinnan, and there is more to the area than its famous film star of a viaduct. The Glenfinnan monument dates back to 1815, and stands as a tribute to those who died defending the Stuarts during the Jacobite Rising (or Rebellion) of 1745.
You can take a walk to the top of the monument here to see sweeping mountain views towards Loch Shiel, or simply gaze at the 18 metre high Highlander clad in a traditional Scottish kilt. To find out more, pop into the Visitor Centre, which tells the tale of the last-ditch attempt to regain the throne for the Stuarts.
The Glenfinnan viaduct is also a magnificent sight, and keen Harry Potter fans may also spot the island that was used during the Triwizard tournament in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
⛰Enjoy the Nevis Range Mountain Experience
Taking a steep uphill hike isn’t the only way to experience the mighty Ben Nevis. You can also take a cable car ride on the Doppelmayr Gondola system, which comprises six covered cabins offering panoramic views as you traverse the Scottish skies.
As the sole mountain gondola system in the UK, the scenic Nevis Range cable car system is one of the most popular attractions near Fort William.
🚴 Get mountain biking
According to Visit Scotland, Fort William is the UK’s outdoor capital, and there are other adventures to be had in the area besides climbing Britain’s highest peak or trekking to Steall Waterfall. A round of the UC Mountain Bike World Cup is held here during June, so keen cyclists won’t want to miss the chance to explore the trails for themselves.
The Nevis Range course is probably the most popular, though it takes a little longer to descend on two wheels than by cable car. World-class riders, however, can travel downhill here in as little as five minutes!
🥾 Lose yourself at the Lochaber Geopark visitor centre
The Lochaber Geopark visitor centre on the high street is one of the best places to visit in Fort William during inclement weather – or even on a fine day. There are plenty of interactive experiences for kids to get involved in too. You can even stock up on Oban Chocolate Company goodies at the on site shop.
There are mineral and rock specimens for would-be geologists to examine and you can even plan your own route through Lochaber if you’re planning to head out of town to explore the local landscape.
🥾 Go to Glencoe
Glencoe is nestled in a valley in the western Scottish Highlands, and is an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place. It’s known for wildlife such as golden eagles and red deer, and the thatched cottages dating from the 1700s that house the Glencoe Folk Museum. Here you can learn all about local history, as well as the bloodbath that was the 1692 Glencoe massacre.
Glencoe is also located within the Lochaber Geopark, an area formed by volcanic eruptions and flowing glaciers that were present here during times long past. The village is situated in a stunning location between the mouth of the glen and the glistening waters of Loch Leven, and the area has been seen in movies like Skyfall from the James Bond franchise.
According to season, you can also ski, snowboard or follow the mountain biking trails of the area while in Glen Coe.
🥃 Sample a wee dram at the distillery
The Ben Nevis distillery can be found in the foothills of the mountain and is the perfect place to sample a wee dram of Scotch whisky. Operating for over two centuries, the distillery has had plenty of time to perfect the peaty flavour of its spirit.
Tours typically run hourly from 10am to 3pm and the distillery is open during weekdays all year round, as well as at weekends in June, July and August. If you want to see how whisky is produced, there’s no more picturesque setting in which to do so. Sampling a snifter is of course practically obligatory.
🏰 Explore historic Inverlochy Castle
The ruins of ancient Inverlochy Castle are one of the best free Fort William places to visit, and the signage dotted around the site explains the history very well. This historic structure dates back to the 13th century, and it’s an atmospheric place to be.
The setting by the river is also very pretty, so you could take a picnic along on a summer’s day, giving you a reason to linger for a little while longer.
⛪️ St Andrew’s Church
St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and the diagonal white cross on a blue background decorating the saltire is his flag – so what more fitting Scottish church could there be to discover than St Andrew’s on Fort William high street?
This Scottish Episcopal Church dates back to the early nineteenth century and has a pleasant garden in addition to the graveyard lined with ancient headstones. Inside, the stained glass windows, sizable organ and attractive altar are particularly appealing. Add it to your Fort William to do list if you like exploring architectural sites.
🚗 Follow the road to the Isles
Whether taken as a day trip from town or as part of your overall Scotland itinerary, some of the best places to visit around Fort William can be found along the route between the Highlands and the islands.
The route from Fort William to Mallaig is approximately 50 miles long and is best taken at a slow, steady place so you can take in all that breathtaking Scottish scenery. From wildflower-filled meadows or heather-clad hills to rugged, rocky shorelines and deserted beaches, the road to the Isle of Skye is packed with glimmering lochs, jagged mountain peaks and stunning shoreline.
📸 Marvel at Neptune’s Staircase
Neptune’s Staircase can be found on the Caledonian Canal, and with eight locks it is the longest of its type in the British Isles. It was built by Thomas Telford, a prominent Scottish architect who built bridges all over the country. Telford in Shropshire, England was also named after him. Though the lock system is now hydraulic, it was once operated solely by hand.
The canal and its lock system can be found in Banavie near Fort William. It’s also one of the closest villages to Ben Nevis. The location is not only famous for Neptune’s Staircase, but also for its railway station located on the scenic West Highland Line and the fact that it may have been the birthplace of St Patrick.
🥾 Walk the Great Glen Way
Another option for outdoor adventurers visiting Fort William exists in the form of the Great Glen Way, a challenging hiking route connecting the town to Inverness. The 73 mile stretch actually follows a natural fault line between the east and west coasts of Scotland.
Sights to see en route include Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase, Lochs Oich, Lochy and Ness and the forests that surround the latter body of water. Don’t forget to look out for Nessie as you pass by!
Visiting Fort William – FAQs
🏨 Where to stay in Fort William
- 4 stars
- 5 minutes’ drive from town
The modern Clan MacDuff hotel enjoys a very picturesque setting indeed on the banks of Loch Linnie. Fort William town centre is just five minutes away by car and the property offers free parking, so it’s ideal for those driving through the Scottish Highlands.
The hotel has a restaurant serving authentic local cuisine and a lounge bar serving more than 50 varieties of Scotch whisky. There is also free WiFi throughout, loch views from selected rooms and all en-suite accommodation comes equipped with a flatscreen TV.
- 4 stars
- On Fort William high street
If you’d like to be located in the heart of town, then there’s no better place to stay in Fort Willian than at The Garrison. The hotel also offers free guest parking, and is a contemporary style property with a bar. Breakfast is also available daily.
Other amenities include a 24-hour reception, luggage storage and a range of room types including family rooms, budget backpacker accommodation and rooms with disabled access. Decorated in a soothing coastal style, The Garrison makes the ideal bolthole after a busy day of discovering the Scottish Highlands.
- 4 stars
- 10 minutes walk from town
A 10 minute stroll from the Nevis Bank Inn will take you into central Fort William. This elegant property features luxurious fabrics, rich woods and modern amenities, and makes a great place to stay in Fort William.
Located on the banks of the River Nevis, one of the highlights of this hotel in Fort William is Brown’s restaurant and bar, a smart eatery serving delicious dishes made from local produce plus a fabulous range of whiskies, fine wines and real ales. Glorious walking routes can be accessed from right outside the hotel too.
- 4 stars
- 10 minutes drive from Fort William
Although Moorings Hotel is a 10 minute drive from Fort William, the beautiful setting by Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal make it worth venturing a little further out of town.
Moorings Hotel near Fort William has 32 rooms, including twins, doubles and family rooms. Some offer views over the canal, Ben Nevis or Aonach Mor. All accommodation is spacious with a lounge area, and the property has a gym, cafe bistro with outdoor deck and a guest car park.
- 3 stars
- 5 minutes walk from town
The Cruachan Hotel offers elegant accommodation with a subtle Scottish theme, and is positioned by a beach on the shores of Loch Linnie. There are views over the water or the Morvern Hills from some accommodation at this Fort William bed and breakfast property.
The hotel has a bar and restaurant with an outdoor terrace, and is just one minute’s walk from the shores of the loch. With WiFi throughout and satellite TVs in all rooms, there’s enough entertainment on offer should you tire of the fabulous views. You can also walk into central Fort William in a matter of minutes.
- 2 miles from Fort William High Street (20 minute walk/3 min by car)
Located a short walk or car ride outside of the centre of town is the Victoria House B&B. Accommodation offers free WiFi, private parking plus access to a hot tub.
Rooms have a private bathroom, shower, flat screen TV plus microave, frideg, toaster, a kettle and coffee machine. A full English breakfast is included in the rate.
🍴 Where to eat in Fort William
Our recommendations from a local for the best places to eat in Fort William include
⭐️ Garrison West – 6 Cameron Square, FW, PH33 6AJ
⭐️ Crannog Seafood Restaurant – Town Centre Pier PH33 6DB
⭐️ Inverlochy Castle Hotel Restaurant
⭐️ Lime Tree – Achintore Road PH33 6RQ
⭐️ Glen Nevis Restaurant and Bar – PH33 6SX
⭐️ Black Isle Bar Fort William – craft beers, organic whisky, pizzas and salads ++
⭐️ Nevis Bakery – fabulous sandwiches
🛍 Where to shop in Fort William
Looking for souvenirs from your visit to Fort William? Pop into the Granite House in Fort William – they have a wide selection of fantastic souvenirs for sale!
There is also an excellent selection of supermarkets in Fort William including a large Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, M&S Food, Co-Op and Tesco.
Which things will you do in Fort William?
We hope this list of the best things to do in Fort William helps to inspire your travels in Scotland. With some of the most stunning scenery to be found in the British Isles, this area is not one to miss.
Whether you prefer the relaxed pace of Fort William sightseeing, want to take part in something more challenging, or would love to see how Scotch whisky is made, there are things to do in and around Fort William that will suit every kind of traveller down to the ground.
More to read about visiting Scotland