Fort William is nestled in at the foot of Ben Nevis; Scotland and Britain’s highest peak. Naturally, climbers and walkers flock here from the world over. The area around Fort William is rightly famed for its outdoor pursuits and local road signs proclaim the legend “Lochaber, outdoor capital of the UK”. In the past fifteen years a new breed of ‘outdoors-type’ has started to occupy this small highland town….mountain bikers. See: Bike Nevis Range
The rugged landscape, spectacular hills and mountains lend themselves perfectly to their sport. The Lochaber area has at least 30 recognised trails catering for beginners, intermediate and advanced bikers.
Fort William is host to the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup and the attendances grow year on year. This is not surprising when the professionals can make the 2,150 foot descent in just 4 minutes. The event is extreme and extremely exciting. Competitors take advantage of the ‘gondolas’ – cable cars at the Nevis Range skiing centre and careen down several different courses. Outside of competitions the three trails can be used by the public, though the Black Run is best left to the experts. The cable cars run most of the year too allowing for an unusual journey up Aonach Mor. We would recommend checking in advance if the cars are running outside high season.
During the competition, usually held in the first week of June; associated attractions such as a film festival and live music performances can be enjoyed at The Nevis Range and in Fort William. If you require somewhere to stay please visit: Fort William Bed and Breakfast
The Nevis Range at Aonach Mor operates as a ski centre in the winter and has a high wire climbing attraction at the foot of the mountain bike course. Those seeking more sedate activities can opt to take in the nearby Crofting museum.
Of course not all biking needs to be fast and furious and the nearby Caledonian Canal caters for those of us with less extreme appetites. The canal runs from Corpach ( approx 3 miles from Fort William) to the Beauly Firth in the east taking in Fort Augustus and Loch Ness. The ease of route, absence of traffic together with the glorious countryside and spectacular views of north eastern face of Ben Nevis ( which are not visible from Fort William) make for a very pleasant outing. When Queen Victoria toured Scotland in 1873 she travelled along the canal by barge. The ‘Royal Route’ as it became known lead visitors to flock to the area in the following years.
Repairs to the canal in the 1990’s by British Waterways have left a legacy of well maintained tow paths and signage which permit the most amateur of cyclist to undertake the 7 mile ride out to the pretty village of Gairlochy before looping back.
Of course if you are prepared to share the road you can access the Bonnie Prince Charlie/ Jacobite Memorial and ‘Harry Potter’ aqueduct at Glenfinnan(16 miles from Fort William). The fitter among you may also be happy to continue on to Arisaig and the silver sands at Morar but be warned the road out of Glenfinnan will test the hardiest of cyclists.
There are several great runs from Fort William by bike with Spean Bridge, Glencoe and Glen Nevis all within 20 miles of the town.
Guest post by Tim