Scotland: Day 4 – Taking the Long Way to Fort William

We’re still in Scotland having a ton of adventures. I’m planning to post general summaries of our destinations as we go, and more specific posts about different activities later. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately…

After our time in Helensburgh we were headed north to Fort William. There is a direct route to Fort William, but there are also lots of other options and since we’ve got lots of time, we decided to explore.

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We started at Helensburgh (A), and stopped in Kilmartin Glen and Glen Coe before arriving in Fort William (B). No surprise but it took us all day!

We started out from our B&B in Helensburgh around 9:00 am and drove the (now familiar) route up to Arrochar.  It was raining, so we saw about as much has we had the day before. The direct route continues up the A82 but we took a turn southwest and headed out on the A816 towards Lochgilphead. I had read some tidbit somewhere about there being some standing stones and old ruins in the Kilmartin area so we were headed that way to check them out. Turns out, Kilmartin Glen has a huge concentration of really old stuff! We missed a few things because the sites are very vaguely signed (maybe plan ahead and get road numbers for the various sites) but lucked out when we pulled into a side road and found the Nether Largie Standing Stones. There is a parking area, and then it is a short walk to a field that has about five standing stones. A few interpretive plaques help to figure out what you are looking at.

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Directly across the field is another site, Temple Woods, with stone circles and some small standing stones.

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From Temple Wood it is a very short walk east along the road to the Nether Largie South Cairn. Sites don’t seem to be as restricted as they are in Canada so you can get right up to the cairns and stones.

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A walk south from the cairn through the field takes you back to the standing stones and the parking lot for a short loop that allows you to see three different ancient monuments.

After our stop, we got back on the main road to head to Oban, but quickly got distracted by signs for the Carnasserie Castle just past the town of Kilmartin. From the parking area you have to squeeze yourself through a narrow gate, and then walk about 500 m up a hill but it is totally worth it when a castle rises up above you. The best part (besides the fact that it is free entry, and we were the only people there) is that you can climb up the old castle towers. There are no handrails, and the original stone steps are steep and tiny, but on a sunny day it was only a little nerve wracking to scramble up the narrow, winding staircases.

The castle

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From the castle we got back on the road to Oban. Our plan was to stop in Oban for lunch but it was busy and confusing and before we knew it we were already through the town. Since the day was getting late (too much time climbing castle ruins) we just kept driving towards Glen Coe.

The scenery in Glen Coe is stunning, but what we also noticed were the crowds. Up until this point it had mostly just been us everywhere we visited but in Glen Coe we shared every view point with tons of other people. I do understand why everyone (including us) was driving along this part of the country – the Glen is beautiful. While not sunny like Kilmartin had been, it wasn’t raining and the clouds were high enough for us to ogle the tops of mountains as we drove along.

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We exited Glen Coe into steadily improving weather and as we got to Fort William, the sun broke through. We’re quickly learning not to waste sunny weather, so as soon as we checked into our B&B we headed out for an evening hike.

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I couldn’t resist checking out the view from the settee when we checked in

 

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Our B&B had a pretty waterfront location

Glen Nevis (home to the famous Ben Nevis) is a mere 10 minute drive away, and even with a stop for groceries we arrived at the visitors centre in time to buy a map and check out trail conditions before they closed up. We had plans to hike Ben Nevis the next day (I’ll share our experience in another post) so just wanted a short hike to stretch our legs. Steall Falls, at the end of the road from the visitors centre, was the perfect choice. It is a fairly short (about 3km), doesn’t have a lot of elevation change and at 6pm on a Wednesday night was very quiet.

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Yes, it was cold enough to hike in a puffy jacket
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Steall Falls
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Jon testing out the single cable bridge

After our hike we drove back to our B&B to drop off the car and then walked the few blocks to the town centre in search of food. We settled on an Indian restaurant where the food, while tasty, wasover priced, and the service was terrible. After dinner we quickly headed back to our room for a solid night’s sleep before our big adventure the next day.

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Overall, I’m happy that the weather allowed us to spend our time outside hiking because I did not end up loving Fort William (town) during the day and a half we spent there. It has potential – a beautiful location along the water and so many outdoor activities- but it didn’t end up working for us. I’m still glad we added it as a destination but I was happy to head out after out short stay to our next adventure on the Isle of Skye.

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Taking goofy shots at Steall Falls

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