Having spent a wonderful Hogmanay in Edinburgh, we couldn’t wait to see what the next part of our winter Scottish adventure would bring. We were leaving the bright lights of the city behind and heading north to Fort William, and those breathtaking mountains!
We left Edinburgh Caravan and Motorhome Club site under clear blue skies, and headed north, passing lochs and rolling hills along the way. It wasn’t long before the landscape grew around us, the hills turned into mountains and we got our first glimpse of snow! Although the weather down at ground level was rather changeable, going from bright sun to heavy rain and back again, it was great to see the white stuff capping the mountains!
With the short winter days upon us, we arrived at our next stop just as darkness began to fall- Linnhe Lochside Holidays, on the banks of Loch Eil and a handy distance from Fort William. From the little light we had left, we could tell that the view was amazing, and the sound of the water lapping up against the rocks and the breeze rustling the trees instantly made us feel relaxed. Unfortunately, this was slightly diminished when unhitching the caravan and noticing that the caravan road lights that were perfectly fine when we left, were no longer working as they should. Still, we had arrived safe and well, and that was an issue that could be put off until the morning.
With the start of a new day came a new enthusiasm for fixing our light issue. We still had a few days before we needed to tow again but we wanted to get that out of the way as soon as possible so we could relax more. After a bit of tinkering, Stephen came to the conclusion that the 13-pin socket that connects the car electrics to the caravan had become completely corroded and needed to be replaced. Thankfully, we had seen this problem on other caravans of a similar age so we always carry a spare socket, and even more thankfully- Stephen was able to fit it himself because of the comprehensive information on the Caravan Chronicles website (Thank you, Simon!).
With most of the afternoon being taken up by fixing the fiddly wires into the new socket, by the time it was done darkness was starting to fall once more. Still, the problem was solved and we were now able to move from our temporary position of being nose first to a leaf-covered wall – to our new pitch, nose first with panoramic views across the Loch. Needless to say, it was a slight improvement, and an air of calm washed over us as we settled in for the night.
When daylight arose the following morning we were finally able to fully appreciate the views! We opened the blinds to a calm water that gently caressed the shoreline and a low cloud that hugged the mountains surrounding us. The forecast wasn’t looking great, but we had time to at least go for a wander around the site before the rain hit… Or so we thought!
As we strolled along we took in the crisp fresh air and the wind really started to pick up. We made our way across the length of the site to the boat slipway, where the loch opened up and gave us spectacular, canvas-worthy views, just as the rain set in. The low clouds we saw earlier had drifted in our direction and had started covering us in that fine rain that you get, which is practically invisible but somehow manages to drench you!
It didn’t look like the rain was going anywhere anytime soon, but we optimistically headed out to Scotland’s longest staircase lock- Neptune’s Staircase. Forming part of the Caledonian Canal, it assists a huge variety of boats back and forth, and being over a quarter of a mile of locks, it takes about 90 minutes to do so! Running alongside it is an accessible section of path that makes up a small part of the 79 mile long Great Glen Way. Had the weather been a little less dramatic we would’ve loved to have gone for a stroll, but by now we were getting pelted sideways by this invisible rain!
Getting back into the car to warm up we decided to head into Fort William to explore. We’ve driven through a number of times before, so it was fantastic to finally have time to stop. After parking up we braced ourselves for the weather once more and headed towards the high street, which was like a ghost town. I imagine it’s usually a lot busier, but most people had made the smart decision to stay home and dry- unlike us, who were presently wandering the streets, battling the winds and looking like drowned rats.
Seeking shelter, we stumbled upon The Wildcat Cafe, with steamy windows and a warm glow coming from the inside it was more than a little enticing. Upon entering we were greeted even more warmly, with a “hello” that made us feel like one of the locals, then we found a table to sit at and began to thaw out.
There was a whole host of food on offer, but we went for a delicious coffee and millionaires shortbread. It wasn’t until we were almost ready to leave that we realised that every single product they sold in there was vegan and ethically sourced- bonus! They also had an accessible toilet, which is another bonus in my books!
After a restful night back at the caravan, we woke up to another wet and windy morning. Thankfully though, this eased up enough for us to head out at midday, to Glenfinnan Viaduct and Monument. Those of you who are fans of Harry Potter will recognise this stunning bridge and filming location, but even if you’ve never seen the films it’s still incredibly impressive!
We parked up in the Visitors Centre carpark and could see that the official viewpoint was unfortunately not wheelchair accessible because of the steep and uneven path, but speaking to the friendly National Trust worker revealed that there was a walk along a smooth tarmac path which didn’t only give great views- it ran directly underneath the viaduct! So off we went…
We started by crossing the road to admire the monument honouring the fallen Jacobite clansmen, with Loch Shiel and the surrounding mountains providing the perfect backdrop. Although the skies were moody, it was so tranquil sitting by the water’s edge that I could’ve happily sat there all day. Quietly content, just taking in the Highland scenery.
Once Stephen managed to peel me away, we continued our stroll in the direction of the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct, with the 100ft tall arches becoming more dramatic the closer we got. The path was as described- smooth and tarmac- and alongside it ran the gushing River Finnan. We’d left behind the hustle and bustle of the Visitors Centre and felt like we were on our own little adventure, we didn’t see another soul! After wandering for just over half a mile we had made it right up to the viaduct itself, and what a beautiful piece of engineering it is, especially up close! It was a lovely stroll out there, but with temperatures barely above zero we decided it was time to turn around and head back… Only, when we turned around we saw a wall of rain swiftly heading in our direction, and it was definitely one of those “Oh dear” moments! Not knowing whether to dash the entire distance back to the car or try and find shelter out in the wilderness, the decision was taken out of our hands when the downpour hit us- we would stay where we were and hope for the best. Although it was heavy and we both got drenched, the shower passed after about 5 minutes. It was quite a laughable experience, and not many people can say they’ve taken shelter under the Harry Potter bridge!
After having a bite to eat at the Visitors Centre, we made our way back to the campsite for an evening of warming up and giggling as we relived our adventurous antics. Thankfully the skies had cleared up by now, and we got into bed that evening with a perfect view of the moon through the skylight. It was a perfect moment of tranquillity to end our wet and windy few days.
Looking back at our time in Fort William…
Did everything go to plan? No.
Did we get absolutely soaked? Yes.
Did we still have fun? Very much.
Did we still make memories? Most definitely.
Would we do it all again? Yes (With more protective gear).
And the adventure wasn’t over yet…