|Scotland: Western Highlands and Isle of Mull
||The area covered with this page streches from Fort William in the north to Oban in the south and westwards to the Isle of Mull. I found this area to be well suited for a two week trip of trekking and hill walking, if you want to discover some of the most beautiful, and sometimes most popular spots of Scotland. The area will offer you everything you would expect from a short trip to the highlands: Ben Nevis, Great Britains highest mountain, Glen Nevis and Glen Coe, where e.g. Braveheart was filmed, and the beautiful Inner Hebrides, an awesome fusion of the sea and the mountains.
But before you are heading there you should be warned: when the Midges come, the tourists come, too. The area, and most of all Fort William, will be crowded by the masses from June till late August. Try to avoid both and visit the highlands in spring or autumn or, maybe even better, in the winter time.
How to get there
Travelling in the area
Hiking & Hill Walking
Things you shouldn't miss...
Things you shouldn't do...
- Yahoo! Weather for Oban
- MetOffice Forecast for Oban
- Yahoo! Weather for Fort William
- Northern Scotland weather information by MetOffice
- Area Map from National Geographic
- Satellite Map of Scotland from National Geographic
- Map of Fort William and Glen Nevis (1:100.000) from multimap
- Map of Glen Coe (1:100.000) from multimap
- Map of Oban and Isle of Mull (1:200.000) from multimap
- Map (1:50.000) (101k) of the tour across the Isle of Mull
- Map (1:25.000) (110k) of the tour to Ben Nevis
- Map (1:50.000) (95k) of the tour into Glen Nevis
- Map (1:25.000) (110k) of the tour into the Hidden Valley
How to get there
Oban and Fort William are both served by ScotRail from Glasgow. And no matter if you have a car, you should travel by train! Both railroads (West and North Highland Line) are very scenic and will allow you to see some of the best highland regions in Western Scotland. If you arrived in Glasgow with Ryanair, you will even get a discount of 50% on your fares - not to mention the low ticket prizes themselves, which cost approximately 50 GBP from London Stansted. If you wish to travel by car, the most scenic route is the one through Glen Coe.
- ScotRail Tourism
- Ryanair to Glasgow
Travelling in the area
Getting around in the Western Highlands is pretty easy, even if you don't have a car. Fort William is well linked with Glen Nevis, Glen Coe and Oban, but also with Mallaig and Loch Etive by local busses as well as by Scottish City Link. Bus schedules can be obtained at the Ft. William tourist information. The busses usually leave at the bus station next to the train station. But in remote areas, such as Morvern, busses operate less frequently. Sometimes only twice a week.....so make sure you know the relevant bus schedules before travelling there, unless you have plenty of time.
If you want to go to to Mull or other isles of the Hebrides, you can access many of them from Mallaig and Oban with ferries easily.
- Scottish City Link
- Caledonian MacBayne Ferries
- Fort William Tourism Information
If you didn't bring your tent, you will have to rely upon the countless B&B's in the area. Literally dozens are available in Fort William, but during peak season weekends they can be booked out completely anyway. Prizes range from 16 to 18 GBP per night per person. In Oban you will find nice B&B's, too, but in Morvern and Mull only the bigger villages served by ferries or busses will offer accomodation. Anyway, Scotland is enjoyed best in a tent (and it doesn't rain there as often as you'd expect - I enjoyed there two weeks of sun in October!). A tent has the unique advantage, that you can stay in the areas where you want to go hiking or hill walking. Many magnificient tours won't be accessible if you have to return to your B&B every evening. So mix both and you'll have the most fun!
Before I came to the highlands, I thought the best activity is walking on long distance footpaths and visiting some famous areas around Fort William. But now my strong belief is, you shouldn't do that. Trekking and Hill Walking are the most exciting outdoor activities in this area (maybe apart from alpinism...) and you should invest the time to exercise them.
In Scotland, trekking is more or less walking through the highlands off trails. This can make your "highland experience" a lot more rewarding, as you can access remote areas where you'll hardly see anyone for a couple of days. And this is quite seldom, as the popular hiking trails (West Highland Way, Glen Nevis and Glen Coe/Lost Valley for example) are heavily crowded with tourists. But leaving the trails also means to walk on terrains which are permanently wet and difficult to walk on. In comparison to many of the highway-like trails around Fort William, walking cross country will be very strenous, particularly for backpackers.
I crossed the Isle of Mull underneath Ben More and although it was the toughest walk on my trip to Scotland, it was the most rewarding, too. Once you've walked three hours away from the road, nature embraces you. Deer, sheep and rabbits linger around, just a couple of metres away from your tent. And the views you have while walking on top of the hills are just uncomparable. Perfect silence during the night and star spangled skies above you. Try it out :-)
- Tour: Crossing Mull at the foot of Ben More
- For more information on long distance footpaths in Scotland, visit Thomas Keijzer's site
Hiking & Hill Walking
Hill walking is a typical scottish understatement and simply means walking and climbing on the Munros (scottish mountains higher than 3.000 ft. For more info follow the link to "the Bog" below). You wouldn't expect this to be exciting if you are used to the Alps or the Rocky Mountains. But promise, you will love it! Of course, 3.000 ft and more are not much, but it can be still quite challenging if you have to access the mountain from sea level. For most of Scotland, hill walking will take you to the most beautiful areas of Scotland and can provide you the little extra dose of adventure the normal hiking in Scotland lacks sometimes. Although I don't recommend it, many mountains are also accessible by car and as hill walking only requires hiking boots, weather proof clothing, a good map (I recommend Ordnance Survey Maps 1:25.000), a compass, an altimeter and a rucksack with some food and water, Hill Walking can be part of any kind of trip.
Unfortunately, I realized this option too late. The maps featured below show you my trips (red markings). Marked with green you will find the optional and/or alternative walks on the hills.....but get yourself valid maps and trail descriptions before you start!
- Tour: Ben Nevis from the Regular Route
- Tour: Into the Glen Nevis
- Tour: From Glen Coe into the Hidden Valley
- walkingwild.com - walking and hiking in the Scottish Highlands and the Isles (try the "Find a trail"-section!)
- The Bog - well structured information on Munros, Hill Walking and Climbing
- The Scottish Mountaineering Club
- Ordnance Survey Maps: the reference for any outdoor activity in Britain
...things you shouldn't miss!
Just a few notes: fish & chips in Oban, skies over Mull, sunset in the Hidden Valley, the famous & dangerous gullies of Ben Nevis, Haggis at the Ben Nevis Restaurant in Ft. William (and all the other awesome food you get there), the West Highland Railway.
...things you shouldn't do!
Scotland is probably not as charming in the summertime as you would expect. So try to avoid the peak seasons and the midges and tourist masses coming with them. Even more if you want to go to very popular areas in the Ft. William area. It can be helpful to try alternative -and more scenic - routes to the Ben Nevis for example, instead of the big tourist trail to the top. Stay off the beaten tracks and you'll enjoy yourself much more in Scotland!