The West Highland Way in Scotland ends in the coastal village of Fort William. While there’s not a ton to do in town, the Nevis Range Mountain Experience a couple miles outside of town offers some activities such as skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer and a treetop rope course. I went there to spend the day after failing to hike the West Highland Way.
What is the Nevis Range
The Nevis Range Mountain Experience is an activity center located in the mountains of western Scotland seven miles outside of Fort William. It’s been around since the 80’s as one of only six ski centers in Scotland. If you don’t have your own car, you can always take the N41 bus from Fort William directly to the entrance.
While the primary activities include skiing and mountain biking for those seeking a thrill, I was really happy to find a place that catered to virtually every age and type of traveler. I saw elderly women who could barely walk getting into the gondola ride, and the Treetop Adventure is perfect for kids. This place is just what my aging father needs, now that he’s past his snowboarding days.
The Gondola Ride
The first thing I did when I arrived was to take the gondola ride to the upper chateau. The gondola ride at Nevis Range isn’t just an easy way to get up the mountain – it’s the only ride of its kind in all of Great Britain! The ride is a mile and a half long, rising 1800 feet in elevation, lasting about 15 minutes. From the car, you can see the bike trails and streams crisscrossing the mountain beneath you. As you get higher, you have a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains and fields, which only gets better as you hit the trails.
If you’re only going up for hiking, there are two main trails to choose from. The first one goes west toward Sgurr Finnisg-aig, the mountain overlooking Fort William and with a great view up the Great Glen. If it’s not surrounded in clouds, you’ll have a view of the north face of Ben Nevis. This walk takes about twenty minutes each way at a comfortable pace…if you don’t stop for a ton of photos as I did. Many of the more advanced dirt bike trails start from that path, and I got to watch a few of the riders zooming down the mountain. I wish I’d had more time for that myself, although the massive blisters on my feet from hiking the West Highland Way might have made the ride difficult.
In the other direction, you can hike to Meall Beag. This hike takes about thirty minutes in each direction and includes a small “valley” you have to go down and up to get to the viewpoint. I personally preferred the Sgurr Finnisg-aig viewpoint more, but this one is still beautiful. You can see a couple of lochs (lakes) in the distance, and the surrounding countryside really opens up. I found out there’s a bunch of people who get a season pass for the gondola and go up there on a regular basis to walk their dogs.
The Tree Adventure
There are three main tree courses that you can climb through at the Nevis Range. I ran them all and might have set the speed record on one of them.
I was really impressed with the organization of the course. In contrast to the Go Ape Course I ran earlier this year in which you had to constantly clamp your carabiners on different cables between all the trees, Nevis Range offers one continuous cable to travel along. Aside from this making it a lot easier and faster to get through the course, it’s also a lot safer as it would be just about impossible to fall.
The first course is really two courses, one above the other. Rather than using the forest, it’s built in a square for participants to navigate around with increasingly challenging obstacles. Kids as small as 4 feet can run the lower course but have to be 4’5″ to run the upper course, and 4’7″ for the tree courses. There’s also a wee course for the young ones. At the end of the upper course, there’s a fan jump which allows you to jump from a platform into a free fall, with a cable which slows you down as you approach the ground.
I ran through the first two courses like a squirrel, jumping from one obstacle to the next and making it to the fan jump in just a couple minutes. As soon as I was hooked up, I didn’t hesitate to jump off. As I’d made such good time, I was offered another jump. This time I took it with the cable hooked up behind me, so it really felt like a free fall. Someday I’ll find some heights I’m afraid of, but it wasn’t that day.
The final two courses were more difficult. Trying to go fast, I had a couple slips and was glad the harness system was so secure. With one continuous cable, you have to keep track of which direction to go around the trees lest you get tangled. The first of the two courses started with a short 40-foot zip line and had slightly easier obstacles than the second. The long zip line came at the end of the second course. It wasn’t the longest zip line I’ve been down but if you’ve never been on one, it’s well worth it.
Aonach Mor Burger for Lunch
Finally, it was time for lunch. Nevis Range has two restaurants, one in the main lodge and one at the top of the gondola ride. I ate and the lower of the two, choosing their signature Aonoch Mor burger, so named for the mountain that Nevis Range is built on. Aonach Mor is the sixth-tallest mountain in the UK, and only a couple miles from Ben Nevis – the tallest in the UK.
The restaurant has a cafeteria setup, but everything is cooked to order and the burger was surprisingly good. It was massive, topped with homemade haggis, British bacon, melted cheese and an onion ring, with fries, salad, and coleslaw on the side. Paired with a mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows, it was delicious and just what I needed after the day of activities.
Booking at Nevis Range
Nevis Range is open year round. Some weeks are busier than others. I just missed the World Cup of Mountain Biking by a few days when the center was completely packed to capacity. In the summer, there are ceilidhs (Scottish dances) on Fridays and Saturdays. The winter obviously has all the snow sports including skiing and snowboarding. I certainly want to go back someday to experience those. I’d love to say I’ve skied in Scotland!
- Location: Torlundy, Fort William PH33 6SQ, UK
- Gondola ride: Adults – £19.50 ($25.80); children – £10.50 ($13.90)
- Tree Adventure: Adults – £30 ($39.70); children – £20 ($26.50)
- Parking: £3 ($4)
- Phone: +44 (0)1397 705 825
- Website: Nevis Range
- What to bring: Durable clothing and comfortable hiking boots, a Go Pro if you have one or a camera with a strap case, and midge repellent in the summer.
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Looking for other activities in Scotland? Here are some other activities to fill your trip.
- Begin Your Journey in Scotland with a Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh
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- Enjoying the Happiest Place in Scotland at Edinburgh’s Chihuahua Cafe
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- Escape Edinburgh: The Most Fun Activity in Edinburgh’s New Town
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- 10 Activities for The Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh
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