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About the West Highland Line

Some information about the West Highland Railway Line between Fort William and Mallaig

The Fort William-Mallaig railway was one of the last major railway-building projects in the British Isles. Completed in 1901, it is widely regarded as one of the world's most scenic rail journeys and all the better to make that journey by steam train during the summer months. The West Highland Railway which was completed in 1894 terminated at Fort William, but its promoters rapidly realised that although they had reached the West Coast they were still far from the fishing grounds of the Minch and the ability to get to market. 

The railway took 4 years to build, and was one of the first major constructions in the world to use mass concrete. In fact, the bridge across the Borrodale Burn was once the largest concrete bridge in the world. Concrete was also used to build the 21 arches of Glenfinnan viaduct, 11 tunnels and many other bridges across the numerous burns and rivers. 

Before the line opened in 1901, access to the rest of the world was by coastal steamers, by the rough hill tracks or by a mail coach which travelled from Arisaig to Fort William three times a week and took seven and a half hours to make the journey. People living along the new line were now able to travel to Fort William in less than two hours, at a fraction of the mail coach fare, and crofters could send their animals to market by train instead of driving them long distances on foot. 

Mallaig itself was transformed in ten years from a small community of crofter-fishermen into a vigorous fishing centre, landing huge quantities of herring to be taken swiftly south along the new railway. The line improved the economy of the area enormously, although it relied on Government support from the very beginning. Now the days of the great fish specials have gone and the principal ferries to the Outer Isles leave from Oban and Ullapool, but the railway continues to contribute to the local economy. Every year many thousands of people travel along it enjoying the spectacle of steam hauled trains, re introduced to the line in 1984, after an absence of 20 years, or simply to enjoy the many fine views it offers.

Explore these featured listings

Caledonian Discovery
Caledonian Discovery operate 2 large holiday barges, allowing you to explore the Great Glen while travelling along the Caledonian Canal including Loch Ness. Starting in either Fort William or Inverness, enjoy an unique holiday experience, amidst superb Highland scenery. Prices include all food and accommodation in twin ensuite cabins which have powerful hot showers. The resident cook uses the finest local ingredients to produce fantastic food. You can have a holiday of gentle relaxation or fun and adventure, it's up to you. Optional outdoor activities include walking, biking, sailing and canoeing or alternatively you can relax on board whilst we travel through the Great Glen. A qualified instructor is on hand to help. In addition, we have themed weeks when we offer wildlife, music and our very popular option of Walk the Great Glen week. Our 2020  and 2021 schedules are available for your consideration . Our 2020 cruises start from £975 and are also based on 2 people sharing a twin cabin, with ensuite facilities for a 7- day cruise. We also have a special early booking offer on our 2021 cruises. Save £70 per person on a 7 day cruise.  Save £35 per person on a 4 day cruise – This offer is only available until the 31st January 2021 Why not charter one of our barges? It is a wonderful way to discover this beautiful part of Scotland. If you reserve one of our comfortable barges, you decide exactly what you want to do from canoeing, walking, cycling, or a mixture of activities, on a 7-day journey through the Great Glen and you save money! Starting either in Inverness or Fort William, travel along the Caledonian canal and the lochs Ness, Oich and Laggan. It is an escape you will love. To find out more Click here  Remember to also have a look at our Offers which appear occasionally Visit www.caledonian-discovery.co.uk for more information. or alternatively email [email protected] or contact the friendly office team on 01397 772 167 Monday to Thursday 9:30 am to 4:30pm. 
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The Carter Company
Choosing a cycle tour is a unique (and we think the best!) way to discover Fort William, and the Highlands beyond. The Carter Company offers a stunning 8 night guided cycling holiday, with set departure dates, which starts and ends in Fort William. The Scottish Highlands are world renowned for their stunning scenery and the west coast, where this tour begins, features peaceful and idyllic lochs, majestic mountains in Ben Nevis, the dramatic Glencoe Pass, and a coastline dotted with a myriad of islands. The Outer Hebrides are some of the most remote, with astonishingly beautiful white sandy beaches and isolated dwellings. Linked by a string of ferry hops, the tour also featured the inner Hebridean island of Skye before returning to the mainland town of Fort William. You might think that, alas, this is not the place for gentle cycling. And you would be correct - but for the vehicle support we provide as part of this guided tour. We have created an itinerary where you can avoid cycling any big, or even medium, sized hills and any main roads. We are very pleased with the route we have designed and its close historical links with the infamous Bonnie Prince Charlie, its blend of castles, local crafts, fishing culture and seafood and its unsurpassed landscapes. We know that you will be pleased too - this is a unique experience not to be missed! On this tour, you will cycle with your Scottish host and guide who will share his local knowledge and make sure a fun time is had by all. Our driver will be sweeping your route and providing vehicle support along the way as well as fixing any bike problems and generally adding to the fun.
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Three Peaks Yacht Race Organisers
The Barmouth to Fort William Three Peaks Yacht Race combines yachting and mountain running and cycling into one of the greatest adventure challenges in British sport. Five team members are allowed, comprising a combination of sailors and runners, their aim is to sail from Barmouth, on the Welsh coast, to Fort William in Scotland, via Caernarfon and Whitehaven, climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis on the way. Sailing through some of the Scotland's most beautiful and sometimes wildest, scenery, the final leg ends with the shortest and steepest run of the entire race finishing at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal. The entire race involves a total of 389 miles of difficult coastal sailing, 26 miles of cycling and 72 miles of running, with approximately 14,000 feet of ascent, including 2000 feet between Ennerdale and Scafell Pike, to reach the highest points in Wales, England and Scotland. Set in 2002 the race record stands at 2 days 14 hours and 4 minutes but teams have until 1800 on Saturday to finish the race. Generally most teams make the end of race party on Thursday evening, competitors sometimes opting to complete the Ben Nevis run the following morning. The Three Peaks Yacht Race attracts some of the world's best sailors and runners, as well as teams who hope just to complete the course, which is a considerable achievement in its own right. The 2011 race starts from Barmouth on Saturday June 25th and the 2012 race on Saturday June 16th. Boats arrive in Corpach from around the Tuesday after the start.
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Atlas Mountaineering | Ben Nevis Mountain Guide
Come join us at Atlas Mountaineering for a special experience on the UK's highest mountain. Being based in Fort William, the Outdoor Capital of the UK, at the foot of Ben Nevis, we are available on short notice for private or group mountain guiding and have great knowledge of the mountain its self. Atlas Mountaineering is now accredited by Visit Scotland and the Scottish tourism board as a four star activity provider! 5 Stars on TripAdvisor! Climb Ben Nevis now for only £69.00  PRIVATE VIA FERRATA GUIDING. BRAND NEW TO SCOTLAND AND BY FAR THE UK’S BEST VIA FERRATA.  TRIPS STARTING JUNE 2014!  BOOK NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT! THIS WINTER! Ben Nevis trips, Winter skills training, Ice climbing and Winter walking! No experience needed! Whilst making a mountain out of a molehill is acceptable behaviour if you’re a bit of a drama queen, we can’t help but think it was a waste of time to bring our walking boots.Go bigger with the UK’s biggest mountain, Ben Nevis, and enjoy a guided tour with Atlas Mountaineering for only £69.00 Vital information• Guided tours of Ben Nevis and the surrounding area  • Private and public tours available • Rated 5 stars on Trip Advisor • Rated  4 stars by Visit Scotland • UK’s highest mountain • Suitable for ages 8+ Expert guides Even before you arrive, Atlas Mountaineering’s guides will be providing handy information by letting you know exactly what clothing and kit you should be bringing on the day. Once you arrive, you and your group will get ready to tackle the mountain. The guides know every twist and turn of Ben Nevis and have scooped a 5 star Trip Advisor rating as well as being rated 4 stars by the Scottish Tourist Board. Ben Nevis The UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, stands at 1,344 metres above sea level at the western end of the Grampian mountains. As you climb, you’ll take in the stunning scenery of the peaks and greenery around you, along with bursts of Scottish heather. Suitable for kids from age 8, today’s deal is the perfect family adventure. Loved by Trip Advisor "Thank goodness we had a guide and Atlas Mountaineering to tell us to hire all the right equipment, otherwise we would have had to turn back and not reach the summit like so many other people had to do.” "Atlas and Connor provided an excellent organised trip with a top guide for the day in Rich …he was patient / informative / educational / humorous and allowed us all to enjoy a very challenging but rewarding day." "We had a brilliant time with Connor and Hannah, learning about how to be safe in the hills in winter. We learnt about winter navigation, route planning, basic Avalanche awareness, crampons and ice axes, along with getting some great hiking in! We will definitely be back and can't recommend Connor and Hannah enough as guides!" Walking the Wild Side  A very special way to see what Lochaber has to offer. One of our most popular experiences is our day and a half walk from Glen Nevis. We will set off at around 3pm and walk through the Steall Meadows and catch a glimpse of the famous Steall falls, from here we will walk up into the watershed of Ben Nevis and camp for the evening. As you watch the sun set around the surrounding mountains and wilderness you will begin to experience one of the UK’s true dark zones, this means that there is no light pollution! The stars are truly amazing here and it is not uncommon to see the odd shooting star, meteor shower or the aurora borealis. You don’t need to worry about dinner as it’s included in the price and we will fill you full of hot chocolate as you get ready to settle in for the most peaceful night’s sleep you will ever have. In the morning we will wake up, eat some breakfast and break camp. From there we will walk up on to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg our first Munro of the day and on to the Carn Mor Dearg arête. This arête is described by Walk Highlands as “the finest way to see Ben Nevis” and they are not wrong, the spectacular arête gives fine airy views of the 600m north face and it is not unusual to not see a soul until we reach the summit of Ben Nevis. It truly is the wild side! Once we have climbed Ben Nevis we will walk down to the Ben Nevis Inn and relax for the rest of the afternoon while you can look back on what we have managed over the past two days.  Rock Climbing this Summer Haven't tried it before, but always fancied it?  We run private rock climbing guiding for all abilities, only in small groups, perfect if you haven't tried before.  If you are looking at something more mountainous, how about the infamous Tower Ridge or some more classic rock climbing in Glen Coe? 
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