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Encompassing a variety of quaint villages and towns across the Highlands, Lochaber is regarded internationally as the ‘outdoor capital of the UK’
Encompassing a variety of quaint villages and towns across the Highlands, Lochaber is regarded internationally as the ‘outdoor capital of the UK’. One of many Highland locales to feature in Shakespeare’s Scottish play ‘Macbeth’, the region is just a small section of the western Highlands but features some of its greatest natural wonders. Lochaber was once part of the historic county of Inverness-shire, though now is considered an individual region within the greater Highlands.
Largely rural, visitors are most frequently drawn here for the incredible natural beauty. Its de-facto capital is Fort William, a small town that sits at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles. It’s here that outdoor sports enthusiasts come to gather for unrivalled skiing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and to experience the Highland Games. There are also plenty of natural landscapes to soak in, including the famous Great Glen, the countryside surrounding the Glenfinnan Viaduct and the volcanic Glen Coe.
Lochabear is the perfect option for those looking to reconnect with the great outdoors in a location that’s got as many opportunities for thrills as it does gorgeous scenery to do it in.
Aside from its connection to Macbeth – Banquo, one of the doomed king’s advisors and friends was named Thane of Lochaber – the region is best known for its incredible natural beauty and variety of outdoor sports options. You don’t get the nickname ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ without having shown some serious skill in providing outdoor activities. From the highest peak of Ben Nevis to the deepest depths of the lochs and glens that run through the region, the Highland’s natural playground has something for every skill level – and every adrenaline level too. Ben Nevis often features on a hikers bucket list and reaching the summit is a huge personal achievement. Local guides are available nearby to take you not just to the highest peak but get you to some of the hidden spots where the best views await. Down below, try kayaking and paddleboarding in Loch Leven and discover its uninhabited islands.
Like much of the Highlands and Islands, there’s a distinctive Gaelic atmosphere to the place. Historically, it’s likely Lochaber would have fallen into a historic kingdom controlled by the Irish and eventually, taken over by the Vikings. Gaelic is still spoken in some parts of the region. Taking part of its name from the Gaelic meaning ‘mud’ or ‘swampy place’, the first recorded mention of the region comes from the year 690, when its name appeared in a text at Iona Abbey. Over the course of history, the region’s blurred boundaries meant it was often under the control of its neighbours, including Moray in the 12th century, Badenoch and later, the historic county of Inverness-shire. The region was even gifted to a friend of Robert the Bruce following one of their victories during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
The region is significant, historically, with its capital taking its name from William of Orange, the ‘British’ king now celebrated in some parts of Northern Ireland. Nearby Glenfinnan marks the spot where the Second Jacobite Uprising officially began in the 17th century and Glen Coe was the sight of an infamous massacre that Scottish children now learn about in school.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs remains one of Scotland’s natural jewels and was even one of the first to be recognised as a tourist destination nearly 3 centuries ago.
Getting to Lochaber
The nearest airports to Lochaber are Glasgow International Airport and Inverness Airport, where cars can be hired to drive in. The West Highland Line will also take you to Fort William, either directly or via a scenic journey. The Caledonian Sleeper will also connect you from London to Fort William.
When to go
Summer is the most popular time for visitors because of the relatively warmer weather, though winter attracts plenty of skiers and snowboarders too. If you’re looking to avoid tourists, aim for spring or autumn. August is also popular if you’re looking to catch the Highland Games, held annually.
Where to stay
Fort William is the de-facto capital of Lochaber and is particularly popular to stay in, as is Glencoe, which sits northwest of its namesake glen. Invergarry, the surrounding area of Ben Nevis and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula are also popular small community villages that offer a variety of accommodation options.
Eating & drinking
Taking full advantage of the Highland larder, you’ll find a strong emphasis on using local ingredients to create amazing dishes. Think game, poultry and meat reared on nearby farmland, fresh fish caught from the lochs and coastline and everything that can be grown here, grown.
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