Travel: Fort William
STRAPPED into a harness, I am focusing on a piece of cable in front of me, when just for a second the cable blurs and instead my vision takes in the ground far below me.
I gulp, return my focus to the cable and my tentatively searching left foot, and concentrate on the task in hand. So, high rope courses, eh? Kids’ stuff. Well, you try it.
When I was offered a trip to Fort William in Lochaber, the self-proclaimed outdoor capital of the UK, I was just a tiny bit excited. For me, the name Fort William is synonymous with brilliant mountain biking, being amongst other things a World Cup and World Championship venue for the sport. YouTube is full of footage of riders flying down impossibly steep and rocky terrain at breakneck speeds on the downhill trails here. I have been a mountain biker for many years – though not to their standards – and yet had only once managed to make an unsatisfyingly short visit, after which I swore to come back and spend more time exploring the area.
So, here I am, at the Nevis Range... up a tree. My adventure-seeking Aussie friend Renee is making encouraging noises as I creep, inelegantly along the first of many high-rise obstacles on the High Wire Adventure. After a trepidatious beginning, I start to get into the swing of it, and as we move from the practice course to the higher challenges in the trees, I forget about the height and find my confidence and enjoyment has grown. After we have returned our harnesses, there’s a palpable sense of achievement as we head to the on-site Pinemarten cafe bar for a bite to eat.
After lunch, we meet up with mountain bike guide and coach Grant Huggan to take a trip round the trails of Leanachan Forest. A reasonable level of fitness is required for any of the routes around here, and Renee, despite not being an experienced rider, was happily testing her legs on the climbs. All the work was worth it, too. Following the trails up through the forest, the colours bright and glistening in the sunshine following a recent rain shower, we arrive above the tree line to be greeted by a beautiful view across the glen dominated by the famous peak of Ben Nevis.
Some coaching from Grant on the more technical sections of the descent follows, and by the time we get back to Alpine Bikes Renee has a smile on her face not dissimilar to mine earlier in the day.
And that’s what I love about outdoor holidays. Beautiful countryside, the satisfaction that comes from challenging yourself, and then that wonderful sense of relaxation and contentment you only experience after a day of physical activity out in the fresh air. Oh, and the fact you can eat whatever you like for dinner knowing you’ve burned off all those calories in advance.
Activities over, it’s time head for the pristine and friendly Torlundy House B&B, where we drop our bags off in our spacious en-suite room before heading down to the lounge where a couple of the other guests are chatting over tea and cakes. Before we can get too envious, though, our host Michael has presented us with a tray of our own, and we settle down to make plans for the next day – a ride up on the Aonach Mor Gondola, and a walk up the Nevis Gorge to the Steall Falls, maybe? – before nipping back up to the room to scrub up and head out for dinner.
Now, my idea of the perfect place to spend an evening after you’ve been out in the hills is simple, friendly, charming, serves good food and ideally has a roaring fire. And it turned out that someone else must have had the same idea, as tucked away at the very foot of Ben Nevis, just outside Fort William, the Ben Nevis Inn is exactly that.
It was the perfect end to a very enjoyable day. The food was indeed excellent and with gorgeous views down Glen Nevis as the daylight faded, and the warmth of the wood-burner keeping us toasty, we just sat back, relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere. By the end of the evening we even had Renee drinking whisky. Enough said.
The Facts For information on all activities available at the Nevis Range (including high wire and guided mountain biking), see www.nevis range.co.uk; Torlundy House B&B (www.torlundy.co.uk), £60-£80 per room based on two sharing; see independent accommodation in the area at www.fortwilliam-guesthouse.com; Ben Nevis Inn, www.ben-nevis-inn.co.uk
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: East