GONDOLA RIDES & MOVIE MAGIC
After a night in the valley of GLEN NEVIS, it’s time to get up amongst the surrounding mountains with a trip into the Nevis Range this morning. Head back into Fort William and take the A82 north for about 5 miles to the NEVIS RANGE MOUNTAIN GONDOLA [open daily from 10am | £21 for the round trip, under-18s £12, under-5s free; family tickets from £55 | parking £3 between May and October], which gently ascends up the side of Aonach Mhor. It’s a brilliant way, especially for families with younger children, of seeing what life is like on top of a mountain but without the taxing climb to get up there – although most kids are equally as enamoured with the ride up itself. At the top, an easy walk (20min one-way) to the blustery rock-strewn peak of Sgurr Finnisg-aig offers evermore dramatic views of the Great Glen and Ben Nevis.
Once you’re back down at ground level, take the A82 back into Fort William and then the A830 towards Malaig. After 15 miles, you’ll come to GLENFINNAN, at the head of beautiful Loch Shiel, where the statue of a highlander stands sentinel at the top of the GLENFINNAN MONUMENT, a tribute to the clansmen who died in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745; the nearby visitor centre charts the story of the failed uprising [open daily from 9am | £3.50, children £2.50, free to National Trust members]. Looking north from the visitor centre car park, you can see the 21 arches of GLENFINNAN VIADUCT, famous (as all kids know) for its appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, when Harry and Ron fly their car above it on their way to Hogwarts.
Beyond Glenfinnan, the A830 wiggles its way west to the coast at Arisaig – where you’ll start getting glimpses of Eigg and the Isle of Rùm – and then on to MALLAIG, just over 25 miles from Glenfinnan. From April, CalMac ferries make the 45-minute crossing from Mallaig to Armadale on the ISLE OF SKYE every hour or so until 6.10pm, 6pm on Sundays [from £15.50 for a motorhome and a family of 4; booking essential | check timetables here; in winter crossings are much less frequent | closes 20min before departure]. Across the water, you’re heading for the Cuillin, Skye’s iconic mountain range, 45 miles (around 1 hour and 15 minutes) from Armadale. From the dinky port, follow the A851 and then the A87 towards Broadford/Portree, turning left onto the A863 at Sligachan (signed “Dunvegan”), which is where you’ll spend the night tomorrow, and then again onto the B8009. Just over 1.5 miles from here, take the left turn to GLENBRITTLE. The single-track road soon starts tracing the dark and dramatic peaks of the Cuillin, and as you pull up in the elevated lay-by of the Fairy Pools car park, four miles further on, the spikey skyline looming directly across the road, you’ll know that you’ve arrived somewhere really special. There are a couple of places for freedom camping along this road, or you can spend the night at Glenbrittle Campsite, set above the shores of Loch Brittle four miles south of the Fairy Pools.
TOP TIP If you time it right, you can actually catch the HOGWARTS EXPRESS CROSSING THE GLENFINNAN VIADUCT – a magical moment for all Harry Potter fans. Take the first right after the Glenfinnan Visitor Centre (about half an hour from the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola) and park up in the bay immediately on your right (there’s more parking at the visitor centre itself). The best place to view the train is up the hill on the left of the viaduct, a 15-minute walk from here – aim to be in place for about 2.45pm, at the latest, to catch the 2.30pm departure from Fort William (you can check the latest train times here). The Hogwarts Express (officially the Jacobite) should shortly come chugging into view, billowing steam in scenes straight out of the movies. It may even toot for your kids as it crosses the viaduct.
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