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The largest town in the West Highlands

Fort William is the second-largest settlement in the Highlands, after Inverness. Even so, it's a relatively small town, tucked among the mountains and lakes of the Scottish midwest. Thanks to these surroundings, it's often referred to as "the outdoor capital of the UK". There are opportunities for all sorts of activities, from walking to climbing. If you need any proof of Fort William's hiking credentials, just look to the east. Standing there, looming over the town, is the tallest mountain in the British Isles.
This is Ben Nevis, which finally peaks at 1344 metres. Strangely, as big as it is, you can't actually see it from most places in Fort William. There's a steep ridge between the mountain and the town, blocking the view. If you want to get a proper look, you'll have to do what 100,000 people a year do. You'll have to climb it.
If this seems a bit daunting, don't worry - there are plenty of other fantastic walks in the area. For example, leading north-east from Fort William and Ben Nevis is the Great Glen. This series of valleys, lakes and rivers runs all the way to Inverness, on the other side of the country. It's a relatively flat channel within the many slopes of the Highlands, making it a natural travelling route. If you're ambitious, you can attempt to walk or cycle its entire length. This 117 kilometre path is known as the Great Glen Way. It takes you across bridges, through forests and along the banks of Loch Ness.
Before you set off on an ambitious excursion like this, make sure you're fully prepared. Fort William has plenty of well-stocked outdoor shops, where you can buy all the appropriate equipment. If the rain keeps you off the hills, then the town provides plenty of other distractions. There are dozens of restaurants serving locally-caught seafood. Then there's the West Highland Museum, where you can learn about the history and geography of the local area. On the outskirts of town is a downhill mountain bike track of such good quality that it hosts international competitions.
Just a short trip to the west of Fort William is the village of Glenfinnan. It stands at the very tip of Loch Shiel, which leads off to the south. The water is flanked by huge mountains, chopping the sky into a beautiful V shape. In 1745, a small rowing boat made its way through the centre of this striking scene. When it landed at Glenfinnan, out stepped Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was the grandson of James II, a former King who had been exiled several decades ago. Charlie's mission was simple he wanted to reclaim the thrones of Britain for his family, and he was going to start with Scotland. In fairness, he came quite close, but it wasn't to be. His armies were defeated, and the Prince had to retreat back into exile. In memory of this rebellion, a tall memorial tower was constructed. It stands at the very spot that Charlie first landed: here at Glenfinnan, on the shores of Loch Shiel.
The journey to see this monument can be as spectacular as the monument itself. The surrounding railway line crosses some incredible arched viaducts, and none of them are as breathtaking as the one at Glenfinnan. It curves around in a smooth semi-circle, offering fantastic views of the lake. The viaduct is such an impressive structure that it appears on some Scottish 10 notes. It achieved even more fame by appearing in the Harry Potter films.
Some people think of the area around Fort William as a wilderness - a land of just mountains, rivers and trees. This corner of Scotland is so much more though having played its part in the nation's very history.

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