Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Happy New Year From Fort William

We woke up on New Year's Day in Fort William to yet another fairly grey and damp outlook but, undeterred and after a decent breakfast, we drove round to the Nevis Range ski resort to take the gondola up Aonach Mor for a bit of a cobweb-breaking wander around the mountain and then lunch in the Snowgoose Restaurant.

Loch LinnheLoch Linnhe On New Year's Day

The gondola cable car system transports visitors over 2.3km up to 2,150ft on the north face of Aonach Mor, the eighth highest mountain in Britain, in about 12 - 15 minutes. That's only just over half-way to the summit but you can get some pretty good views of the surrounding landscape on the way up.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great and the cloud was swirling around up there along with a little light drizzle. Not exactly brilliant weather for a stroll. There are a couple of shortish strolls from the gondola top station out to some viewpoints. You can go west to the little hummock of Meall Beag, where you can get some good views of Carn Dearg Meadhonach and Carn Mòr Dearg on the back side of Ben Nevis. These two peaks form the lead in to the Carn Mòr Dearg Arrete route to the top of our highest mountain.

Carn Dearg MeadhonachCarn Dearg Meadhonach from Meall Beag

We climbed the Ben by the Carn Mòr Dearg Arrete route some years ago and it's well worth the effort as the views out over the Aonachs and Grey Corries are excellent and you don't need to trudge up that boring tourist path. On top of that is the perceived danger of walking along the arrete itself and then the stiff climb up a boulder field to the summit. The other walk on Aonach Mor takes you north out to the little top of Sgurr Finnisg-aig where there are some good views out over Corpach and the Great Glen, weather permitting.

Feeling a bit damp and cold after both walks, we headed back to the Snowgoose for a bowl of hot soup and a roll to warm us up. It's a bit like a motorway café half-way up a mountain but the food is definitely better. They do a good range of hot and cold meals, catering for tourists, walkers and skiers alike. A cup of steaming hot tea and a cake to follow and we were ready to head back down to civilization.

Eating Out

We'd spotted a little restaurant in Cameron Square, called simply -No4-, the night before and after a shuftie at the menu, we'd booked a table for our New Year's evening meal. Situated just off Fort William's High Street, -No4- is a quiet little place with a touch of old fashioned colonial style, from the prints of India around the walls and the fact that the waiting staff were all pretty obviously from around there too.

However, you won't find any curry dishes here as the food is most definitely focused on local Scottish produce such as salmon, venison and lamb. Lorna had a Caesar Salad and I had more soup to start and then we tucked into a Chicken Forestiere and a Braised Lamb Shank on crushed potato with a rich port sauce and a fairly decent serving of fresh vegetables on the side. I was pretty stuffed by the time we'd scoffed that lot but Lorna finished of her meal with what looked like a very tasty Sticky Toffee Pudding.

If you fancy a bit of civilized dining with good food and service, then you might well find it worth trying. Strangely, or maybe not after the night before, most of the bars were closed so we headed back for an early night.

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