Travel Report: Banavie, Scotland.
The tiny settlement of Banavie in Scotland lies within the Lochaber region of The Highlands. Located just four miles from the town of Fort William and the walking trails of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, Banavie is a great base from which to discover the region’s vast natural beauty. Furthermore, this little village even has a handful of delights itself.
Banavie is home to around 1300 people and three of those good folk are my sister, her husband and my niece. Every year or two I come to visit, invariably taking the train up from Edinburgh. Banavie is a stop on the absolutely stunning West Highland Line, one of the world’s most beautiful rail journeys.
If I’m lucky the train will stop here at the modest Banavie Railway Station. However, in most cases it rumbles right by and I have to get on a separate service for the five minute journey back from Fort William.
Just before trains pull into the station, they need to drop their speed to a crawling five miles per hour in order to cross the pretty, white Banavie Railway Swing Bridge. Built in 1901, the bridge lifts in order to let boats pass through Banavie along the Caledonian Canal.
It does this in conjunction with Banavie Swing Bridge, which carries the A830 road towards Fort William. Whenever I head into the nearby village of Caol to the local supermarket, I have to cross both bridges.
If there’s a boat sailing through, everyone has to wait. As a result, there’s usually a queue of cars on the road. There’ll also be a gathering of cyclists, hikers and curious tourists grabbing photos and videos of the bridges in action.
Banavie Swing Bridge also marks the starting point of Neptune’s Staircase, arguably the village’s main attraction. This impressive staircase lock is quite the engineering feat. Built by Thomas Telford between 1802 and 1823, it raises the Caledonian Canal by about nineteen metres over a quarter of a mile.
Actually this is Scotland’s longest staircase lock. Telford built it to ensure a faster and smoother passage for boats travelling up and down the canal. It was also used as a way to create mass employment at a time when people were leaving the area due to high unemployment and widespread poverty.
Moreover, it’s from Neptune’s Staircase that one can embark on a wondrous section of The Great Glen Way. On foot, it takes hikers around 2 hours to reach Gairlochy. That’s a brisk 35-40 minutes if you’re cycling.
Wherever you are in Banavie, you’ll always have a choice view of Ben Nevis watching over the village. This is Banavie Swing Park, where the local kiddies come to play. My niece absolutely loves it here, especially as it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from my sister’s place.
Currently, the park has a modest setup of some swings, a slide and a seesaw. Watch this space though, because local funding is in place to transform the green into a much more exciting adventure playground. Which is great news for this little girl! Word on the street is they need another thousand pounds before the project gets the green light.
There are very few sights in Banavie and one of them is hidden away in a pocket of elevated woodland. From the swing park, head down nearby Old Banavie Road until you reach this intriguing set of stone steps on the right hand side.
Banavie War Memorial.
Follow the steps up and prepare to have your flabber gasted by… drum roll… Banavie War Memorial! Well, I’m not sure what you were expecting. This elegant stone memorial stands in tribute to those brave souls in the Lochaber region who lost their lives in The First World War.
There are around forty names engraved into the stone. It’s certainly a peaceful spot and, due to a lack of signage, most visitors wouldn’t even know it’s here.
If you’re the adventurous sort and don’t mind getting your feet dirty, there’s an unofficial hike to be had from the war memorial. Just follow the track up into the woods until you reach some heathery, boggy fields best described as off the beaten path.
Scramble up the fields, over a fence and past the TV Tower. Finally, these very decent views open up over the nearby villages of Caol, Corpach and beyond over Loch Linnhe. Oh and right at the back of the photo on the right, that’s Fort William.
Keep following the track and eventually you’ll end up at Banavie Quarry. There was nobody working that day, hence I got this barren but strangely hypnotic panoramic all to myself. At some point I realised I was quite possibly trespassing! Thus I promptly swivelled around and started making my way back. No harm done.
Like this? Please do check out more of my articles from the village of Banavie.
For more on the region, see my articles from across The Scottish Highlands.
To delve further afield, you can also take a look at my travel articles from all around Scotland.
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