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Suppose I were to offer you a 3-day stay in a premier lodge in Fort William, with views over to Ben Nevis. What would you think? My first thought was bliss. I need this. My second thought was, what exactly is there to do in Fort William?
Fort William is not an area that I have ever thought of holidaying in.
Beyond the Glenfinnan Viaduct and The Jacobite Steam Train, I’m not overly familiar with the area or what it has to offer.
I am also not the kind of girl that enjoys sitting around for too long, I want to explore. I want to discover new places and new things, and although I have no grand illusions about climbing Ben Nevis (I have the utmost respect for you if you do!), I still want to see the sights. Albeit closer to ground level.
And truth be told, I’ve never stayed in a caravan before. Let alone holidayed in a caravan park. I love the outdoors, but would you consider me ‘outdoorsy’? Probably not. I enjoy my creature comforts after a busy day. A hot shower, a comfortable bed, and how very British of me, a kettle. I know that there are facilities and alternative ways to achieve these but, all in all, I think I would consider myself a hotel girl.
Thankfully, for those like me, caravans have progressed a lot over the years, caravan and holiday parks are more inclusive to those that are looking for the best of both worlds and our stay with Highland Holidays was nothing short of staying in a secluded lodge — a gentle and welcome introduction to the caravan lifestyle.
This summer, my family all travelled home to Stornoway for my cousin’s wedding. The wedding was just beautiful and amazingly, the only sunny day that we had over the week that we were there! Aside from the weather, it’s so rare, if ever as adults, that we’ve all been there at the same time so we decided to extend our time together a little bit longer and make the journey down to Fort William for a little R&R before heading home.
Me, Peter, my mum, my cousin and her gorgeous little Patterdale dog Boban. The name Boban always seems to catch non-Hebridean/Scottish Gaelic speakers out, so if that’s you, it is pronounced as Baw-ban. I would absolutely love to have my own dog and Boban is just the sweetest, kindest-natured one around, which undoubtedly gives me a false illusion of how easy it would be.
I know how difficult dog-friendly accommodation can be to find so we thought that this would be a great opportunity for my cousin to enjoy some time away with him, and I suppose a good excuse for the rest of us to enjoy some time taking him out!
We each made our way down to Fort William from Ullapool, it’s a gorgeous drive through the Scottish Highlands and one that I would recommend taking if you have the time. Peter and I arrived first which gave us the first nosey around the place and on first impression, I was so impressed.
Arriving into the park, you’ll find yourself just on the outskirts of Fort William, with Ben Nevis looming in the skyline behind you.
You can see that a lot of modernisation has been taking place at the Highland Holidays Ben Nevis park with a brand new reception building welcoming you as soon as you arrive.
In the reception you’ll find plenty of tourist information leaflets, a very well stocked shop offering all essentials that you may need as well as some of the local Highland Soap co products that are found in all the lodges.
You’ll also find the new cafe/restaurant area that we believe has recently opened to the public. Unfortunately, during our visit this was still in progress but means that on-site catering is an option for those who fancy a night off cooking, or should weather not be suitable for those camping at the holiday park.
Having received our keys, we were given a site map and pointed in the direction of our lodge.
Heading back to the car, we caught sight of the first of two childrens playgrounds, where the laughter of a number of kids could be heard over the chirping of the birds really showing just how quiet an area the park is located in.
The park layout is pretty easy to navigate, with all the lodges laid out in a square grid like setup.
Passing a few of the glamping pods and caravans, we pulled up in front of our home for the next few days. Ambleside.
As we pulled into the space, we noticed a group of chickens tottering around. I had no idea that this was a thing in holiday parks! Is this a thing? Either way, I thought it was lovely and they were so blissfully unphased by everything going on around them. Although, some of the dogs did appear to be quite perplexed by their presence.
Our accommodation was a Ben Nevis Premier Lodge, that sleeps up to 6 people in three bedrooms and is also pet friendly.
I believe that this lodge costs you around £24 per person per night (based on a 6 person occupancy) with a minimum of three nights stay. You’ll also be required to pay an extra deposit should you be taking a dog on your stay with you.
The very first thing we noticed about the lodge, was the wrap around patio area complete with outdoor furniture and phenomenal views of the nearby mountain. This is somewhere that I knew we would be spending a lot of our time whilst here.
The patio area is gated, so it’s perfect should you have small children or a dog that you want to let run around in the safety of the outside of the lodge.
Heading inside, you are greeted by a hallway area leading to all the main rooms of the lodge.
At the end of the hallway is the main double bedroom which comes complete with its very own en-suite. The room also has plenty of storage, a TV, ironing board and iron and a henry hoover stored in the cupboard.
This is a very spacious room, at least in comparison to the other two twin rooms on offer and feels very homely. Almost like it could be a bedroom in your home. A welcome sight after a long day of driving.
The en-suite bathroom features a shower, toilet and sink with complimentary Highland Soap Co products attached to the wall which are locally made in Fort William at the nearby factory.
Coming back through the hallway, there are two twin rooms which are quite a bit smaller and one of the first things we noticed, were how narrow these beds were. Peter said this felt more reminiscent of a caravan experience of his childhood, but still perfectly adequate space, maybe just slightly cramped if this were a lodge being shared by 6 adults.
Opposite the bedroom is the main bathroom which also has the same setup and complimentary products from Highland Soap Co.
Heading through to the main living area, you open the door to be greeted by a spacious open plan living area that has a large kitchen area with plenty of surfaces, gas oven/grill and hobs, dishwasher, microwave and all the utensils you could need for self-catering living.
To the other side of this room are two large comfortable sofas, positioned around a fireplace, TV and two large patio doors leading to the outside decking area with stunning views over towards Ben Nevis.
I think that I ate breakfast out on the patio every single morning and to be honest, wish that I still could do that now.
It was just such an incredible view that changed so much as the sun moved across the sky.
We genuinely could not fault our accommodation at all.
Our only real bugbear was the heat. It didn’t matter how many doors, windows you had open.
It was very hard to keep cool.
Now that’s not often a complaint of a Scottish person when it comes to sunny weather, but it was tough going at night time when trying to sleep.
Does it warrant air conditioning?
Probably not given this is Scotland after all, but be aware that it can be quite hot, so maybe a fan would be a worthwhile addition in the storage cupboard.
The only other thing that you need to be aware of is that you need to take your own towels as these are not provided.
The park was extremely quiet and even though it was a very active park, we couldn’t fault it for being too loud, if anything we were surprised by just how quiet it was.
Finding the park was easy enough, although our sat nav did almost try to take us to a completely different park with a similar name, so be sure to stick with using the postcode should you be trusting technology.
It’s also perfectly located for getting around to the local tourist attractions such as Fort William itself, the Jacobite train if you’re booked on to it, or the Glenfinnan Viaduct if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of it crossing.
There’s also plenty of other things nearby that are just a short distance away by car.
It’s probably not an ideal location if you don’t have transport and I don’t know how well served it is by local bus services.
We absolutely loved it though and would definitely love to return to try out one of the many other Hot Tub Lodges at the site.
Hopefully some day soon as to be honest, we’ve grown quite fond of holidaying in Scotland these last few years, especially when you get the sunny spells that we’ve been having recently.
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