cowhill circuit - Fort William
Route type: Other
Total climb: 1,292.65 ft
Distance: 11.04km, 6.86 miles. Like (33)
1. The walk begins at Fort William town centre; if arriving by car it may be more convenient to park in the Braveheart car park in Lower Glen Nevis and joining the route there. From the northeast end of the High Street, continue between Nevisport and the Alexandra Hotel. Walk out of the town on the pavement beside the main road towards Inverness, passing the hospital and church. Turn right immediately after the Leisure Centre (towards the Salvation Army); don't follow this lane as it bends left but keep straight on through the car park adjacent to the leisure centre to reach an interpretative sign at the start of the walk. The sign gives full details of this walk. Follow the path as it zig-zags uphill; ignore the several smaller paths leading off on the right and keep on the main, gravel surfaced path, always turning left at each junction. 2. The path soon joins a path running around the lower slopes of the hill; turn left. Ignore the path leading off to the right, keeping on the path for Glen Nevis. There are good views over the outskirts of the town on this section; on one grassy hillock beside the path is a bench. This little summit is known as the Sugar Loaf, and is where the Jacobites fired their artillery during the seige of Fort William in the 1745 rebellion. Continue on the path from here, again ignoring a branch path off to the right (mostly used by mountain bikers). 3. The path now curves round into lower Glen Nevis, and passes in and out of woodland of alder, birch and willows. The steep, bulky hill across the glen is Meall an t-Suidhe, a foothill of Ben Nevis. A little further on and you'll see a car park just off to the left of the path - this is the Braveheart car park which is an alternative start for this walk. Keep right at the sign as the path joins a track. The way is signed for 'Cow Hill summit, via the peat track'. Continue along the track through the forestry for a little under a kilometre until another signed junction is reached. Turn right onto a small path, marked 'Peat Track to Fort William, Cow Hill summit'. 4. This path is known as the peat track, as it was used until recently for gathering peats from the hill above for use as fuel. It heads steeply uphill, winding left and right to ease the gradient a little; this is the hardest part of this walk, but excellent views open up of the Glen behind. At the top of the woodland is a path junction and a gate. Ignore the path off to the right, instead heading through the gate ahead. The path becomes more of a track at this point and heads across open moorland, climbing more gently until there is a glimpse of Loch Linnhe ahead. It soon joins a larger track; to take in the detour to the summit of Cow Hill, turn right (as indicated by the sign). 5. The track climbs gently uphill for several hundred metres to reach a gate. Continuing through the gate, descend a little before a final rise to the prominent mast on the summit of Cow Hill. To get the best views, continue round the fenced mast area on slightly boggy ground to the right, to reach the open hillock just beyond. This is a superb viewpoint. Almost all of Fort William and its suburbs of Caol and Corpach can be seen strung round the bend in Loch Linnhe, with lochs and mountains around in all directions. After enjoying a rest, return to the track junction reached earlier. This time continue straight ahead. 6. The track heads downhill with a view of a secluded glen ahead, backed by Loch Linnhe; it's hard to believe the bustle of Fort William is so close at hand. Pass a bench and continue on the track as it curves round to the right. Ignore a path off to the left and follow the track to a gate where it joins the road climbing up from the bealach. Turn right down the road, which soon leads into the outskirts of Fort William. The quickest way back to the centre is to continue down this road (Achintore Road) to the roundabout at the southwest end of the High Street. A more attractive alternative is to look for the signpost on the left just before you reach the blocks of flats. The sign reads 'Town centre via Achintore gardens'. Turn down this lane and descend the steps at the end, then continuing directly across the road junction ahead to meet the A82. Cross this and turn right onto the path through the gardens. These line the side of Loch Linnhe and lead back to the town centre.