Ben Nevis


Ages 10 & up
Destination:
Near Fort William, Scotland

In the middle of the Scottish Highlands, Ben Nevis, at 1,342m (4,403 ft.), is the tallest mountain in Britain. Even if you've tackled higher peaks, don't sell Ben Nevis short: The 16km (10-mile) climb is a difficult 8 hours to the summit even along the most popular route, a pony track. The final 300m (984 ft.) is really steep terrain, but having gone this far, few can resist the challenge of going all the way. For a much rougher but more scenic trail, come up out of Glen Nevis, with its rivers and waterfalls, meadows and moorlands. The summit is flat and covered with loose stones, sloping off gently to the south, but a series of jagged rock precipices plunge down the northeast side, a challenge suitable for only the most expert climbers.

Before going, check in with the staff at the Fort William tourist office, 6km (3 ¾ miles) northwest of the mountain; they can give you advice as well as maps, and they'll pinpoint the best starting places.

Note that the unpredictable Scottish weather adds to the challenge: Dress in layers and bring along a waterproof jacket (stout-soled shoes are essential). The mean monthly temperature of Ben Nevis falls below freezing; snow has been reported at all times of year, even during the hottest months of July and August.

Howling winds are frequent.

Hikers head up expecting a panoramic view, but that same fickle weather means they're often disappointed -- be prepared to appreciate the beauty of whatever you see up there, even if it's a cloak of swirling mist. If you're so lucky as to have clear weather, you can see the Irish foothills some 193km (120 miles) to the southwest, the Hebridean Isle of Rhum 148km (92 miles) to the west, the Glencoe peaks directly south, and the Cairngorm peaks to the east. If some members of your party vote against climbing, they can still get a pretty darn stunning view by taking the cable car to a panoramic viewing area about halfway up.

Information: Fort William Tourist Information, Cameron Square, Fort William (tel. 44/1845/22-55-121; www.visit-fortwilliam.co.uk).

Nearest Airport: Glasgow, 4hrs.

Accommodations: The Alexandra Hotel, The Parade, Fort William (tel. 44/1397/702-241; www.strathmorehotels.com). The Moorings, Banavie (tel. 44/1397/772-797; www.moorings-fortwilliam.co.uk).