Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge

So much to see and do in the Central Highlands

Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge - 1. The Commando Memorial (and Highbridge)
Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge - 2. The Gairlochy ‘Lighthouse’
Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge - Chia-aig Waterfalls

If you do a simple Google search on places to visit in Spean Bridge, you get a great choice of different activities that you can do such as take a ride on the Jacobite Steam Train or the Nevis Mountain gondola, kayak, clay pigeon shoot, visit the Ben Nevis Distillery and the Clan Cameron Museum and so on. All these suggestions are excellent; however, they all take time and cost money.

Our 5 ‘must visit’ recommendations are all situated with a 15-minute drive of Distant Hills Guest House, are completely free, and except for the first one, are well off the beaten tourist path.

1. The Commando Memorial (and Highbridge)

The most frequented attraction in Spean Bridge is the iconic Commando Memorial. Unveiled in 1952, this splendid bronze statue, standing 17ft, commemorates the 1,700 Commandos who lost their lives, and many more who were seriously wounded during WWII. The nearby memorial garden remembers loved ones who have tragically lost their lives in more recent military campaigns.

You can also read about the history of the 25,000 Commandos who trained at former Commando Basic Training Centre, which was established in 1942 at nearby Achnacarry.

This spot is also very popular for its breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges, and towards Fort William and Loch Linnhe in the far distance. The sunsets here are particularly special and a must for any budding photographers!

If you have the time, we recommend following the footpath from the Commando Memorial, through the kissing gate and down to the historic High Bridge, from where the first shots of the 1745 Jacobite Uprising where fired. This is a beautiful woodland walk and will take a little over half and hour to walk there and back to the car park.

2. The Gairlochy ‘Lighthouse’

From the Commando Memorial, you continue along the single-track road down to the Caledonian Canal and the tiny hamlet of Gairlochy. At the canal, find a car parking space and walk towards the red phone box. Keeping the phone box on your right, follow the footpath along the canal. You will soon pass a beautiful white house, which used to belong to Thomas Telford, who was the mastermind engineer behind building of the Caledonian Canal in the early 1800s.

After approximately 10 minutes, you will come to the end of the footpath where you will discover the understated Gairlochy Lighthouse. But the real reason, we suggest you visit this little hidden gem, is for the stunning and secluded view down the length of Loch Lochy. The well-positioned bench and the pebble shore make ideal places for a little pic-nic.

This spot is often frequented by a local group of wild swimmers. If you fancy joining them, they usually meet at the lighthouse at 9am on Thursdays. Cameron and I are plucking up the courage to take a dip ourselves!

3. Chia-aig Waterfalls

There are lots of beautiful waterfalls to be discovered throughout the Lochaber region; however, Chia-Aig (also known as the Witches Cauldron) is one of our favourites and easily accessible by car or bike. From the canal at Gairlochy, cross over the bridge and turn right uphill in the direction of the Clan Cameron Museum. Follow this quiet single-track road for approximately 4 miles until you get to a T-junction with a no-entry to vehicles to the right and a signpost to the left for the Dark Mile. Take the left turn here and follow the ‘Dark Mile’ which gets its name from the steep sided, heavily tree-lined hills on either side of this mile-long stretch of road. As you come out of the trees, you will see a small car park on your right, signposted Eas Chia-Aig.  Just beyond is the bridge from where you can see the pretty the Chia-Aig waterfalls. This spot is also featured in the film ‘Rob Roy’.

If the falls are not in full spate, you can walk up the short footpath to the top of the first fall and walk or sit on the rocks between the two falls. If it’s a lovely warm day, the pool at the bottom of the falls makes for a perfect refreshing dip!

If you walk, cycle, or drive just a little further past the waterfalls, you will discover Loch Arkaig, which is seldomly visited by tourists and another of our all-time favourite hidden gems.

Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge - The Parallel Roads
Bed & Breakfast Spean Bridge, Fort William
Five Places You Must Visit When You Stay in Spean Bridge - Cille Choirill

4. The Parallel Roads

Located in the heart of Glen Roy, signposted from our neighbouring village of Roy Bridge, the Parallel Roads are of significant geological interest. The parallel horizontal lines that you see in the hill sides are not roads at all, but the remains of gravel shorelines formed over 10-20,000 years ago by the receding levels of an ice-damned lake during the last Ice Age.

At the car park, you will find two information boards detailing the geological history and interest of this and neighbouring glens. It also provides a fantastic viewpoint down the glen and back towards the Nevis range mountains in the very far distance. We particularly love the feeling of solitude that this glen gives you. There is also a short circular walk that you can do from the car park involving a short but steep ascent at first before levelling off and following one of the Parallel Roads. Ask us for details. Alternatively, you can walk, drive, or cycle several miles all the way to the head of the glen. This is an excellent suggestion if you want to feel nature wrapped all around you and that you are the only person for miles around.

5. Cille Choirill

Call us strange, but we really appreciate a beautiful church and graveyard and they do not get any quainter than Cille Choirill (St Cyril). This beautiful 15th Century Roman Catholic church sits tucked away high on the hillside above Glen Spean. Look out for the white signpost along the A86 just after the Glen Spean Lodge Hotel. The views from here are quite simply stunning and it is yet another serene and calming place hidden away from the uninformed tourist. We recommend spending a little time reading some of the headstones to gain a sense of local Highland life over the centuries. There are also some fine examples of traditional Celtic Cross headstones in this graveyard.

Dani and Cameron’s Travel Tips

We love exploring ourselves and have discovered so many beautiful places all within easy accessibility of Distant Hills Guest House. If you tell us what you enjoy and which direction you are heading, we will happily share our local knowledge with you including any insider hints and tips. We want you to fall in love with the Scottish Highlands just as much as we have. This place is far too magical to keep to ourselves!

If you have any questions about any of the 5 places mentioned above, or you would like to share your own experiences, please leave them in the comments below. We would love to read them.

Dani Mackinnon

Hi, I’m Dani, the lucky co-owner of Distant Hills Guest House in the glorious Scottish Highlands. I love sharing my passion for life, the mountains and the great outdoors.

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