The Ben Nevis distillery is lucky enough to be located in an area that is steeped in history, and that area is Fort William.
The Fort at Fort William was initially built in 1654 by Cromwell’s forces. The aim was to pacify local clans, particularly the Camerons. It started life as a wooden stockade on an earth bank which protected 250 troops and it became known as the Garrison of Inverlochy. Fort William was a link in a chain of low outposts of Government Defences aimed at suppressing ‘savage clans and roving barbarians’. The two other outposts were Fort Augustus and Fort George.
In the early 1690’s a more imposing Fort was built with 20 feet high stone walls and a deep dry ditch. The name progressed from Garriosn of Inverlochy to Fort William, and the name came from William of Orange.
The first real test of the new 20-foot stone walls came in 1746 when 600 men in the fort were sieged by the Jacobite Army. After nearly a week of bombardment the Fort remained largely unscathed. Once the Jacobite Army had been quelled, the Fort was of less importance. However, it still remained manned until 1854, although the soldier’s main role was to put an end to local smugglers.
Fort William was then sold and dismantled as it was used as a railway yard for the West Highland Railway in 1894. A small section of the original fort can be seen beside the roundabout in front of Lochaber College. It still remains of importance in the Highlands today, no longer for the military but for industry and commerce, including the Ben Nevis distillery.