Located 105 miles (169 km) north of Glasgow and 145 miles (233 km) from Edinburgh, Fort William lies at the heart of Lochaber district within the Highland Council Area. The first fort was built at the mouth of the River Lochy in 1645 by General George Monk (1608-70) who named it Inverlochy, whilst the adjacent village which became established due to the trade associated with the herring trade was named Gordonsburgh. In 1690 the fort was enlarged and was renamed Fort William, whilst the village underwent several name changes from Gordonsburgh to Maryburgh, Duncansburgh, and finally by the 19th Century it took the name of Fort William, although in Gaelic remains known as An Gearasdan Ionbhar-lochaidh - the Garrison of Inverlochy - or simply An Gearasdan. Much of the old fort was being demolished to accommodate a railway station and sidings. Fort William is a main station of the West Highland Line, which runs from Glasgow to Mallaig via Fort William and was opened in 1901. The introduction of the railway, the building of the Caledonian Canal and the west coast passenger steamers all contributed to making Fort William a busy tourist centre, a situation which still exists today. The town's proximity to the Nevis Range and the Aonach Mor has made it a popular base for skiers, snowboarders and climbers. Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest peak is located close by. Visitor attractions include the West Highland Museum, located in the town's Cameron Square, which houses a collection of Jacobite memorabilia, the Lochaber Leisure Centre and an 18 hole golf course.
Nearby attractions include the Ben Nevis Distillery, the ruins of Inverlochy Castle, The Treasures of the Earth exhibition in Corpach and Neptune's Staircase, a series of locks designed in 1820 by Thomas Telford which link the sea to the Caledonian Canal in Banavie. In addition to tourism, the production of aluminium at the Lochaber Smelter is an important local industry.