Aonach Mor – just two summits away from the peak of Ben Nevis, towering above the Great Glen – is the location of Britain’s only mountain gondola.
The wheelchair-accessible gondola is open year-round, and transports visitors up 2150 feet to Scotland’s highest snow-sports area and, of course, dramatic, unbeatable views over the mountains and lochs of Scotland’s west coast. In winter, the slopes are abuzz with skiers and boarders, and offer options for both beginners and experts. The set-up here for disabled skiing isn’t as impressive as at Aviemore (the base for Disability Snowsport UK), but it’s well worth having a go. An adaptive ski instructor can be booked in advance, and a junior sit-ski suitable for children aged up to fourteen (depending on height) is available. Downhill mountain bike trails are open in the summer season, but while bike rental is possible, there are no adapted bikes available. At the bottom of the mountain – around the base station – are miles of forest trails, open year round. Some are passable by the adventurous disabled visitor, including those in wheelchairs, if they’re not too muddy. The Broomstick Blue trail is about four miles long and reasonably level, though wheelchair users may need to turn back halfway, when the route becomes trickier to navigate. The new High Wire Adventure, featuring a ‘swoop drop’, zip slide and rope bridges is an exciting addition, but unfortunately, very challenging for disabled children and adults.
Blue Badge parking is provided on a tarmac area next to the gondola entrance. The café at the base station and the Snowgoose restaurant at the top both have easy access and accessible toilets. The gondolas are able to accommodate wheelchairs up to 23.6 inches wide, but if yours doesn’t fit, transfer onto the gondola seat is quite easy. They also have a narrow chair, which can be wheeled up the ramp, into the gondola by the helpful staff (your own chair can go up with you). The restaurant is accessible by a steep ramp from the outside of the building, just fifty yards from the gondola arrival point, though in winter this may mean a short journey through snow. Its balcony-cum-viewing deck has one small step down to it. Beneath the restaurant, the Mountain Discovery Centre has information about the Nevis range’s flora and fauna, but access is via a flight of stairs. The upper chairlifts above the gondola don’t operate in summer, to protect the sensitive vegetation.
Food & drink: The Snowgoose restaurant is right at the top, but space is limited. A good alternative is the Pinemarten cafe and bar (01397 705 825), which serves locally-sourced hot and cold meals and snacks in a light and airy building. It has step-free access, movable seating and a disabled toilet.