The footpath and observatory were both constructed during the summer of 1883. The contractor was James McLean of Fort William. The last rise on to the summit is named McLean’s Steep in his honour. The observatory although formally opened on Wednesday October 17th 1883 did not start operating until November 28th. The observatory was built to record “The diversity of the mountain environment” e.g. temperature, wind speed, rainfall, air pressure, etc.
On the summit of Nevis next to the ruins of the observatory you will find the Triangulation Pillar. This is more often than not simply called the ‘Trig Point.’ [Grid reference 166(5) / 712(8)]. Many experienced climbers and walkers will tell anyone who will listen that the Trig Points are always found at the highest point on a hill or mountain. This is incorrect. They are actually sited so they can be seen from the other Trig Point positions on the surrounding hills, in many cases this is the highest point, but not always. It is important that they are positioned in this manner as each Trig Point forms a corner of a triangle, polygon or other geometric shape. This is used to produce an accurate framework which in turn is used to provide very exact fixings to the latitude and longitude, thus allowing the map maker and others to be able to work out their precise location anywhere in Britain.
A glorious sunny day in Fort William. Photographed from the canal landing at Caol just to the north of the town.