Ullapool is a large fishing community situated on the North West coast in Ross-shire. It’s large enough to provide shops, hotels, pubs, restaurants etc. It’s small enough to walk on foot but for the folks you might want to consider accommodation near-ish the harbour as most of the facilities centre around that area. The main appeal of Ullapool is its practicality and its pretty aspect by Loch Broom. There are many interesting places to drive to from the village whilst using it as a base but there are a couple of things around you may want to look up.
The Ullapool Museum and Visitor Centre is well worth a visit just along from The Ceilidh Place. Small but packed full of interesting and touching memories of the Highland Clearances, when local crafting people were evicted from and burnt out of their homes and faced a new life by sailing over the Atlantic Ocean to Canada and America. The story is told lovingly here. The Corrieshalloch Gorge situated on the main road a few miles south of Ullapool is not to be missed. Drop by the lay by, step over the road and onto the suspension foot bridge. You’ll be looking down onto this view from several hundred feet:
Generally speaking, Ullapool is a nice place to while some relaxing time away. The harbour is a fascination and from there y one can also take various trips to view seals and bird life etc. It’s also a main dock for Caledonian McBrayne Ferries there being a crossing over to the Isle of Lewis, Part of the Hebridean Islands. Its a few hours on the boat, and not cheap, however. I wouldn’t recommend it for your trip on this occasion.
A few miles north on the main coastal road take you to Achiltibuie. The area has an outstanding view over to the Summer Isles, particularly at sunset, quite magical. It has an award-winning hotel with good food and views too. The Hydroponicum is another enjoyable visit. Some quite unlikely sights for Northern Scotland will greet you in here! Don’t forget to visit the local Achiltibuie smokehouse to buy your peat-smoked kippers…
Eating and drinking
I can thoroughly recommend the Ceilidh Place Hotel a block behind the harbour as a nice visit on and evening for food drinks or coffee. The Morefield Hotel at first glance doesn’t look terribly promising. It’s reached by driving through a small residential area a few minutes drive north out of the main village. If you enjoy fresh seafood however this is the place for you! Dining is basically in standard hotel bar or in the superior restaurant. The fact that both are crowded with customers most evenings speaks for itself. Facing the harbour with beautiful views is The Ferry Inn. You’ll find impromptu music nights in here with Scottish folk musicians bringing their instruments along for a sing-song. To be recommended.
Gairloch is a nice day visit from Ullapool, perhaps with another stop or two along the way. The road between the two villages along the coast has been rated as one of the top six drives in the world. By anybodies standards it is a truly beautiful journey. Look out for views of the magnificent An teallach. Of note is the arresting sight of Gruinard Bay, a long horseshoe-shaped sandy bay looking over to Gruinard Island. The latter became infamous during the last war as a biological warfare testing base by military scientists resulting in its nickname ‘Anthrax Island’. It’s uninhabited for obvious reasons so you won’t be popping over there for a visit. Do stay for refreshments and splendid sea air at beautiful Gruinard Bay however – most worthwhile.
Another pleasant visit in the district of Gairloch is Inverewe Gardens near Poolewe. The large grounds were the brainchild of Osgood McKenzie who made full use of the Gulf Stream’s protective climate.
Gairloch itself has a pretty harbour and some nice shops and places to eat. Round to the south of the Loch sits Badachro with its ancient inn overlooking the sailing boats in the harbour. Further along at the road ends lies glorious Redpoint. On my last visit, there stood a single hotel and a few homes. The real beauty is in the fabulous beach of white sand. Redpoint is yet another point of past emigration and has its own tales to tell. Now though all that remains is Redpoint’s emptiness and vast natural beach which can resemble a lunar landscape.
Beach at Redpoint
I’d make the suggestion of Plockton as a lunch stop on the way to Ullapool perhaps. This is one of the most attractive villages one is likely to see anywhere – indeed it is often billed as Scotland’s prettiest village. Plockton is basically a long curving bay lined with palm trees due to the temperate climate provided by the Gulf Stream that this area of Scotland benefits from. Out in the bay sits an island which adds to the visual appeal. Plockton was renowned as the setting for a British comedy drama series called ‘Hamish Macbeth’ – the comedic and wry tales of a Highland policeman which was highly rated a few years back.
Applecross takes a little effort to get to but is well worth it. It’s a possibility as a visit on your way to Ullapool but probably more practical to take a day out from Ullapool and perhaps combine it with a visit to Gairloch (more of later). The road over to the peninsula is most memorable and known as ‘The Pass of the Cattle. It’s an old droving road over the mountains where Highland farmers would have their livestock taken to lowland markets, much like the spectacular Mam Ratagan Pass over to Glenelg. The pass is narrow, steep and has sharp switchbacks, it’s unlikely that you’ll forget this journey!
Once past the viewpoint at the hilltop with fantastic views over the bay, one drops down into the small village tucked neatly in by the waterside. There’s a lovely old inn here to take lunch.
From the village of Applecross I’d suggest a drive north around the peninsula. There really are wonderful views as you take the road which hugs the bay. Along the road can be seen ancient ruined crofts as the migrants to Canada left them in the 1800s’, a very touching and humbling experience as you imagine what went through those poor people’s minds before they left their homeland for ever.
Further on are some quite spectacular, wide sweeping beaches of white sand. You can have them practically to yourself too!