Ullapool Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

The picturesque village of Ullapool is located in the North Highlands on the shore of Loch Broom.

While many people only visit Ullapool to take a ferry to the Isle of Lewis, there are lots of worthwhile attractions in the area that make Ullapool a great visitor destination in its own right.

Highlights include climbing Meall Mhor hill, walking along the Ullapool seafront, and taking a boat trip or a sea kayak to the Summer Isles which are renowned for their incredible rock formations and abundant marine wildlife.

Ullapool
Address:Latheron Lane Car Park,
Ullapool,
IV26 2XB
Opening Hours:Ullapool is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.
Admission Price:Ullapool is free to visit.

Parking:There is a free car park next to the Tesco supermarket, as well as temporary parking at the supermarket for customers.
On-road parking is possible across Ullapool but be aware there are double yellow lines on many of the streets near the shore.
There is a car park opposite the ferry terminal for ferry passengers only.
Contact:N/A
Facilities:Ullapool has a wide array of facilities including a petrol station, car parks, cafes, restaurants, public toilets, supermarket, independent shops and hotel accommodation.

The highlights

1: Ullapool makes a great base to explore Sutherland and the Northern Highlands. The facilities in the village are excellent and the surrounding area is one of the most scenic in Scotland.

2: Hill walkers will have a wonderful time roaming across the area behind Ullapool where they’ll find the outcrop of Meall Mhor – a 750-foot hill that presents gorgeous views over Loch Broom.

Further east lies Beinn Eilideach, a 1,840-foot mountain (classified as a Marilyn) that has several lochans on its eastern side.

3: The coastline around Ullapool is stunning and visitors can explore the majority of it with tours that operate from Loch Broom.

Two highlights are guided kayak trips around the RSPB reserve on the Summer Isles which is home to sea eagles and dolphins, and boat tours of Isle Martin at the head of Loch Broom.

Ullapool

Visiting tips

1: If you only have a few hours in Ullapool while waiting for the ferry, I recommend heading down to West Shore Street, picking up a box of fish and chips from The Seaforth Chippy, and walking along the shoreline heading west, then north to Ullapool River.

This 1.5-mile return walk is a great way to see Loch Broom and you have the option of returning via the pavement of West Terrace and West Argyle Street if you find the rocky shoreline hard going.

2: Visiting in the height of summer means parking can be tricky, but there’s a small car park on the A835 1-mile west of the filling station which usually has available spaces. A gate on the opposite side of the road offers access to Ullapool Hill and The Braes.

3: Good-to-knows:
1. West Argyle Street (located behind West Shore Street facing Loch Broom) has another supermarket (Costcutter) as well as a bank.
2. Latherton Lane car park has an electric car charge point as well as recycling bins.
3. If it’s raining you’ll find a nice wee museum about Ullapool on West Argyle Street and a couple of cosy cafes on Shore Street.


Overview

Wester Ross in the northern Highlands has gained something of a cult following with Scotland’s tourists in recent years.

This is in no small part thanks to the North Coast 500 touring route which takes intrepid travellers across 516 miles of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes.

The route runs more-or-less around the entire North Highlands, from the city of Inverness, up the east coast to John O Groats, and back down the west coast to Applecross and the Bealach na Ba mountain pass.

Of all the regions that comprise the route, Wester Ross is arguably the most scenic and is without a doubt home to the majority of the North Highland’s most attractive villages.

Ullapool

Strathcarron, Applecross, Torridon and Gairloch are superb bases to explore this land of soaring mountain peaks and mist-covered sea lochs, but they’re all trumped (in my opinion) by Ullapool.

This settlement has a long history stretching back as far as the age of the Vikings but it wasn’t officially established as a village until 1788 when the British Fisheries Society built a herring port on the shore of Loch Broom.

Ullapool harbour is still used by fishing boats to this day, but it’s also used by tour boats as well as Calmac ferries which operates the enormous MV Loch Seaforth between Ullapool and Stornoway – one of the largest commercial vessels in Scotland.

Ullapool

The village spreads out from the northwest shore of Loch Broom to a hill range behind it in a location that’s perfectly placed to explore the Highlands as well as provide access to the Outer Hebrides.

The historic city of Inverness is a mere 80-minute drive to the east, while two of my personal favourite lochs (Maree and Ewe) are located 80-minutes to the west.

Loch Broom itself is exceptionally scenic, but it’s perhaps best used as a base to explore the coastline north of Ullapool as there are a number of tour boat operators that run daily excursions to the Summer Isles.

These (mostly) uninhabited islands are well known for their wild coastlines that are a haven for seabirds, as well as marine animals that include basking sharks, seals, and dolphins.

In addition to the tour boats that operate out of Ullapool, there are also regular ferry sailings to the Isle of Lewis which means that visitors can easily enjoy a few nights in the Outer Hebrides alongside their excursions into the Highlands.

Ullapool

Anyone looking to spend time in the village will find a number of attractions alongside excellent facilities which cater to Ullapool’s 1,500 permanent residents as well as the hundreds of thousands of tourists that travel through Wester Ross each year.

In addition to a Tesco and Costcutter supermarket there are lots of independent cafes and restaurants that overlook Loch Broom, and Ullapool is one of the few villages in the region that has a petrol station.

This last point is worth noting for those visitors setting off into the remote wilderness of the North Highlands as it’s one of the least inhabited places in Europe, though sadly the fuel prices in the village are around 20% more expensive than normal.

A final point to note about Ullapool is that the weather on the far northwest coast is generally milder but wetter than the rest of the Highlands due to the North Atlantic Drift which brings in warm currents from the Atlantic.

Average temperatures in summer sit at around 18 °C with little wind chill, but the number of rainy days are a rather sodden 16 per month.

Winter, meanwhile, sees an average of 10 °C which is much warmer than elsewhere in the Highlands, but the number of rainy days per month increases to 20.

Ullapool

Tourist information

The majority of visitors to Ullapool will either pass through it on a tour of the NC500 or will only be there to wait for the next ferry to Stornoway, meaning time spent in the area will be just a few hours at most.

However, this is one village that deserves to be fully explored as it’s a fantastic place for anyone that loves the great outdoors.

There are so many options for enjoying the landscape surrounding Ullapool that it’s difficult to know where to begin, but having spent a couple of days there recently I have a few suggestions that I think will be of interest to the majority of people.

First off, of course, is walking around Ullapool itself.

Ullapool

If arriving by car you should head straight to the car park in Latheron Lane near the Tesco supermarket as it has lots of spaces for cars and motorhomes as well as the only electric car charging point for miles around.

There are also waste recycling bins in this car park so if you’re travelling in a campervan and have days worth of rubbish to clear out, this is the place to do it.

After stocking up supplies in Tesco, head down Quay Street to the harbour.

Snap a few photos of the Ullapool Clock at the junction of West Argyl Street which is a historic landmark, then head west to Ullapool Museum which has an interesting exhibition about the village and its hundreds of years of use as a fishing port.

Ullapool

There’s a small fee of around £5 to enter the museum which is well worth it if the weather closes in as it’ll keep families occupied for a good hour, after which you can continue down Quay Street to The Seaforth chip shop which serves delicious battered fish and chips.

There’s a covered terrace outside the adjoining hotel where you can munch your chips, but if you’d rather have a more formal meal you’ll find a very good restaurant inside.

Alternatively, there are several wee cafes along Shore Street heading towards the petrol station as well as the Royal Hotel which has a conservatory restaurant with good views of Loch Broom.

The small fishing harbour is probably the best place to photograph the flotilla of boats bobbing about in the bay but take note that it’s a working harbour so vehicles will be moving in and out throughout the day.

Ullapool

If you time it right you can watch the enormous MV Loch Seaforth sail into the harbour which is so big it seems to dwarf the entire village, but if the ferry is nowhere to be seen I recommend taking a walk along the Ullapool seafront to the point where it merges with the Ullapool River.

The seafront is shingle and rock so don’t bother with a bucket and spade for this particular beach, but I do recommend taking binoculars (link to my favourite pairs) as the view across Loch broom to the hills of Sgeir Eagh Dhanugh is spectacular.

You can then return along the beach to the harbour and back up to the Latheron Lane car park. In all, that walk will show you the main features of the village and will easily keep you busy for a full afternoon.

Ullapool

If, however, you’d rather explore the surrounding hills then I thoroughly recommend taking a walk up Ullapool Hill.

There are several places to begin a walk into the hills but perhaps the easiest is to set off on foot from anywhere near Broom Park road on the eastern side of the village where there’s a gated entrance to a path that leads directly to the hill summit.

It’s not a particularly steep climb at just over 800 feet and the paths are in a good condition, so this walk is easy enough for anyone with average fitness levels.

The view from the highest point of the hill is astounding and has to be the high point (no pun intended) of a visit to Ullapool.

If you’d like to know more about the walk you’ll find more information in this article: Ullapool Hill Visitor Guide.

Discover more places to visit in the Highlands with: The Ultimate Highlands Visitor Guide.


Things to do

1: Loch Broom. Distance: 0 miles from Ullapool.
This sea loch in northwest Ross and Cromarty is a wonderful destination for outdoor adventurers thanks to the surrounding landscape which is home to several mountains (Ben More Coigach and Beinn Ghobhlach are two good climbs).

Ullapool

In addition, Loch Broom allows visitors to explore lots of west coast islands including the Summer Isles, Isle Martin, and Gruinard Island, all of which are home to large numbers of sea birds.

2: Ardmair Beach. Address: Ardmair Beach, A835, Ullapool, IV26 2TN. Distance: 3.5 miles.
This 1/2-mile pebble beach borders grazing land at the foot of a large hill range west of Ullapool.

There is a campsite on the northern end which has a jetty that allows kayakers to cross Loch Canaird to Isle Martin which is a community-run island recognised as a bird sanctuary.

3: Ullapool Museum. Address: 7 & 8 West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2TY. Distance: 0 miles.
Ullapool Museum serves to preserve and promote the culture and history of the village and its surrounding countryside.

It is located inside a Category A listed building and features displays and artefacts that delves into Ullapool’s bygone age of fishing and crofting.

4: Meall Mhor – Ullapool Hill. Distance: 1 mile.
The hike to the summit of Ullapool Hill is one of the highlights of a visit to the area thanks to the stunning views from the rocky crag of Meall Mhor.

Ullapool

There are several locations to start the route, but the most commonly used begins at the edge of a housing estate in the northeast of the village (postcode IV26 2XL).

5: Leckmelm Garden. Address: Garve, IV23 2RH. Distance: 3 miles.
Mature gardens set in an idyllic location on the shore of Loch Broom, located 10-minutes by car from Ullapool.

The gardens feature a diverse collection of trees and shrubs sourced from across the globe with woodland paths that offers visitors a good 1-hour walk.


Accommodation

Booking.com

Tourist map of Scotland

Ullapool,
IV26 2XB

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Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

Beinn Dearg & Loch Fannich – 436 Explorer.

Beinn Dearg & Loch Broom – 20 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Frequently asked questions

Is Ullapool in Sutherland?

Ullapool is not part of Sutherland. The village of Ullapool is located 45 miles northwest of Inverness in the region of Ross and Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands. It is most often described as being located in Wester Ross.

Why is it called Ullapool?

Though Ullapool was officially founded in 1788, its name is linked to Vikings who populated the far North Highlands in the 9th century.

The name ‘Ullapool’ is believed to derive from the nose phrase ‘Ulla-Bolstadr’ which translates to ‘Ulla’s farm’ or ‘wool farm’.

What is Ullapool known for?

Ullapool is known for its fishing industry which has been going on for hundreds of years and is still thriving today.

The village is also known for its outstanding scenery and it’s a popular destination for tourists due to tour boat operators that run trips along Loch broom to the Summer Isles and beyond.

In addition, Ullapool is the main departure point for ferries to the Outer Hebrides.

What is the population of Ullapool?

Ullapool has a permanent resident population of around 1,500 people. The population of the town increases significantly in summer with the arrival of holidaymakers.