If you’re scouring the map of Scotland’s famous North Coast 500 route for can’t-miss destinations, let’s settle one question straight away: Ullapool is worth visiting. Nestled on the northwest coast, this picturesque fishing village is not just an ideal stopover but a highlight on the journey. Ullapool offers a blend of culture, history, breathtaking landscapes, and beautiful accommodations, marrying salty sea breeze along with warm hospitality.
On my week-long exploration of the North Coast 500 Route, Ullapool stood out as a delightful highlight. While my stay here was brief, the quaint village’s charm was immediate and profound. Ullapool’s storied past, peaceful scenery, and the simple beauty of the fishing port were unexpectedly delightful.
In this helpful guide, I’ll share with you my experiences of this little known village in the Scottish Highland. From insider tips on the coziest corners for your stay to the best spots for savouring local delicacies, I’ve also put together a tapestry of must-sees as well as an overview of the cultural heartbeat of Ullapool.
Explore the awe-inspiring landscapes, the splendid gorge, and, of course, I’ll reveal where to find that award-winning, sublime ‘chippy’ fare. Every paragraph is packed with insights designed to enrich your visit to this gem, ensuring that your visit to Ullapool is as unforgettable as mine. So, continue reading and let this be your ultimate guide to why Ullapool is worth visiting, a little known gem on the NC500 Route, Scotland.
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Essential Tips When Planning a Trip to ULLAPOOL, NORTH WEST SCOTLAND
Prefer to Drive and Explore at Your Own Pace? BOOK HERE
Don’t want to drive, so you can fully enjoy the scenic views of NC500? No worries! Join an excursion.
🏨 Stay a couple of Nights in Ullapool that offers properties with ‘Superb’ and ‘Excellent’ ratings.
🥇 Stay at this hotel for majestic views over Loch Broom.
Is Ullapool Worth Visiting?
Absolutely, 100% Yes! Ullapool is worth visiting for its unique blend of cultural richness and natural beauty. It offers an authentic slice of Highland life, from the friendly local community to the traditional music that often fills the air.
Nature lovers can revel in the breathtaking landscapes, with opportunities to kayak around the Summer Isles or walk the trails that offer stunning views of the Scottish coast.
History buffs will appreciate Ullapool’s deep roots, including its fishing background and geological significance. Whether you seek a peaceful retreat or an outdoor adventure, Ullapool’s charm is sure to captivate your heart, that makes a trip here worthwhile.
Ullapool, Ross and Cromarty, Scottish Highland
Nestled in the Scottish Highlands, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, the picturesque town of Ullapool, with its rich fishing heritage, is a quaint retreat that tells tales of Scotland’s maritime past and, is every bit worth visiting.
Home to a small, welcoming community, it sits at the edge of Loch Broom, framed by whitewashed houses that overlook the shimmering waters leading out to the Summer Isles. The postcodes here begin with IV26, marking a spot on the map that’s often missed by the casual traveller.
Ullapool’s history is as deep as the loch itself, a testament to the enduring spirit of its roughly 1,500 residents who breathe life into this scenic port town. Ullapool’s charm extends far beyond its role as a mere stop on the NC500. This village is a cultural tapestry rich with Scottish traditions, from the melodic strains of Gaelic folk music to the craftsmanship on display at local festivals.
You’ll be lured by the natural splendour of the surrounding landscape, where you can witness the grandeur of the Scottish Highlands in full display. Notable attractions such as the enchanting Corrieshalloch Gorge, the serene Rhue Lighthouse, and the ancient rock formations of Knockan Crag speak of a land sculpted by time and tradition. Ullapool is a place where every sight and sound has a story, inviting you to become part of its unfolding history.
Ullapool’s history is deeply rooted and sometimes turbulent. Archeological sites indicate settlements dating back millennia, including well-preserved stone circles at Rhue. The region is rich with remnants of ancient brochs, suggesting a strong prehistoric presence.
The village’s name, Ullapool, might come from an old Scandinavian word, hinting that it was founded by a settler from that region named Ulla. This ties Ullapool’s beginnings to the era of Viking exploration, as these adventurers and settlers left their mark across Scotland. The town’s current layout dates back to the 18th century, to support a burgeoning herring industry, with designs by the renowned engineer Thomas Telford.
The village also played a poignant role during the Highland Clearances, becoming a point of emigration for those forced to leave Scotland. Later, in the 20th century, Ullapool experienced a period of economic revival with its port bustling with international fishing activity.
For those interested, Ullapool Museum is a treasure trove of knowledge, offering a deeper understanding of the area’s rich and varied past.
Where is Ullapool?
Ullapool is a scenic village nestled in the northwest of Scotland, radiating charm from its position on the shores of Loch Broom. The village itself, while small, is a focal point for exploration and culture in the region.
Roughly 57 miles away from Inverness, a journey there would take about an hour and fifteen minutes by car, traversing roads that wind through the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
For those venturing from the northern village of Durness, Ullapool lies about 70 miles to the south-east, a drive that is as breathtaking as the destination itself.
Ullapool’s size is modest, but its spirit and the expanse of the natural beauty surrounding it are anything but.
Best Time to Visit Ullapool, Scotland
Ullapool, ideally in the off-peak season of late spring (May to June) and early autumn (September to October) is the best time to visit. The village strikes a perfect balance with temperatures averaging 10-15°C (50-59°F), giving you a chance to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. These seasons are ideal for exploring, with fewer midges. The mild climate is enhanced by the proximity to the waters of Loch Broom, which can cool the air slightly.
The summer months (July to August) offer warmer temperatures, up to 17°C (63°F), and a vibrant atmosphere, but this is also when midges and tourists peak.
For a tranquil visit, experiencing why Ullapool is worth visiting without the crowds, consider the shoulder months, where the pace is slower, the prices are more gentle, and the cultural events provide a unique Scottish flavour.
How to Get to Ullapool?
To reach the inviting village of Ullapool, people would usually go on the iconic North Coast 500 (NC500) route, which has become Scotland’s answer to Route 66. If you do opt for this, Ullapool is an essential stop. The village offers a perfect respite, moments of tranquility after a day of exploring the beauty and the dramatic backdrop of the Highlands.
Whether you’re driving from Inverness, the start and end point of the NC500, or making your way from any other part of Scotland, the roads leading to Ullapool are as memorable as the destination itself, affirming Ullapool is worth visiting. With sweeping landscapes and open skies guiding you to this little-known, yet vital, Highland haven, the experience itself becomes an adventure.
Getting to Ullapool is straightforward, whether you’re driving, taking public transport, or joining a guided tour.
By Car: The most direct route is via the A835 road from Inverness, which takes you through stunning landscapes right into the heart of Ullapool.
By Train: The nearest train station is in Garve, connected by the A835. Garve is approximately 32 miles from Ullapool, and the journey by road can take around 40 minutes to an hour. From there, you can catch a bus or taxi to Ullapool. Check train schedule to Garve here.
By Bus: Local buses run from Inverness, with services like the Stagecoach bus offering routes that connect to Ullapool. Check the Stagecoach timetable here.
On a Tour
Many tour groups on the NC500 trip incorporate a night or two in this charming village within their itineraries. For those who’d rather not drive, joining a guided tour can be a great alternative, offering the chance to enjoy the journey without the hassle of navigation. These tours not only ensure you hit all the high points along the route but also provide local insights and stories that enrich the experience. So, if driving isn’t your preference, consider one of these tours as a stress-free way to discover the wonders of Ullapool and the Scottish Highlands.
If you would like to join a tour group, I found the following three which you might find helpful:
4.9/5.0 ⭐ Inverness to Lewis, Harris, and the Outer Hebrides Excursion: Depart from Ullapool to embark on the ferry journey that sails through the picturesque Loch Broom, weaves around the idyllic Summer Isles, and heads towards Stornoway, the bustling hub of the Outer Hebrides. BOOK.
Where to Stay in Ullapool?
In Ullapool, the term ‘luxury’ takes on a more modest and intimate meaning, fitting for this quaint Highland village. You won’t find towering five-star hotels, nor luxury and near-luxury accommodations that you may find in a city. However, hotels here offer comfort with a personal touch, some with incredible views over Loch Broom.
While the village caters for all budgets, I’d suggest the following two hotels where I had stayed:
The Royal Hotel, Ullapool: The Royal Hotel rests on the shores of Loch Broom and offers a comfortable stay in Ullapool. Rooms boast scenic views of Loch Broom and the surrounding highlands. Ideal for both relaxation and exploration, it provides a taste of local hospitality right in the heart of this coastal village. A buffet breakfast is included in your stay. There’s a terrace and a restaurant where you could also dine with a view. BOOK.
The Arch Inn, Ullapool: Known for its modern comforts and good service, The Arch Inn, situated by the Ullapool waterfront, offers a warm, welcoming stay with scenic views of Loch Broom. Here, you can enjoy its comfortable ambiance and the delicious fare served at its restaurant overlooking the water. BOOK.
Budget-conscious travellers need not worry, as Ullapool caters to all. I searched booking[dot]com, which is my go to website for all of my hotel stays. I looked for the best ratings about staff, comfort, cleanliness and value for money. The Ullapool Youth Hostel comes up tops and offers clean, comfortable, and affordable lodgings, perfect for those looking to save without sacrificing the experience. BOOK.
Staying in Ullapool offers a unique advantage on the NC500 route, placing you within reach of both the rugged coastal landscapes and the serene Loch Broom, ensuring a stay that’s as convenient as it is charming.
7 Best Things to Do in Ullapool that Affirms the Village is Worth Visiting
In Ullapool, you’re spoilt for choice with activities that can fill your days with wonder. While there’s plenty to explore, the charm of this quaint village is also about doing nothing much, experiencing the slow, authentic side of travel where you immerse in its comings and goings as an observant visitor.
When it comes to the best things to do in Ullapool that underscores its authentic appeal as a destination worth visiting on your Scotland trip, I’ve narrowed the activities to seven unmissable experiences. These picks showcase the best of what Ullapool has to offer, from its stunning natural beauty to its vibrant cultural scene. These gems promise to make your visit truly special.
1. Summer Isles Cruise
Embarking on a Summer Isles cruise from Ullapool Harbour is a captivating experience, further solidifying the sentiment that Ullapool is worth visiting. These cruises offers an unparalleled opportunity to see seals, seabirds, and if you’re lucky, dolphins.
Embarking on a cruise from Ullapool takes you on a stunning experience around the Summer Isles, a breathtaking ensemble of islands renowned for their natural splendour. As you depart, you catch a dreamy view of the whitewashed houses along the shores of Loch Broom. Over the course of two hours of this voyage, you’ll have the chance to spot a diverse mix of wildlife, from seals lounging on the rocks to eagles soaring above. The journey gives you a view of Tanera Mòr, the archipelago’s largest and last populated island. While the cruise is a round trip that offers views from the water, the memories of the wildlife and scenery will linger long after you’ve returned to explore Ullapool’s own charms.
Located right at the heart of the village, Ullapool Harbour is the starting point for these excursions. A number of operators, including the well-regarded Summer Isles Sea Tours, offer a variety of cruise times, generally ranging from 2-hour trips to half-day adventures.
You can check in at the harbour’s main car park, conveniently situated at West Argyle Street, Ullapool, IV26 2TY. These cruises grant you the chance to immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the isles, observe a diverse array of wildlife, and marvel at the serene seascapes that define the Scottish coast.
2. Walk to Rhue Lighthouse
Just a short drive or a scenic walk about 4.85 kilometers (3 miles) northwest of Ullapool, along the Broom Road (A835), you’ll find the Rhue Lighthouse. With the postcode IV26 2TJ as your guide, the lighthouse stands as a beacon for those in search of the perfect sunset or a photogenic panorama of Loch Broom and the Summer Isles. It’s an ideal spot for a tranquil moment, as you watch the light play over the water and the sky melt into hues of orange and purple.
3. Visit Corrieshalloch Gorge
A mere 20-minute drive from Ullapool on the A835 towards Inverness will lead you to the awe-inspiring Corrieshalloch Gorge, a clear example of why Ullapool is worth visiting. Carved by ancient glaciers, the gorge plunges to depths of over 60 meters and spans a mile long.
Visitors can park at the site’s car park with the postcode IV23 2PJ. From there, a stroll across the suspension bridge or along the trails offers breathtaking views of the Falls of Measach and the surrounding rugged terrain—it’s a journey through time, with rock formations telling stories, a showcase of the raw, untamed power of Highland geology.
4. The Ullapool Museum
The Ullapool Museum is a fascinating hub that encapsulates the local heritage and history, housed in a charming former Thomas Telford church.
Located on West Argyle Street, just a short stroll from the harbour, it’s a cultural highlight that contributes to the reasons Ullapool is worth visiting. You can park at the nearby car park located at IV26 2TY. The museum brings to life the tales of Ullapool’s fishing legacy, its role during wartime, and the evolution of the village. It’s open to visitors keen on diving into the past and discovering the stories that shaped this unique Highland community.
5. Hike Ullapool Hill
For a hike that captures the essence of Ullapool, head to Ullapool Hill, where the trails lead you to breathtaking views. Starting from the village center at grid reference NH125942, the ascent up Meall Mòr is steep yet manageable, winding through paths that may be muddy post-rain.
The summit gifts hikers with a stunning vista of Loch Broom, Ullapool, and the surrounding landscapes, making the 7.5km trek, with its 258m climb, well worth the effort. It’s a perfect snapshot of the Highlands’ beauty, particularly in the heather-rich autumn months.
The paths are well-marked, but it’s always a good idea to have a map or a hiking app handy, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. It’s advisable to wear sturdy footwear and check the weather conditions before you set off on your hike. You can download the walk via an app or buy a paper map here about hikes in Loch Broom. Check options here with the Ordnance Survey.
6. Stac Pollaidh Hike
Embarking on the Stac Pollaidh Hike is a compelling reason to visit Ullapool. Located about 26 kilometers northeast of Ullapool via the A835 and B roads, the hike presents a rewarding challenge with a car park at the base of the mountain at IV26 2XQ.
The trail is clearly marked and, although steep in sections, is generally considered moderate. The round trip can take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, and the peak stands at 612 meters, providing expansive views of the Scottish wilderness. The summit offers breathtaking views of Assynt’s ancient landscape. The summit offers breathtaking views of Assynt’s ancient landscape. The view truly showcases the natural splendour of the Highlands, which make one of the best things to do and a visit to Ullapool a worthy trip.
Paddleboarding in Ullapool: A Must-Do Adventure
Embrace the thrill of stand-up paddleboarding in Ullapool, an adventure that underscores why this destination is worth visiting. Available all year, with the peak hiring season from March to October, this water activity is great either when you’re cruising with friends or enjoying a solo paddle. The scenic tranquility of Ullapool’s waters promises an unforgettable experience. You can learn more about booking this activity here.
Ullapool’s Cultural Tapestry is One of the Best Reasons Why the Village is Worth Visiting
Ullapool’s cultural tapestry is rich and vibrant, woven through with strands of music, art, and festivals that celebrate the spirit of the Highlands. The village thrums with the sound of traditional Scottish music, especially during the Ullapool Guitar Festival in October which attract artists and audiences from all over. Art enthusiasts can revel in local galleries showcasing Scottish artists, while the annual Book Festival around the month of May is a bibliophile’s delight. To fully immerse yourself in Ullapool’s culture, plan your visit to coincide with these events, which mostly illuminate the village in autumn, a time when the landscape is awash with the golden hues of the season.
Embracing Slow Travel in Ullapool
Ullapool is a sanctuary for slow travel enthusiasts, an idyllic retreat far from the bustle of city life. It’s a place where time slows to the rhythm of nature’s own heartbeat. Here, the evenings are a tranquil affair as Loch Broom reflects the serene beauty of the Highlands; boats sit gently on the calm waters, their reflections a perfect mirror image on the shimmering surface. The soft glow of the setting sun casts a golden sheen over the loch, and the tranquil silence is only broken by the soft lapping of water against the hulls. The scene is one of peaceful repose, as the boats appear to be resting, waiting for the next day’s adventures on the waters of this beautiful Scottish loch.
This scene epitomizes the restful pace of Ullapool, inviting you to embrace the lochs, isles, and mountains, and surrender to the unhurried flow of life in this Scottish haven.
What Food is Ullapool Famous For?
Ullapool’s gastronomic scene is a celebration of Scottish cuisine, and is renowned for its fresh seafood, with local catches like haddock and langoustines often featured on menus. The traditional fish and chips from the village’s “chippy” are a must-try, celebrated for their crisp batter and flaky fish.
Beyond seafood, Ullapool offers a taste of classic Scottish fare, from hearty stews and savoury pies to the sweet treat of shortbread, all embodying the rich flavours of Scotland.
Places in Ullapool that Serve some of the Best
At The Seafood Shack, you’ll find a menu teeming with the day’s catch, but the hand-dived scallops are the stars here. Check reviews here.
For a sit-down experience, The Arch Inn Restaurant offers a taste of the local with dishes like Cullen Skink.
West Coast Deli is perfect for a casual lunch with a variety of local produce, and their smoked salmon bagel is a must-try.
Coffee lovers will adore The Ceilidh Place, where the brew is as robust as the cultural vibe, and their home-baked cakes are the talk of the town.
“The Chippy” in Ullapool, Scotland
The Chippy is a beloved destination for both locals and visitors alike, renowned for its traditional fish and chips. With fish sourced from local waters, it’s the freshness that sets their fare apart. A visit here offers more than just a meal—it’s a taste of Ullapool’s maritime heritage served with a side of community charm.
The highlight is undoubtedly the classic haddock and chips, known for its crispy batter and flaky fish, best enjoyed with a view of the harbour.
“The Chippy” has certainly made its mark in Ullapool, earning accolades for its exceptional offerings. Back in 2005, this esteemed eatery proudly clinched the “Friers Quality Award” from the Sea Fish Industry Authority. This honour is a nod to their unwavering dedication to serving top-quality fare, maintaining impeccable standards in their establishment, and ensuring the finest handling of their products.
For those in pursuit of the region’s finest seafood, particularly fish and chips, “The Chippy” stands out as a destination not to miss. Check reviews here.
Planning Your Trip and Tips to Discover Ullapool
To ensure you make the most of your visit, here are some essential tips and suggestions for exploring this picturesque village.
Rent a Car: Hiring a car offers flexible exploration of the Highlands and around Ullapool. Hire one here.
Book Accommodations in Ullapool Well Ahead of Your Travel Dates: Booking your accommodations in Ullapool ahead of time not only secures your preferred stay but also protects you against potential price hikes, which are common during peak travel seasons. Advance reservations can offer better rates and ensure a stress-free start to your trip. BOOK the recommended, The Royal Hotel or search for more options here.
Use Local Currency: Carry some British Pound Sterling, especially for transactions in smaller shops.
Layered Clothing: Weather can be unpredictable; layering helps adapt to changing conditions.
Comfortable Walking Shoes: Essential for enjoying scenic hikes and strolls around Ullapool.
Camera Ready: Capture the stunning landscapes and quaint village scenes.
Midge Repellent: Particularly useful in summer months. Read my complete guide to midge free areas in Scotland and tips to avoid midge bites.
Consider Joining a Tour: For a hassle-free experience, exploring with a tour group can be convenient.
Allocate Time for Ullapool: This charming village is more than a stop; it’s a destination worth savouring, perfect for those seeking tranquility away from bustling city life.
FAQs About Ullapool
Ullapool is located in the northwest part of Scotland, in the Ross and Cromarty area of the Highlands.
Ullapool is famous for its stunning natural beauty, vibrant cultural scene, and as a gateway to the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles.
The mountain near Ullapool is Stac Pollaidh, known for its distinctive rocky summit and panoramic views.
The climate here is known for its unpredictability. As for midges, these tiny insects tend to appear in swarms from June through September, and their bites can be quite bothersome. They’re slow fliers, so a gentle breeze usually keeps them at bay. Nonetheless, it’s wise to have a reliable bug spray on hand, especially during calm and cloudy conditions when they’re most active.
Ullapool was founded in 1788, making it over 230 years old.
… as the deliberate escapist, and a mindful wanderer…
Ullapool is more than just a waypoint on the NC500 route; it’s a little-known gem that demands exploration. A haven where natural beauty, culture, and community converge, any time dedicated to this charming village is richly rewarded. This little village, with its welcoming locals, fresh seafood, and breathtaking landscapes, offers a slice of Highland life that’s rich in experiences. So, when you plot your route, allocate enough time to soak in Ullapool’s tranquil atmosphere. With the insights, tips, and suggestions provided in this post, I hope you shall discover Ullapool is worth visiting and see it as an ideal destination to enrich your journey.
Before you go, take a look at some of my in-depth helpful guides about Scotland, to enhance your trip to The Highland.