Newest Review: ... and sometimes there are very harsh winters in this area. If you are looking to stay in this area you have limited options. Due to thi... more
Jewel of the Highlands
Member Name: jasminesarah
Advantages: Stunning views, walking, climbing, seals, dolphins....
Disadvantages: Sunshine is not guaranteed
If you've spent time in the North Western Highlands of Scotland, chances are that you've been to Ullapool. If you're planning on visiting, this is a good base from which to explore the area. The nearest airport is at Inverness, this is a small affair and you may find yourself flying from Glasgow or Edinburgh in a plane that resembles a transit van, although flights from London through BA tend to be in more substantial planes. Anyway this is part of the experience, the Northern Highlands are, after all, one of the few remaining areas of genuine wilderness in Europe.
Not that Inverness, which is a bustling and rapidly expanding town, would appreciate being described as wilderness! From here Ullapool is about an hour north by car, trains go only as far as Garve - Ullapool has no train station. Neither could Ullapool be described as wild, although it is remote by city-dwellers standards it boast a swimming pool, hotels, plenty of B&B accommodation, busy pubs, gift shops, restaurants, camp site, and most recently - a Tesco, albeit a small one. Importantly, it also has a petrol station. This is the last town of any size (and it is really village sized) before traveling further north.
Ullapool itself is really beautiful, resembling a Cornish village, with white cottages nestled on the sea shore, but with spectacular views of mountains all around. Have a look at the Ullapool website http://www.ullapool.co.uk/ - which is very amateurish as are many village sites, but at least does show some (disappointingly small) pictures of the area. The scenery is truly breath taking and can compete with any beauty spot in the world.
In the summer months, partly due to having a relatively welcoming climate compared to some other parts of Scotland, Ullapool is bustling. Local pubs offer entertainment such as folk clubs and lie bands, but also some surprisingly big acts have been known to visit - one notable example being Eddie Izzard playing in a room the size of a village hall. The Ceilidh Place has a good reputation for live entertainment.
From Ullapool there are boat trips to see birds and seals, go slightly farther afield and you can see dolphins playing in their natural habitat. From here also, you can catch the ferry to the Western Isles - Stornoway and Lewis - don't miss the standing stones at Callanish.
Ullapool tends to be lucky with weather, at times resembling a continental village in the summer, especially as it attracts visitors from all round the world - it can be difficult to remember where you are! This summer Ullapool fared much better than southern England, and did not receive the battering of storms and rain rain rain that we suffered here in Devon. This may surprise some people, as Scotland is generally viewed as being cold and wet! This makes it an attractive alternative to a further afield holiday in these days of belt tightening and carbon footprint lessening. However, I'd be lying if I said it isn't sometimes pretty grim - sometimes you can look out of the window and see nothing but grey, the rain is spectacular when it does come, and when it isn't raining you've a good chance of being eaten alive by midges. (Those are teeny biting flies, for those of you lucky enough not to know of them.)
Summary: Worth a visit for a holiday closer to home!