top of page

Adventures Along the NC500 and Beyond – Best Things to Do in Ullapool


Best Things to Do in Ullapool

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Regardless of this, please be advised that all opinions expressed in this blog post are genuine and authentically my own.

Author: Barry Pickard

Contents


Join me in this travel blog post where I enjoy the stunning scenery and interesting history of the Ullapool stage of the NC500 route and discover the best things to do in Ullapool. 

Over the years, I have explored the sections of the NC500 route several times, although not necessarily the complete route in one single journey. Indeed, my travels in this area began well before it had been called the North Coast 500. My travels have opened my eyes to the beauty of the route and has given me the opportunity to also find hidden gems off the beaten track.   

Commonly known as “Scotland’s Route 66”, the North Coast 500 has quickly become an iconic, must-do tourist route, having only been formally marketed as such back in 2015. The NC500 is actually 516-miles long, starting and ending at Inverness Castle, running along a mainly coastal route through the traditional counties of Inverness-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness. It has become so popular that has been described as "Scotland's Route 66".   Most visitors tend to do the route anti-clockwise, but there is no right or wrong way to do it.



At Tailor-Made Itineraries I delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if travelling the NC500 appeals to you, reach out to me by email. I would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the sites along the NC500, or indeed, a general tour of Scotland. I also have 5 and 10 day set itineraries that you can purchase from our online store (see below).


The Best Things to Do in Ullapool


Loch Broom


Ullapool is a quaint town nestled on the shores of Loch Broom. This long, narrow sea loch is a beautiful and unspoiled part of the NC500, with its 18 mile long waters surrounded by imposing mountains.


You can admire the panoramic views of the loch from Ullapool or you can take one of the tourist boats and discover the wildlife that teems throughout the loch, such as seals, sea trout and the occasional dolphin.

Loch Broom Best Things to Do in Ullapool
Loch Broom Best Things to Do in Ullapool
Loch Broom Best Things to Do in Ullapool

Ullapool Harbour


Ullapool is a relatively new town, in Scotland at least, having been designed and built by Thomas Telford in 1788 for the British Fisheries Society. The town was built to take advantage of the herring boom in the late 18th century, but due to overfishing, this bonanza declined throughout the following century.

Ullapool harbour, Scotland Best Things to Do in Ullapool
Ullapool harbour, Scotland Best Things to Do in Ullapool
Ullapool harbour, Scotland Best Things to Do in Ullapool

Fishing, however, has remained at the heart of the economy of the town, with many small local fishing boats plying there trade here. But perhaps its most important visitor has to be the ferry to Stornoway, for which the town is a terminus.




Tailor-Made Top Tips: There is nothing I like better than walking along the harbour, which must have one of the best views in Scotland, and then sitting on the wall with an ice cream.... or perhaps a pint from the Ferry Boat Inn!


The harbour is always stunning during the warmer months, but also consider visiting during the run up to Christmas, and admire its delightful festive lights and famous Creel Christmas Tree.



Seafood Bonanza!

It is no surprise that Ullapool hosts many delicious seafood restaurants. My two favourite venues are the Seaforth Bar & Restaurant and the Seafood Shack.

The Seaforth Bar & Restaurant is very popular with visitors to Ullapool, being handily placed right on the harbour and the ferry entrance, and has a wide menu of local delicacies. If you don’t have time for a meal, they also run a fish and chip shop at the side of the restaurant which is also excellent.


Now a mainstay on the Ullapool food scene, the Seafood Shack has a small, but ever-changing menu of the very best seafood the region has to offer, served in a contemporary way. A pop-up gin shack has also been recently added, so you can have a tasty alchoholic beverage with your local seafood! The Rhidorroch Distillery was established near Ullapool in 2020 and combines local ingredients to create an excellent gin.

Seaforth Bar & Restaurant, Ullapool
The Seafood Shack, Ullapool

Tailor-Made Top Tip: If you enjoyed the gin, there is another local distillery, the Highland Liquor Co., that has a small shop just along from the pop-up on West Argyll Street, where you can buy bottles of their gin, as well as a great range of wines, beers and spirits.




Boutique Shopping


Ullapool may be small, but it does have a selection of lovely little boutique shops and delicatessens. If you are looking to bring home local works of art, check out the Harbour Gallery and the North-Land Gallery. If you are simply wanting to bring back a gift or keepsake, make sure to browse through the Arworks Card & Gift Shop, the Unlimited Colour Company, Ullapool Books, The Captain's Cabin and Ceol Na Mara. If you are after a sweet or savoury treat, the West Coast Delicatessen, The Bothy and Jojo are a great choice. And if you need some all-weather clothing, which can be essential even on a summer's day here, then Ullapool Outdoors will have you covered.



Ullapool Museum

The Ullapool Museum is set back from the harbour area on West Argyll Street and tells the fascinating story of Loch Broom's history and heritage. The iconic church building that the museum is housed in was built in 1829 and was in use until 1935. During my visit, the museum had an interesting exhibition on the emigration of the local people during the Highland Clearances to Nova Scotia and their voyage on the Dutch vessel Hector in 1773.

If you are enjoying this post, remember and subscribe to my mailing list to receive my latest blog posts.

Ullapool Museum
Ullapool Museum
Ullapool Museum


An Talla Solais Gallery

An Talla Solais Gallery is Ullapool's visual arts centre and the gallery hosts a wide range of exhibitions of contemporary art. Every time I visit the gallery, there is always an interesting and colourful presentation of local artists and some that are from further afield.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Please note that the gallery has moved from its previous location at the Caledonian Hotel and is now located just off the car park area beside Ullapool Village Hall, Market Street.

Read on to discover a couple of scenic delights that can be easily hiked to from Ullapool.


An Talla Solais Gallery, Ullapool
An Talla Solais Gallery, Ullapool
An Talla Solais Gallery, Ullapool


Ullapool Hill

If you are looking to stretch your legs while in Ullapool then look no further than Ullapool Hill, which seems to hang over the town. The Gaelic name for the hill is Meall Mhor, which roughly translates as ‘great bare rounded lumpy hill’. The start of the trail isn’t well signposted, so head towards the medical practice, and take a left up Broom Park and the hiking path will be in front of you. The trail is in good condition and suitable for most walkers. Steep at the start, the hike gets easier as you reach the top of the hill.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: Ullapool Hill has a surprise for you, since at the top, you realise that there is a hidden summit and bit more to go. The view is definitely worth it though.

View from Ullapool Hill
View from Ullapool Hill
View from Ullapool Hill


Loch Achall

Loch Achall is a scenic loch nestled on the north side of Ullapool Hill. There is an easy walk along the shores of the lock which also takes in the Eas Dubh waterfall. Most visitors to Ullapool won’t know about this hidden treasure, as it is not even signposted from the main road! At the road bridge over the Ullapool River there is a turning up to the Morefield Quarry. You can walk or drive up this road (parking at the bridge over the waterfall), being careful to avoid the quarry lorries as you go past. If you are lucky, as I was on one occasion, you may encounter a large herd of deer which call this area home.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: There are also trails leading from the summit of Ullapool Hill down to the loch below if you want a more taxing hike.

Read on to discover some top attractions just a short drive away from Ullapool.


Loch Achall, Ullapool
Loch Achall, Ullapool
Eas Dubh waterfall, Loch Achall, Ullapool


RhueArt

Located in the small hamlet of Rhue, just to the north of Ullapool, RhueArt celebrates diverse, contemporary art by established and emerging artists whose work encompasses painting, film-making, prints, photography, textiles and sculpture. You may even get an impromptu drum performance from the very friendly and informative gallery owner, that’s if he is not creating one of his amazing landscape portraits in his adjacent studio.


If you are enjoying this post, remember and subscribe to my mailing list to receive my latest blog posts.

RhueArt, Scotland
RhueArt, Scotland


Ardmair Beach


Just along from Rhue, only a five-minute drive from Ullapool, are the panoramic views for Ardmair Beach. This breathtaking bay is the backdrop for a delightful walk along the pebble beach.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: There is ample parking on the headland that extends into Loch Canaird.


Stac Pollaidh Mountain

A further short drive will take you to the base of Stac Pollaidh. This mountain made of Torridonian sandstone sits proudly over Loch Bad a’ Ghaill and Loch Lurgainn. This unusual looking mountain rises just over 2000 feet, and there is a relatively easy, but steep path that winds halfway up the mountain from the car park at the bottom. I hiked up to the mid-point and was rewarded with stunning views.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: The second half of the walk gets more difficult under foot and, although I did not have time to complete the walk, it is generally accepted that most hikers can ascend the summit if care is taken.

Stac Pollaidh, Scotland
Stac Pollaidh, Scotland


Achiltibuie

Carry on the road from Stac Pollaidh, driving through some beautiful and, at times, desolate landscapes, until you get to Achiltibuie. This small village is strung out along two miles or so of stunning shoreline. Views over the mouth of Loch Broom and the Summer Isles take your breath away. A little-known fact is that some of the film The Eagle, staring Channing Tatum, was filmed in this area.


Tailor-Made Top Tip: While in Achiltibuie, I had a great meal at the Summer Isles Hotel. Always very popular during tourist season, this hotel was built as a fishing inn for the Cromarty Estates in 1860.

If you are enjoying this post, remember and subscribe to my mailing list to receive my latest blog posts.

Achiltibuie, Scotland
Achiltibuie, Scotland
Achiltibuie, Scotland


At Tailor-Made Itineraries we delight in creating bespoke self-guided tours. So, if travelling the NC500 appeals to you, reach out to us by email. We would be more than happy to design a self-guided tour around your requirements incorporating the sites along the NC500, or indeed, a general tour of Scotland. We also have 5 and 10 day set itineraries that you can purchase from our online store (see below).



Hotels in Ullapool


Ullapool is an ideal base for this stretch of the NC500, with plenty of options to choose from. They do get booked up quickly though, so don't hang about! The Arch Inn is an good choice and their restaurant is excellent too. Further along the harbourside is The Royal Hotel with it's stunning views over Loch Broom. The Riverside is also an excellent choice.

Click on the underlined weblinks above to review these hotels and make your reservation.


Conclusion


When you bid farewell to Ullapool, I hope, like me, a sense of serenity and contentment will wash over you. Wandering through the charming streets, savoring the flavours of local cuisine, and embracing the warm and welcoming spirit of the town. Ullapool unveils a tapestry of natural beauty and cultural heritage, leaving us with a newfound appreciation for the rugged charm of the Scottish Highlands.



Related Blog Posts

After discovering the best things to do in Ullapool, you may be interested in finding out more about the NC500 route. If so, please view the Tailor-Made Itineraries posts below:


Comment below and let me know what was your favourite NC500 attraction.

Tailor-Made Itineraries posts every two weeks, and you can subscribe to the latest blog and newsletter here. Until then, happy reading and safe travels.

Barry

Tailor-Made Itineraries creates one-of-a-kind bespoke self-guided travel itineraries for adventurous and curious travellers.

These self-guided tours deliver a personalised and exciting holiday experience that takes the effort out of trip planning.


2 Comments


Adwitya Basnet
Adwitya Basnet
Nov 19, 2023

The tips are very helpful. One thing I would love to do if and when I visit is just sit, eat ice cream and enjoy the picturesque views. :)

Like
Barry Pickard
Barry Pickard
Jan 09
Replying to

Definitely once of the most satisfying activities to be had around the harbour area. 😃

Like
bottom of page