Ullapool is somewhere I should have first visited in July had all my #ScotCoast plans gone to, errrr, well, plan! Waiting an extra 3 months to finally get to this part of Scotland was worth the delay, especially as I could spend a whole week based in the picturesque Wester Ross village, much more relaxing than the quick stop I had planned in the summer.
Ullapool and the surrounding area have certainly been put firmly on the tourist map this year thanks to the excellent marketing of the North Coast 500 route which passes through the village. It seemed everywhere I went there was a buzz about the increased visitors and income from what has been dubbed Scotland's answer to Route 66.
As I drove around the region there were still quite a few motor-homes and camper-vans making their way around the remote Highland roads. Although I felt a bit left out that I wasn't among the majority of visitors embarking on this epic road-trip, deep down I felt quite smug that I had almost a week to explore the area when most of them only had a day or two.
Thanks to Embrace Scotland, I had a cosy self-catering apartment to return to each day and use as a base for trips around Wester Ross and Sutherland. As you can imagine, I managed to fit in quite a lot during my week but several places really stood out for me and I thought I would share some of the highlights of my trip with you. I should say that some of these places were recommended to me on social media and I'm grateful to everyone that provided their tips.
There was one absolute highlight of the week for me which deserves a whole blog post to itself so I'll keep you in suspense for a little longer before I tell you what that was, but in the meantime here are a some of the other things and places that I particularly enjoyed during my stay in Ullapool.
The village of Ullapool itself was a pleasant surprise to me. The clean and well-maintained whitewashed buildings and planned streets on the shore of scenic Loch Broom provided a good first impression. The independent businesses and galleries away from the touristy shops on the front, offered quality gifts and I picked up a few presents and I may have bought a couple of things for myself too! I particularly liked An Talla Solais Gallery which not only had some lovely items and an interesting exhibition, it also offers classes, studio space and a ceramics facility. Ullapool Bookshop was another great find, with a diverse selection of local and Scottish books which meant there was no chance I was ever leaving empty handed!
I also popped into Highland Stoneware, a good place to pick up a unique Scottish piece of handmade pottery, although I found visiting there particularly interesting as you can actually watch the artists paint each piece by hand.
I also enjoyed a number of pretty walks around the village, including the short hike up to the top of Ullapool Hill for views and a more sedate walk along the river. It is always nice to explore places on foot and it would be a real shame not to take the time to wander through the local landscape which is another reason I was glad that I had longer in the area than many visitors.
Although it was nice to see so many independent shops and a local deli, I can't deny that I was glad there was a Tesco as I was self-catering for the week. It sits tucked away behind the village so doesn't detract from the quaint feel of the place but does provide convenience, especially if you are cooking for yourself.
The village is quite small, but add in some local walks and you could easily spend a couple of days wandering around Ullapool, definitely a highlight of my week.
I don't know how many times I was recommended to visit the Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve but it was often enough that I added it as a 'must do' on my itinerary. I decided to venture the 12 miles south of Ullapool to the Corrieshalloch car park on an afternoon of particularly heavy rain. It may seem a little mental to opt for a pleasant autumn walk when the rain is so torrential it bounces back up in your face but there was a small amount of sanity in my thinking! The 45m high Falls of Measach is the main reason people stop here and as we all know, waterfalls are at their most dramatic after a good downpour. I told you there was some logic in visiting on the wettest day of the week.
A short walk brings you to a Victorian suspension bridge built by one of the chief engineers behind the Forth Bridge. The swaying crossing gives an excellent view of the rushing waterfall and for those with a head for heights, a viewing platform a little further along juts out to give those brave enough to walk to the edge a great vantage point to appreciate the full drama of the gorge which was looking particularly stunning covered in autumn foliage.
KNOCKAN CRAG NATURE RESERVE
Another place I kept hearing about before my trip was Knockan Crag Nature Reserve and the Moine Thrust where I could find one of the oldest landscapes in Europe. Put in very simple terms, the Moine Thrust is where older rocks have pushed their way through younger rock, meaning the surface is actually older than the rock beneath.
The Knockan Crag Visitor Centre is one of the best places to see and learn more about this geological phenomenon and the surrounding landscape. There are several walking trails that leave from the centre and even if you only wander for a short distance you will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
This is a well thought out attraction with rock art, sculptures and poetry that really enhance the experience.
Scotland's beaches are often rated as the most beautiful in the world, with Western Ross & Sutherland having their own fair share of scenic shores. Being a coastal lover, I was keen to explore some of these local gems for myself and didn't have to travel very far for some first class beach experiences.
Ardmair Bay is just north of Ullapool with a pretty mountain backdrop and view of Isle Martin but what made it extra special for me was the beach itself which is made up of the most beautiful white and grey pebbles. I discovered it is also a great place to watch the sunset and spent a couple of relaxing evenings there.
CAMAS A'CHARRAIG BEACH
The beach at Mellon Udrigle is a short detour off the North Coast 500 route which has led to an increase in the popularity of this hidden gem. The main draw to this sandy stretch is the pretty surrounding scenery with an outlook across the water to the mountains.
I didn't actually make it to Achnahaird Beach but even from a distance I could tell how stunning it was. The landscape was a tapestry of rich autumn colours and one day I need to return and get a closer view.
I have been to countless Scottish beaches during my travels but only three have ever made me go 'WOW!' out loud. The first was Laig Bay on the Isle of Eigg, the second was Kiloran Bay on the Isle of Colonsay and the third was at Achmelvich. I arrived just as the tide was going out which meant that the pristine white sands were free of footprints. Despite the biting wind, grey skies and drizzly rain, It was still a breathtaking sight. The impossibly white crescent of sand and the crystal clear turquoise water is the reason why Achmelvich is regularly voted as one of the best beaches in Scotland. Despite it being a chilly and dull October day, there were still quite a few people around and I can only imagine how busy it would be in the summer meaning one downside to this little slice of paradise is that you are unlikely to ever have it all to yourself!
When you spend as much time travelling around as I do, often only staying a night or two in a hotel before moving on, spending a whole week in one place is a real treat. When that place is a relaxing cosy home from home it is even better.
My self-catering accommodation at Rubha Mor had been arranged through Embrace Scotland and is one of many Scottish holiday properties on their portfolio. It is perched on the shore of Loch Broom and a large picture window makes the most of the mountain and loch vista.
The owners Kate and Paul could not have been more welcoming when I arrived and their own passion for the outdoors, natural history and geology mean that they are well placed to advise you on the local area. After I had booked the apartment I found out that by coincidence it turns out that their son Will is one of the adventurers that I follow and it was nice to meet him before he headed off on his next trip. Will has already been on some great adventures and I highly recommend giving his blog a read and you can find out more about how you can join him on his current challenge to climb Scotland's Corbetts.
After long road-trips each day Rubha Mor was a relaxing place to return to with all the facilities you would need for a comfortable stay and I really appreciated the thoughtful extra touches like apples from the tree in the garden, homemade jam and a wealth of local information. I was in my element working my way through the abundance of leaflets, books and maps.
I found it great base for exploring Wester Ross and Sutherland and the centre of Ullapool village is only a short walk away although the highlight for me was watching the sunrise and sunset over Loch Broom from the garden. I started and ended a few of my days with some magnificent skies.
If you love the outdoors and nature, this is the perfect place to stay and Kate, Paul and Will are the perfect friendly and knowledgeable hosts.
Watch out for my upcoming blog post about my absolute highlight of the week and some recommended tea and cake stops, an essential for any adventure!
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My stay at Rubha Mor was kindly arranged by ASSC however as always all opinions and experiences are my own.
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