Back in 2016 I spent a fantastic week in Ullapool and always promised myself I would go back for another stay. When I first visited some of the attractions were closed for the winter so I decided that my return visit should be during the summer.
This year I finally managed to return for another week long stay. So many people quickly pass through the village on their way around the North Coast 500 or make a short stop before boarding the ferry to the Hebrides. I think this is a real shame as there are so many things to do in and around Ullapool that it makes a great base for exploring this part of the North West Highlands.
Below I've put together a list of all my favourite attractions, walks and activities in the area. I've also listed a few things that I've not managed to do yet but are on my list for next time. If you are visiting Ullapool for a day, a week or longer and looking for things to do, then this blog post should give you plenty of inspiration.
I always find museums a good starting point when you are visiting a place as they give you an insight in to the local history and culture. Ullapool Museum is housed within the old Thomas Telford church and there are some interesting original features inside.
The collections include agricultural and fishing exhibits, two of the main industries that existed after Ullapool was founded as a fishing station back in 1788. You can also research through local archives and genealogy records.
There is a small fee to enter and the museum is currently open on Monday to Saturday from April to October.
Summer Isles Cruise
One of my highlights from this year's trip was a cruise around the Summer Isles on the M.V Shearwater. We were lucky enough to sail on a sunny albeit choppy day but the boat felt very stable and comfortable.
There are plenty of outdoor options to sit and take in the views as you sail down Loch Broom, around the Summer Isles and back along the Coigach Peninsula. There is also live commentary so you know exactly what you are looking at on your tour. At the start we were told we might be lucky enough to see some nesting white-tailed eagles and to be honest, I was slightly sceptical. However, sure enough we did see one of the pair of eagles flying overhead which was pretty exciting and we passed plenty of seals too.
Although we didn't stop at any of the islands, we did sail to the mouth of Cathedral Cave on Tanera Beag. It is quite a dramatic feature and the captain had a chance to show off his skills as he manoeuvred around the bouncing waves at the entrance.
The cruise departs from Ullapool Pier and lasts just over 2 hours. At the time of writing payment had to be made in cash and the tours run through late spring and summer.
UPDATED FOR 2019
I originally started this list of recommended places for tea and cake around Ullapool when I spent a lovely week there with my mum at the end of 2016. Our days out always seems to include a sugary refreshment stop, which we justify to ourselves as a well-earned break from a busy schedule of exploring.
During our trip to the Ullapool area we came across some cute tearooms in the most unexpected of places. Since then we have been back to stay in the village and tested out even more cake stops, just for research purposes of course! They haven't always lived up to our high standards and therefore only a few have made this list so far. One of my original recommendations has sadly closed but happily I've managed to find a new addition to replace it. I'll keep adding to this blog post if and when I come across any more.
Ullapool is well positioned for memorable road-trips around the North West of Scotland and we did plenty of exploring during our holiday so these recommendations are quite spread out. Those of you undertaking the North Coast 500 Route might also find this guide useful as you pass most of these stops on the way. I've added a handy map of the locations at the bottom of this page.
I think it is important to contribute to the local economy of any place you visit and even if you only stop for a coffee, you are helping to support a local business. I think this is especially important to mention during a time when camper van and self-catering holidays in Scotland are booming. Although you could easily make your own brew on these types of vacations, spending a few pounds at independent businesses, especially in rural areas, really does make a difference. Tearooms and cafes in quieter places are also great for meeting locals and swapping tips with fellow travellers.
I should add that my mum and I do consider ourselves to be Scotland tea and cake stop aficionados so hopefully you won't be disappointed in our choices which have all met with our expert approval...
The Elphin Tearooms, Elphin
This is a new addition to my blog as we first visited Elphin Tearooms earlier this year. It was so good we went back twice within a week. It is an ideal stopping point on the North Coast 500 as you travel north from Ullapool or south towards the village depending on which direction you are driving. It has a large car park and as it states on the website, it welcomes everyone including bikers, campervans and dogs.
We visited with Willow and although we could have sat inside, the weather was just too glorious. The views of the surrounding mountains are also just so pretty that we opted for one of the outdoor picnic tables. It really is the kind of place that you can sit and relax in to holiday mode. There is no feeling of being rushed and the service is super friendly. We ended up chatting to our picnic table neighbours and it was nice to exchange some travel stories among such scenic surroundings.
Both times we visited, our cakes were fresh and delicious which is perhaps the most important thing when that is your main purpose for visiting. The tearoom sits on its own and would be easy to drive by as you head to somewhere else. Personally, I think a stop here should be part of your travel itinerary and you will also have the satisfaction of supporting a local business.
Tea by the Sea, Ullapool
We walked past this gift shop come cafe a couple of times before we finally succumbed to temptation. Our willpower was eroded away by the list of delicious sounding daily desserts on the notice board outside which we just had to investigate for ourselves.
This is a quirky little place inside with a few tables adjoining a new age type gift shop. The friendly owners were more than happy to explain what delights were on offer that day and the counter was stuffed with enticing choices.
I opted for a creamy slice of bannoffee pie and my mum opted for the apple pie topped with caramel sauce and cream just for good calorific measure! A generous amount of tea and an extra pot of hot water to wash everything down completed our sweet, sticky feast and we both agreed that a cake stop at Tea By The Sea deserved a big thumbs up.
Update - we returned again on our most recent trip and enjoyed more cake. It was just as good and this time it was even warm enough to sit on one of the pavement tables out the front and enjoy the waterfront view.
Last week I spent 2 nights at The Lovat Loch Ness Hotel which sits near to the shores of Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal in the village of Fort Augustus. I have stopped off at Fort Augustus fairly regularly to stretch my legs on journeys from Fort William to Inverness but never really stayed long enough to explore properly.
Through my itinerary planning service I also get asked a lot about this area as it is a popular tourist route so I felt it was time to get much better acquainted. It is also important to me that I can personally endorse accommodation based on my own experience whenever possible.
- spoiler - I will definitely be recommending The Lovat Loch Ness!
When Wendy from Red Kite Campers got in touch asking if I wanted to take their new VW campervan away for a few days to try it out, I got pretty excited. I've been on a couple of campervan road-trips in Scotland already and I love the freedom of making up my route as I go along and parking up at the most beautiful places for a short stop or even a whole night.
That initial excitement soon turned to dilemma after dilemma. With so many rewarding journey options, I struggled to decide on a route! In the end I opted for a road-trip that would incorporate some of the best Highland scenery on Scotland's west coast. As I only had the campervan for 3 nights, I had to be selective in the places I could visit in order to reach a balance of having time to enjoy the adventure without spending too many hours behind the wheel.
The route I have featured below includes a few Scottish tourist classics with my usual mix of hidden gems thrown in. It is impossible to see all of Scotland in a few days but if you are short on time and big on scenic landscapes, my recommended 4 day itinerary should tick all the boxes. I've also included some extra suggestions if you have more time to spend.
If you are looking for a longer itinerary then my West Coast Scotland Road-trip blog covers a circular route around Wester Ross and the islands of Skye, Lewis and Harris which is ideal for a 10 -14 day trip.
DAY 1 - MILTON OF CAMPSIE TO GLEN SHIEL
APPROX 160 MILES
With no sign of the torrential rain easing, I decided that our planned walk in Glen Coe was best abandoned as our clothes were just about dry again after our earlier soaking at Loch Lomond.
Mr Adventures Around Scotland pulled our colourful VW campervan in to a layby near the mouth of the looming glen and we both hopped in the back, feeling quite smug that we had such a cosy shelter to wait out the worst of the weather.
The rain thrummed noisily on the roof as a pot of water bubbled away on the stove. As I poured two mugs of steaming hot coffee, I could just about make out the distinctive form of Buchaille Etive Mor through the sheets of water sweeping across the surrounding landscape. On days like this, the iconic mountain takes on a foreboding appearance as it guards entry to the gloomy glen beyond.
I've been to Glen Coe countless times and could number the times I've visited on a clear, dry day on both hands and this was definitely not one of those days!
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