Sitting proudly on the West Coast of Scotland, you'll find the charming fishing town and ferry port of Ullapool. Ullapool is nestled among some of Scotland's most beautiful, rugged and untouched coastline, boasting wonder and history. Whether you're an adventure enthusiast or somebody who likes to discover a new place gently on foot, there are plenty of things to do in Ullapool.
Ullapool is the perfect place to pull up for a few days to soak up some of Scotland's natural beauty. From hiking up Ullapool Hill to searching for Puffins on Handa Island. However, you decide to spend your time in this charming town and its surrounding landscape, you're bound to make some memories that'll last way beyond your trip to The Scottish Highlands.
Ullapool is just a ninety-minute drive from the city of Inverness and has excellent transport links. Ullapool also is a gateway to the Isle of Lewis, the largest island in the Outer Hebrides. Whilst the town of Ullapool may be small, it's one of the most popular places to explore in the Wester Ross area and gives off a Scandinavian-like charm all year round. In this guide, we'll show you some of the many things to do in Ullapool.
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Explore Loch Broom
The town of Ullapool sits on the shores of Loch Broom and boasts magnificent views at every turn. Most things to do in Ullapool incorporate the Loch in some way, but why not start your visit with a walk along the shoreline? If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you can also hire some kit to get out onto the water.
The best way to enjoy the landscape is to rent a sea kayak or canoe. Allow the guides from Kayak Summer Isles to show you around the Loch and the surrounding islands and bays. Start the adventure from the Ullapool pier or harbour and explore the beauty of Lock Broom. No matter how you choose to enjoy the Loch, don't forget to pack your camera to capture the moment.
Mountain Bike the Ullapool Hill Loop
Seeking adventure and the thrill of a ride to break up the long hours of driving, Scotland tends to bring? Then look no further than the Ullapool Hill Loop Mountain Bike Trail. At 7.3 miles long and climbing to 200 metres, this loop isn't for the faint-hearted, but will offer you fantastic views of Loch and Glen Achall and The Summer Isles in reward for all that peddling!
If you don't have your own, then Mountain bikes are available for hire between March and October from Ullapool Mountain Bike Hire, starting at £20 for four hours.
Do Puffin Spotting on Handa Island
If you're in Ullapool between the months of May and July, then you have to take a ferry ride out to Handa Island to see the puffins! Handa Island is home to over 200,000 seabirds, and over 250 pairs of puffins breed there every summer. If you're lucky, you might even catch sightings of a school of dolphins or even an Orca. The only way to get to Handa island is via ferry, although it is more of a small boat than a ferry, so make sure you pack some anti-sickness tablets if save any suffering!
Excursions leave for Handa every Monday through to Saturday from 09:00-1:30 pm. Puffin Spotting is one of the most popular things to do in Ullapool, so be aware that it could get busy, so make sure you plan where you can.
Visit the Ullapool Museum
It's hard to visit Ullapool without realizing its deep connection to the ocean. The fish and sea trade was why the town of Ullapool was first built back in the 1700s. It was designed by Thomas Telford so that Ullapool could become a port for fishing herring. If you want to dive more into the history of Ullapool, then you can visit the Ullapool Museum.
The museum I nestled in the heart of the town inside a category A listed building. Admission for adults is £5, and under 18s go free. The museum is open all year round, 11am-4 pm and closed on Wednesdays.
Explore the Corrieshalloch Gorge
Corrieshalloch Gorge is Britain's deepest box canyon and a must-see when visiting Ullapool. The Gorge is just a twenty-minute drive from the town itself towards Inverness. Corrieshalloch is the Gaelic phrase for 'ugly hollow', but the breathtaking views that stretch over the gorge are anything but ugly. When you arrive at the gorge, you'll find plenty of options to enjoy your day here.
There are plenty of walks around the gorge varying in difficulty level. For a unique scenic point, just walk up to the viewpoint to see the falls. A must-see is the suspension bridge that walks you directly over the gorge. Don't be alarmed if it wobbles as you walk over it, and it might even spray you with a little water from the waterfall. Make sure you take a raincoat, just in case getting wet isn't your thing! If you're keen to get deeper inside the gorge, then there are some outdoor companies that offer canyoneering throughout the summer months, too.
Corrieshalloch Gorge is free to enter and open all year round and has a free car park.
Hike the Ullapool Hill
Hiking up Ullapool Hill is one of the most popular things to do in Ullapool. Offering awe-inspiring views of Ullapool, Loch Broom and Loch Achall when you reach the summit, Meall Mor, it's not surprising it's so popular.
The hike itself is a 4.5km loop and reaches an elevation of 233m. The path is well-defined and easy to follow, but hiking shoes are advised. The track is open all year round, but do plan ahead if you're travelling in the wetter season, as the track can get slippy.
For a peaceful escape, enjoy a picnic to enjoy at the top too!
Stroll the Riverside Paths
If hiking up hills and mountains isn't your thing, then the Riverside Paths walk might be perfect for you. The walk along the Riverside Paths is a flat route with effortless terrain, weaving in and out of the paths that run alongside the Ullapool River Broom.
This is perfect if you want to explore the area at a gentler pace or just enjoy a quieter day. Keep your eyes peeled as you might see some wildlife along the paths, from ducks to otters! In the spring, the paths are lined with Bluebells adding a pop of colour to this very mountainous area of Scotland.
When I first saw photographs of the beach at Achmelvich Bay, it reminded me of the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. I could hardly believe this was in the UK. Whilst Achmelvich Bay is an hour's drive north of Ullapool, it is definitely something to think about when in the area.
Achmelvich Bay has everything you could ask for in a beach. It's small and secluded, with fine white sand and aqua blue sea just waiting for you to dip in your toes. It's one of the places that will make your body exhale as soon as you step onto the sand. There's plenty of wildlife to see here, including the black, red and great northern throated divers, dolphins, and minke whales. It's also the perfect spot to go rock pool fishing too.
Knockan Crag National nature reserve
Knockan Crag Nature Reserve is one of those places that reminds us how incredible mother nature can be. There are over three billion years worth of geological history at Knockan Crag, and it shows in the vast and unique landscape. The views across the valley here are breathtaking, and there are numerous walks that you can enjoy.
The Rock Room visitors centre is on hand to help you learn more about the area, how it came to be and the stories associated with the inspiring rock formations. There are areas of the reserve that are protected, so it's worth making sure you know where these barriers are before you visit or on the day by visiting the Rock Room before you begin looking around.
Knockan Crag Nature Reserve is located just thirteen miles from Ullapool, so worth considering when deciding what things you want to do during your visit to Ullapool.
To continue with the theme of geology, if you're a keen rock climber, then you'll want to visit the Rhue bouldering area. The area has been described as a play gym for climbers, with over fifty climbing problems to tackle and views spanning across the ocean as you climb.
If you forget to bring your boulder pad, then no worries because you can hire them for one or multiple days from Ullapool Outdoors which has a brilliant range of all the outdoor gear you could ever need.
Stac Pollaidh (Stac Polly)
Stac Pollaidh, sometimes known as Stac Polly, has become a popular mountain to climb when people choose which things to do in Ullapool. At 612 metres, it's a relatively short mountain to climb compared with the likes of Ben Nevis, but that doesn't mean it isn't just as stunning. Who doesn't look mountain scenery in northern highlands?
The rock formation that makes Stac Pollaidh is jaw-dropping and entirely otherworldly. Whilst the mountain may be small, the terrain can be tricky and is best avoided in wet weather and the winter months if you aren't an experienced or specialist climber.
That said, in the summer months, it's definitely worth giving it a shot via the well-marked paths that lead you up the side of the mountain. To reach the summit, you will need to scramble to achieve it, so be prepared to be on your hands and knees at the top.
Summer Isles Cruise
Soak in the Summer Isles with a Summer Queen Cruise for a dose of epic views and the chance to encounter some wildlife up close. The Summer Isles are a unique set of islands that sit at the mouth of Loch Broom. On a clear day, the views from the Summer sales stretch all the way out to the Outer Hebrides and boast picturesque viewpoints of the mountains of Coigach and Scoraig peninsulas.
The Summer Isles are home to a vast array of marine life, and what better way to see them than via boat? The Summer Queen cruises began sailing and teaching tourists about the local area in the 1970s and remains a favourite for people visiting Ullapool. Cruises run twice daily at 10:30 and 1 pm, and booking in advance is advised.
If you're a beach lover, then Achnahaird Beach is another beach not too far away from Ullapool that you can drive out to and enjoy. It'll take you around forty-five minutes, but the landscape you'll find on arrival will be well worth it. This beach is a lot bigger than the one at Achmelvich Bay and has views that stretch over the breathtaking mountain ranges that surround Ullapool, including Stac Polly. You'll also find an abundance of wildlife, including wild cats, pine martens and golden eagles; very cool, right?
The Coigach Peninsula is a bit of a hidden gem in the Wester Ross area. You'll see it on the Summer Isle Cruise, but why not explore this untouched stretch of land by foot via The Coigach Geotrail? Coigach is home to some of the UK's oldest rock formations, which you should explore on this geology-focused walk.
The trail takes you across formations that are over three billion years old. If you find geology interesting, then purchase a guide with detailed information on how the land has been shaped over the years through floods and ice and storms. The trail is best explored during low tide, so make sure you check before you set off.
As well as this fantastic trail, there are also several beaches and other walking routes surrounding the Coigach Peninsula for you to enjoy in Ullapool. The drive around the West Ross area will take your breath away before you even reach the Peninsula.
Clydesdale On the Croft Animal Encounter (with Scottish cream tea)
A fairly new addition to Ullapool is Clydesdale On the Croft Animal Encounter, perfect if you have young children or just fancy a wholesome few hours in the surrounding countryside. This is a chance to get up close and personal with the Scottish locals, and you're guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
You'll meet the Clydesdale Giants, a team of six horses, Peggy the fallow faun and Douglas the donkey, who you can pet and groom. You'll then be served afternoon tea in the horse box - don't worry, it's been converted, so you won't be sat on a heap of hay. Prices start at £15, and there must be two adults per visit.
Ardvreck Castle is a forty-five-minute drive from Ullapool, but have you even visited Scotland if you haven't visited a castle? Ardvreck Castle dates back to 1490 and is where the Marquis of Montrose tried to take refuge after losing the battle of Carbisdale in 1650. The castle was home to Neil Macleod of Assynt at the time, whose wife led Montrose to the dungeon, following which he would be taken to Edinburgh for his execution.
All that remains of the castle today are tower ruins set upon a small island, which can now be accessed via a well-maintained path. The tower remains in good condition, and you can only imagine how beautiful the entire structure was back then.
Lewis Day Trip
It wouldn't be a trip to Ullapool without considering hopping on the ferry for a day trip to Lewis on The Outer Hebrides. The ferry runs from the harbour in Ullapool, with stunning landscapes surrounding you as you cross the water over to Lewis.
The Isle of Lewis is one of the most picturesque spots in The Outer Hebrides, with plenty to enjoy once you arrive, from cultural and historical attractions to plenty of beaches.
The ferry to Lewis takes passengers on foot and vehicles from cars to motorhomes, so you could even stay overnight if you wanted to. The prices start at £10.75 per adult and rise depending on the vehicle and will vary depending on the size. Booking in advance is advised to avoid disappointment.
Lastly, why not finish your trip to Ullapool with a sunset walk to Rhue Lighthouse? Rhue Lighthouse sits at the mouth of Loch Broom to guide any boats on their way into Ullapool. The walk from the road is relatively short, and sunset on a clear day is the perfect time to visit as the sun sets just behind The Summer Isles, sitting directly opposite Rhue Lighthouse. If you can't make sunset, it's still well worth a visit for the glorious ocean views, and it's cool to see a working lighthouse too!
Places to Eat and Drink in Ullapool
With all of these incredible things to do in Ullapool, it'll be thirsty work, and luckily Ullapool isn't short of places to eat and drink. Some of the highest recommended places to eat and drink are listed below:
- Seafood Shack - A must-do when visiting Ullapool.
- Tea on the Wall - Scottish cream tea served on a wall looking out across Loch Broom.
- The Arch Inn - For wholesome pub food that will fuel you up for the next adventure.
- The Seaforth Restaurant - if you want to get a little dressed up for your evening meal.
Places to Stay in Ullapool
There's an abundance of options when it comes to accommodation in Ullapool, from camping to BnB's. Below are some options you might want to consider.
Book Summer Isles Hotel
Summer Isles Hotel has a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden in Achiltibuie, with views of Badentarbet Bay and the Hebrides. Boasting family rooms, this award-winning hotel also provides guests with a terrace.
Book Tigh Na Mara
Tigh Na Mara translates to 'house on the sea' and is one of the best-rated places to stay in Ullapool, which sits on the ocean shore with sweeping mountain views topped off with a log burner to keep you cosy in those colder months.
Book The Harbour House
A unique accommodation option with rooms overlooking the loch. The Harbour House features a garden and has an exceptional breakfast included in the room price.
Campsites in and around Ullapool
- Broomfield Holiday Park
- Ardmair Point Caravan Park
- Port A Bhaigh Campsite
- Badrallach Campsite, Bothy & Holiday Cottage
All of these campsites allow both camper van, motorhomes and tent pitching.
Whether you're visiting Ullapool as part of your trip around the North Coast 500 or it's where you're taking your whole holiday, you won't be stuck for things to do in Ullapool, and there really is something for everyone. Don't forget to grab a Scottish souvenir to remember the trip, too.
Fancy more of Scotland? Check out where to stay in Edinburgh to plan your trip accordingly.