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The Surprising Village Of Ullapool

Seeming to jump out of its stunning surroundings, this quiet little village
has become a vital gateway to the northwest.


During a visit to America some years ago, Glenn Davies from Ullapool in Wester Ross was dining in a restaurant when the people at an adjacent table asked him where he came from. "Ullapool," he replied. "Oh, we know Ullapool," was the response. "Come and join us. For Americans, the Highlands of Scotland are a dream destination." The speaker was the famous Hollywood actor Glenn Ford, who was dining with members of his family, all of whom loved Scotland.

If the Highlands of Scotland are a dream destination, then Ullapool on the northwest coast is surely the culmination of that dream. Everything about this sparkling little town is designed to please. It bestrides a fertile headland where the Minch, that broken patch of the Atlantic between the mainland and the Outer Hebrides, narrows into Loch Broom. The southern landscape is dominated by one of Scotland's most dramatic peaks, An Teallach ("the forge"), at 3,484 feet, while to the north, grey Ben Mór Coigach (2,438 feet) shares the landscape with the Summer Isles, a quiet archipelago at the edge of the open ocean. Eastward are the moors, lochs and streams of the Rhidorroch Forest, and to the west, the broad expanse of Loch Broom and the Scoraig Peninsula beyond.

Whitewashed cottages, houses and shops line one side of Shore Street, Ullapool's principal thoroughfare, which edges Loch Broom. On the water side of the street, a wide promenade provides visitors with a close-up view of the quays and slipways, the comings and goings of pleasure craft and fishing boats and a colourful jumble of nets, fishing boxes, creels, masts and working cranes. The street is invariably bustling with visitors, some enjoying the waterfront and others exploring shops such as the Edinburgh Woollen Mill with its clothing, tweeds and cashmeres; the West Highland Woollen Company's traditional hand-knitted garments; Partlet's Newsagents' maps, magazines and other reading material; and the unusual cocktail served up at Ceól-na-Mara ("music from the sea") -- Scottish music CDs and single malt whiskies.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2012 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photos © Michael Roper