To visit Ullapool is to experience the North West Scottish Highlands at their finest. This picture-perfect fishing village is a most welcome stop along the NC500 (North Coast 500) road trip, as well as a holiday destination in its own right. Ullapool sits in a tranquil position looking over Loch Broom, enjoying stunning views out towards the Summer Isles and beyond. Although Ullapool is a peaceful stay, you’ll also find plenty of activities to enjoy. Below, we’ll look at 26 excellent things to do in Ullapool, Scotland.
To see footage of the NC500 road trip, including things to do in and around Ullapool, Scotland, feel free to watch our NC500 Hikes production.
For other epic things to do along the NC500, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 epic NC500 hikes.
Table of Contents
About Ullapool, Scotland
The British Fisheries Society founded Ullapool in 1788, with the small port being used to catch herring. The traditional fishing village may still be small, but it’s the largest settlement for quite some distance in this part of the Highlands. The picturesque harbour sits on the banks of Loch Broom, which joins with the sea at its northern end. Ullapool does not have a beach, but rather the Ullapool Sea Front. This western tip of the village offers exceptional views right the way up to the Summer Isles and is located next to the harbour.
The port provides access to Stornoway via a ferry terminal. In fact, boat excursions are quite popular from Ullapool, especially given the abundance of wildlife you’ll likely spot. Indeed, given the wealth of natural beauty around this part of Scotland, Ullapool has grown to become quite the tourist hub, featuring plenty of hotels, restaurants and pub options.
Where Is Ullapool?
Ullapool is located in the county of Ross and Cromarty in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. Given its location, Ullapool is often referred to as the gateway to the Northern Highlands of Scotland. Ullapool is located just 1.5 hours from Inverness, Scotland. Although, it’s now more common to visit as part of the epic North Coast 500 road trip, which tours the entire northern reaches of mainland Scotland.
Things to Do in Ullapool
Below, we’ll look at 26 excellent things to do in Ullapool, Scotland. We’ll break them down into things within the village of Ullapool, hikes around Ullapool, beaches close to Ullapool, waterfalls and then other natural attractions. We’ll finish with how to get to Ullapool and where the best hotels and camping options are close to the village.
1. Climb Meall Mhor (Ullapool Hill)
You can’t pass through this splendid mountainous region without a walk. And, if you’re not after a full day in the outdoors, then Meall Mhor, AKA Ullapool Hill, could be just the hike for you. Beginning from town, the short but rather steep climb might leave you a little out of puff, but the views from the top are the perfect antidote.
You’ll find benches to rest at as you climb higher along the very well-maintained trail, leaving Ullapool village behind and discovering the breathtaking Highland wilderness. In fact, Meall Mhor is the perfect introduction to Scottish hill walking. You can follow a GPS trail here.
2. See Rhue Lighthouse
Heading north out of Ullapool, along the A835 brings you to Rhue Lighthouse. The brilliant white beacon stands on a rocky platform at the head of the wonderful Loch Broom. The quick 20-minute walk from the car park to reach Rhue Lighthouse is uber scenic. To be expected I suppose, given its fantastic location. Rock up for sunset and find a comfortable (rocky) seat to enjoy the dazzling display over Loch Broom and beyond.
3. Explore Loch Broom
Speaking of Loch Broom, why not explore the loch itself? Starting in Ullapool, you’ll find plenty of lakeside trails to enjoy this extensive body of water. Additionally, why not get out on the Loch? From Ullapool Harbour, it’s easy to hire a kayak and set about exploring yourself. Kayak Summer Isles is a wonderful company in Ullapool, Scotland offering kayak and canoe rental, as well as group tours and overnight excursions. You can check them out here.
4. Visit the Ullapool Museum
For some more land-based exploration, why not pop into Ullapool Museum? The museum, housed in a Category A-listed old church building, perfectly summarises the history and importance of the Ullapool area. Crofting and fishing were key to the growth of Ullapool. Indeed, you can discover more with a visit to this wonderfully curated museum.
5. Enjoy An Talla Solais Gallery
If the Ullapool Museum sounds right up your street, then be sure to check out An Talla Solais Gallery in Ullapool too. Located on Market Street is a fabulous little gallery, showcasing the local talent in the Highlands of Scotland. The gallery serves as a studio and exhibition space, where you can enjoy the array of incredible artwork and maybe even purchase a piece or two. A visit here makes a perfect wet-weather stop, which does occasionally happen.
6. Visit the Ullapool Clock and War Memorial
As you wander through the streets of Ullapool, Scotland, you’ll likely stumble across a beautiful cast iron clock on Quay Street. The Ullapool Clock is known locally as the ‘Fowler Memorial Clock’, having been erected in 1899 to the memory of Sir John Fowler. It’s also reputed to be the most photographed clock in the Scottish Highlands. Although, I’m not sure how many clocks like this exist in the Highlands, so I’m unsure as to whether the competition is stiff or not. But, the Ullapool Clock is certainly pretty and a fitting tribute to a prominent engineer.
Additionally, on Mill Street, you can find the Ullapool War Memorial.
7. Take a Swing at Ullapool Golf Course
North of Ullapool village centre is the Ullapool Golf Club. And wow, what a setting to swing the irons at. There’s no need to book a tee time at Ullapool Golf Club either. There’s a ‘walk-on’ policy for visitors, as well as offering clubs for hire. Having opened in 1998, the club prides itself on blending in and complementing the surrounding landscape. And I think you’ll agree, they do just that.
8. Eat Fish & Chips at the Harbour
I can’t think of a better way to round off exploring Ullapool village in Scotland than with some fresh and locally caught fish and chips. You’ll find plenty of options, but we personally recommend The Seafood Shack and Delicasea. Then, be sure to wander down to the harbour and enjoy your meal with the wonderful Loch Broom views. Keep an eye on those pesky seagulls though!
9. Check Out Corrieshalloch Gorge
Given Ullapool’s excellent location within the Highlands and along Scotland’s famed NC500, you’ll find plenty of wonderful hikes in the area. One of the closest is a walk to Corrieshalloch Gorge. The Lady Fowler’s Fern Walk through the picturesque woodland includes venturing across a suspension bridge (originally built by the above-mentioned John Fowler) to enjoy awesome views of the Falls of Measach – a 46-metre single-drop cascade.
10. Hike Quinag
Quinag is easily one of the most breathtaking hikes around Ullapool, Scotland. Just a quick 40-minute drive north out of the village brings you to the trailhead car park. From here, you’ve got a wonderful day ahead of exploring the Assynt wilderness in one of the most beautiful parts of the Scottish Highlands. Indeed, if you’re a keen hiker, Quinag is not to be missed.
11. Climb the Iconic Suilven
Suilven is one of the most iconic mountains in the Scottish Highlands. Its distinctive shape and lonely setting make it easy to spot from miles around. Beginning from Lochinver, the drive to hike Suilven takes less than an hour from Ullapool, Scotland. But, you’ll need to leave early, as hiking Suilven is a full-day affair and parking is limited. FYI – Suilven was one of our favourite hikes along the NC500.
12. Hike to Stac Pollaidh For Sunrise
Considering the length of Quinag and Suilven, a hike to Stac Pollaidh feels remarkably short. And so, that makes it perfect for a little sunrise expedition. From Ullapool, you’re looking at a 25 minute drive to the trailhead and car park, meaning arriving for sunrise is more than doable. In addition to watching the orange hues light up the surrounding mountains, you’ll also likely encounter a few deer out on the mountainside, enjoying their breakfast. And even better, you might be lucky enough to have the hike up Stac Pollaidh all to yourself. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
13. Explore Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
A 20-minute drive north out of Ullapool brings you to the fascinating Knockan Crag Nature Reserve. The crag is a major geological site of global importance, having been formed by the crashing together of two continents. There are numerous ways to enjoy Knockan Crag, including exploring through the Rock Room, Rock trails and art, or if you’re looking to explore further, why not follow the Rock Route?
14. Sunset at Ardmair Beach
Ardmair Beach sits just outside of Ullapool and is the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset in Scotland. Dan and I actually camped at Ardmair Point and loved the moody sunsets over the white-grey pebbles. Whether you skim stones, go crabbing or simply enjoy the tranquil views over Loch Canaird and the Summer Isles, you’re sure to love this beautiful location.
15. Relax at Achmelvich Beach
Achemelvich Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the North Coast 500 and for good reason. The beautiful white sand beach set against the drool-worthy turquoise hues of the water will have you thinking you’re anywhere but Scotland. Or, perhaps you’ll appreciate the beauty of Scotland all the more, on one of its best beaches. Water sports are popular at this Scottish beach too, and it’s just a one hour drive from Ullapool.
16. And then Clachtoll Beach
Once you’ve enjoyed the paradise that is Achmelvich Beach, why not venture a stone’s throw further north to Clachtoll Beach? This is another superb beach in Scotland that’s easy to reach from Ullapool. Clachtoll Beach feels remote and rugged, and the sea stacks, like Split Rock, look impressive from the shoreline. Nearby is Clachtoll Broch, which is an iron-age roundhouse dating back to around 400–250 BC.
17. Stop in at Gruinard Beach
En route to Ullapool, Scotland, is the wonderful Gruinard Beach. If you’re looking to break up your NC500 drive, then you can’t go wrong by pulling in at Gruinard Beach. Located 50 minutes outside of Ullapool, this beach in Scotland is the perfect pit stop. The beach is generally quieter than some, with a mountainous landscape enveloping the golden sands. It’s quite spectacular. We enjoyed a stop here as we headed to Ullapool.
18. Falls of Kirkaig
It’s not all beaches and mountains in Ullapool, Scotland. There’s also a wealth of waterfalls to check in on too. A picturesque walk from Inverkirkaig brings you to the thunderous Falls of Kirkaig. Also known as Inverkirkaig Falls, the trail is just a short distance from remote Fionn Loch, enjoying views of Suilven along the way. In fact, you can even hike to Suilven after visiting the Falls of Kirkaig. The Falls of Kirkaig is just a 45-minute drive from Ullapool, Scotland.
Read more: Falls of Kirkaig – The Complete Hiking Guide
19. Eas a’ Chual Aluinn
For epic waterfalls, you really have to consider Eas a’ Chual Aluinn. This is Britain’s highest waterfall and sits, quite secretively, in the perfect landscape of the Highlands. Located close to Quinag, reaching this waterfall involves a 10km return hike, but it’s quiet, with breathtaking scenery and so so so worth it. The 200m plunge of water is incredible, with the hike leading right to the top of the waterfall. It’s also possible to take a boat from nearby Kylesku to view Eas a’ Chual Aluinn from the base.
20. Wailing Widow Falls
If a 10km hike doesn’t work for you, then there’s always Wailing Widow Falls, reached from the same location. This super popular waterfall on the NC500 has a short yet often muddy walk to reach its base. The multi-tiered cascade is splendid and just a 40-minute drive outside of Ullapool.
21. Visit Ardessie Falls
On the drive between Gruinard Beach and Ullapool is another awesome waterfall in Scotland – Ardressie Falls. The waterfall is easy to pull in at and provides some outstanding views of Little Loch Broom. The walk is a little steep and can be quite muddy. Well, this is Scotland after all. But, the 2.5km hike is certainly worth it and is an easy stop en route to Ullapool, being just 40 minutes away.
22. Delve into The Bone Caves
The short walk to the Bone Caves of Inchnadamph in Scotland is one of intrigue as much as it is of natural beauty. Four epic caves are open for exploration. Inside, the bones of ancient animals have been found. Amazingly, these animals used to roam this part of the country, some of them as much as 47,000 years ago. Of course, the bones are no longer there, but the caves are just as compelling to visit.
In addition, the walk to visit Bone Caves, near Ullapool, has quickly become one of the most popular stops along the NC500 in Scotland. You can reach The Bone Caves in half an hour from Ullapool.
23. Wander Ardvreck Castle Ruins
Whilst you’re out exploring The Bone Caves, it makes sense to check out Loch Assynt and the beguiling Ardvreck Castle. The castle sits atop a small promontory of land jutting out into the southeast corner of the loch, which helps to make it one of the most picturesque castles along Scotland’s NC500 close to Ullapool. Ardvreck Castle enjoys a rich and colourful past, easily imagined during a visit to the crumbling ruins of this once-grand keep.
24. Drive Across Kylesku Bridge
The NC500 is a devastatingly scenic drive featuring natural attraction after natural attraction. But, every so often, something a little different pops up. And, in this case, it’s the wonderful, sweeping curved structure of Kylesku Bridge. Viewing Kylesku Bridge has become quite the tourist attraction and has been made pretty straightforward with the construction of two viewing car parks at either end.
Read more: The Complete Guide To Kylesku Bridge
25. Go Puffin Spotting on Handa Island
If you’ve driven out to Kylesku Bridge, then why not continue a little further to Handa Island? The island is home to over 200,000 seabirds, including puffins. If you want to time your visit with seeing puffins, then you’ll need to visit from May to July. To reach Handa Island, simply hop aboard the ferry at Tarbet on the mainland. On arrival to Handa, you’ll be met by a volunteer who will give you a quick talk about the island and what to expect there. For more information on Handa Island and the ferry times, click here.
26. Take a Boat Cruise
If you’re keen on more boat trips beyond just Handa Island, then you’ll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of options for boat tours from Ullapool Harbour. Shearwater Cruises tour the Summer Isles and Wester Ross Marine Protected Area. On a tour with Shearwater, you might spot eagles, porpoises and seals to name but a few. The boat cruise lasts around two hours and is a wonderful way to experience Ullapool from offshore.
How to Get to Ullapool
So, now you’ve seen all the amazing things there is to do in and around Ullapool, Scotland, we’d better take a look at how to get there. Many visitors to Ullapool will be passing through along their NC500 road trip and looking forward to all the incredible things to do around the area. But, Ullapool is also not too far from the likes of Inverness to venture to Ullapool as a day trip or holiday in its own right either. Let’s take a look at your options.
Inverness to Ullapool
Inverness is just 96km (60 miles) from Ullapool and takes 1.5 hours to drive there. The A835 road cuts straight through the Highlands and has you there in no time at all.
If you’re not driving the NC500 and prefer to use public transport, then you can take bus #961 from this bus stop here in Inverness direct to Ullapool Ferry Terminal. The journey takes about 1.5 hours.
Fort William to Ullapool
If you’ve been exploring the drool-worthy West Highlands in Scotland before heading up to Ullapool, then you’ll find the drive will take around 3 hours from Fort William, covering a distance of 193km (120 miles).
If using public transport, you’ll first need to get to Inverness and then catch the bus as above. You can catch bus #919 to Inverness from the Leisure Centre bus stop located here, in Fort William. The bus from Fort William to Inverness takes 2 hours. Then it’s a further 1.5 hours to Ullapool.
Durness to Ullapool
If travelling the NC500 in an anti-clockwise direction, and heading down from Durness, the drive time is around 1.5–2 hours and 109km (68 miles). Using the bus and taking public transport is very time-consuming, so I can only really recommend using your own vehicle between these two Highland towns. But, of course, there’s plenty to stop off at along the way if you’re happy to break up the journey. This is the NC500 after all.
Glasgow or Edinburgh to Ullapool
Driving to Ullapool from Glasgow or Edinburgh can take anywhere from 4.5–5.5 hours. The longer route will take you through Fort William and the breathtaking West Highlands, which is well worth spending some time in any way, so we’d recommend not driving in one go. The quickest route is to shoot straight up through the centre of Scotland and along the western side of the Cairngorms. Again, another worthy stop in Scotland.
Public transport from both Glasgow and Edinburgh is possible, although time-consuming. Basically, you’ll be heading to Inverness and from there taking the bus. We recommend using Google Maps and the Trainline to help plan any journeys using public transport.
But, by far, the easiest way to get to Ullapool in Scotland and enjoy all the excellent things to do there, is to drive there yourself.
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Accommodation and Amenities in Ullapool
So, now you’ve been convinced to visit Ullapool and check out all the incredible things there is to do there, and you know how to get to Ullapool, we should look at where you should eat and stay in town. Below, we’ll look at some of the best hotels and camping options in Ullapool, Scotland, as well as mention some great places to eat and grab a drink… or two.
Hotels in Ullapool
- Budget – Ullapool Youth Hostel: the Ullapool Youth Hostel is one of the most reasonably priced youth hostels we came across during our NC500 road trip. Given its fantastic location, well-equipped kitchen and varying selection of rooms, this place really is great value for money in Ullapool.
- Mid-range – Caledonian Hotel Ullapool: the Caledonian Hotel Ullapool is set in the heart of the village, very close to the harbour. As one of the oldest hotels in Ullapool, Scotland, the Caledonian has been welcoming guests since the early 1900s. You’ll find free parking onsite with guests particularly enjoying the location.
- Mid-range – Royal Hotel Ullapool: the Royal Hotel Ullapool prides itself on being the ultimate relaxing stay in what is thought to be the oldest hotel in continuous use in Ullapool. There’s an onsite bar, which is perfect after a day exploring the best things to do in Ullapool.
- Luxury – Harbour House: located right on the shore of Loch Broom is the very highly rated Harbour House. The individual units here enjoy an extensive garden, exceptional views and a quality breakfast. No wonder this place is a visitor’s favourite in Ullapool.
Camping in Ullapool
Many people choose to camp during their NC500 road trip, or during a holiday to Ullapool. Indeed, that’s exactly what Dan and I did. We stayed at nearby Ardmair Point Holiday Park in Ullapool. This spectacular camping spot in Ullapool enjoys a prime position on a small peninsula jutting out into Loch Canaird. We found the facilities to be top-notch, with plenty of pitch space and electric hook-up. As mentioned in the post, sunrise and sunset are particularly wonderful from Ardmair Beach.
For a more central location in Ullapool, you should check out Broomfield Holiday Park. Broomfield enjoys a loch front position and has been welcoming visitors for years. It’s easily one of the most popular places to stay in Ullapool. We struggled to get our required dates here due to high demand, hence why we ended up at Ardmair. But, no regrets, as Ardmair was quiet and perfect for what we needed.
Restaurants in Ullapool
As a fishing village, Ullapool restaurants serve up some excellent fresh catch of the day. The Seafood Shack and The Dipping Lugger are fantastic options. For a tasty pizza, head to Oak & Grain. And, as mentioned earlier, Dan and I really enjoyed our chippy takeout from Delicasea.
Pubs in Ullapool
It’s not uncommon to find live music and a true local’s atmosphere in the pubs in Ullapool. You have a few Ullapool Pubs to choose from such as The Ferry Boat Inn, Ceilidh Place, the Arch Inn and Argyll Hotel.
This is Scotland and the Scottish Highlands at that. The weather doesn’t always play ball. Luckily there are plenty of things to do in Ullapool when the weather is off. But, sometimes the weather is glorious and the outdoor life of the Scottish Highlands is sublime.
The best months to visit Ullapool in Scotland are May to September. The weather is generally drier, wildflowers are out in bloom and most snow has melted from mountain tops and hiking trails. In addition, the days are longer, so you can fit much more into your Ullapool itinerary too!
We always recommend checking the weather before embarking on any activity in Ullapool and the Scottish Highlands. You can check the MET Office weather here.
Other Things to Do Along the NC500
The area around Ullapool, Scotland is one of the most spectacular along the NC500. But, there are also many incredible places to visit along the famous route.
- Torridon: this exceptional place has some of the most exhilarating and rewarding hiking along the NC500. We wished we’d had time to stay longer. Be sure to check out Beinn Alligin, Beinn Eighe and Victoria Falls.
- Applecross Peninsula: we visited the Applecross Peninsula at the start of our NC500 journey and it really blew us away. The drive over Bealach Na Ba is outstanding as too is the drive around Loch Carron and seeing the ruins of Strome Castle before you reach the Applecross Pass.
- Castle hopping: we know Scotland does castles well and there’s plenty to see as you journey along the NC500. Some of favourites include Ardvreck Castle, Castle Varrich, Keiss Castle, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and Dunrobin Castle.
Five Travel Essentials For Ullapool
These are our five travel essentials for visiting Ullapool, Scotland and checking out some of the best things to do in the area. For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Travel Insurance For the NC500
Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a necessary evil, especially if taking on a road trip like the NC500.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Dan and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future.
- Stay put for a few days: Dan and I loved being in Ullapool for a few days on our NC500 road trip. It made for a great base to explore the surrounding area from. So, don’t be afraid to stay put for a few days, despite a road trip meaning you’re usually constantly on the go.
- Refuel: Ullapool, Scotland, is a great place to fill the tank before continuing on with your road trip. You’ll also find electric car charging points here too.
- Stress-free NC500: to have the hassle taken out of some of your NC500 trip planning, GetYourGuide offers some pretty spectacular tours from major cities like Edinburgh and Inverness.
Share this post with your NC500 road trip buddies, ready to experience Ullapool, Scotland!