I first heard of Ullapool from my great-gran. It was July’s photo on her People’s Friend Scenes of Scotland 1973 calender.
Later there were tales about my mum’s childhood visits here en route to the Highlands. So after the journey to see friends on Lewis, a stopover in Ullapool seemed like a plan. I booked a great AirBnB with tents in garden and grabbed my bag,
I couldn’t resist this pastel of a ferry setting off for Stornaway. Back the way I’d just come. I love ports and stations as they signify comings and goings, destinations to reach. In Ullapool you’re only heading to the Outer Hebrides on the huge Calmac ferry. Or towards Inverness on the coach. But it’s still a place where paths cross.
Sitting on a bench as I painfully ate my yoghurt – more on that later – I had the sudden urge to sketch the Loch Seaforth. And seeing as I was in such a hurry to get her before she moved away from her mooring, back towards the Minch, I did make her a bit squat. But I’m not too worried because this sketch is fun and a departure for me (no pun intended!). It looks like a picture from a kid’s book and it would make a great toy for the bath in 3d.
Sketching buildings and vehicles is something I need to improve. My other half Stephen is the go-to man for this subject matter. And he’s taught and encouraged me a lot. In fact, Ullapool has plenty of picturesque buildings he’d sit and draw. I was surprised to find out that the town was planned by Thomas Telford.
In a while I decided to climb a local hill since I was told the views are breathtaking. No doubt seeing as Ullapool sits at the edge of a loch fringed by mountains. The pretty buildings and boats bobbing on tbe water complete the picture. The tracks up the hill are well-defined and there’s a choice to take one to the top as you get higher. Normally I’d do just that. But my throat being swollen due to radiotherapy treatment means I’m out of breath more than usual.
The Ceilidh Place looks like my sort of hang-out, somewhere you can eat, sleep, buy books and see art. The latest exhibition was by seabird and seascape artist Kittie Jones whose work I’ve been following on Instagram. Magnificent! And this was the point my camera and phone batteries packed in. So you’ll have to take my word for it, but check out her work here.
In the meantime, I’m a wee bit more inspired towards getting a collection of my own together with my recent sketches on Lewis and Harris.
Some nice things happening here too at Ullapool Visual Arts.
The children of my AirBnB had compiled a great local guidebook at the form with lots of suggestions for veggie-friendly places. And alas I couldn’t choose any of them. Swallowing without painkillers is wretched and the meagre salad and yoghurt I picked up at Tesco was agony.
That said, I honed in on a wonderful picnic bench by the loch. And liked it so much I went back for breakfast!
But for others there are some good choices by the loch, plus the aforementioned Ceilidh Place doesn’t look like too bad a bet either. Other benches too if you fancy fish and chips out of the paper.
I popped into the West Coast Delicatessen on West Argyle Street, a friendly and bustling port of call that does a great cappuccino. And I wish I’d ordered a bowl of their vegan soup while I was there. But I’d set my heart on another veggie meal at Nourish in Inverness.
As cheeky as this sounds, it was a good opportunity to check my messages on Wi-Fi since my experience of 4g in Ullapool is a bit hit and miss.
My first book for months from the fab Ullapool Bookshop. How nice to see an independent store! Art materials too.
Do you know the Japanese word tsundoku? Thought you would – it means when you buy too many books, more than you can read. That’s me – and I must have inherited it from my dad.
I did, however, start reading this straight away and it’s unputdownable. Love of Country by Madeleine Bunting is a trip through the Hebrides. I’m enjoying it because like myself the author has had an inkling to visit these islands for many a year. Thus I’m on an adventure with the narrator.
I also stumbled across the Unlimited Colour Company on West Argyle Street ran by a lovely lady who makes all the bags for sale in store herself. Lots of bright clothes for the long summer nights.
Lots of other interesting wee shops on that same road and scattered throughout the town.
Here’s the star of one of my sketches, a stunning glimpse of Loch Broom from the hillside on the edge of town.
Stopping off at Ullapool was a good plan and rounded off my trip to the Outer Hebrides nicely. It seems be a popular pit stop with folk doing the North Coast 500 drive, which as an artist I can hardly neglect to try for myself one day.
Plenty to do if you’re just overnighting, but a great spot for longer stays – hills to climb, views to sketch.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a wee peek of the garden at my Ullapool AirBnb.
Have you visited Ullapool? Any tips you can add? Drop me a comment below.