ULLAPOOL always feels to me like the gateway to another world. The much wilder scenery of Coigach and Assynt lies beyond – wonderful sculpted mountains, lochs and sparse habitation.
But it’s always nice to return to Ullapool with its cosy, community feel, good hostelries and lovely views from the harbour across Loch Broom.
For walkers looking for somewhat easier fare than the more rugged challenges further north, the Thomas Telford designed village has a hill all of its own.
We set off to climb it when things had quietened down after the busy tourist season and added an extension to Loch Achall, making for a longer circuit.
There’s a large free car park opposite the Tesco store in Ullapool. To join the hill path from there, walk east to join the A835 and turn left. Pass the Highland Stoneware shop and turn right into Broom Court.
A wooden gate marks the start of the hill path. It angles up to the right then bends left, eventually to reach a wooden bench. The views get better as you gain height, with the open sea beyond the mouth of Loch Broom – the route taken by the Stornoway ferry – and the distinctive shape of Beinn Ghobhlach on the opposite side of the loch. It’s worth popping up to the viewpoint here for a clearer panorama.
At the bench the path divides. To reach the summit of Ullapool Hill keep right, passing a metal indicator disc with details of distant features.
Finally the path steepens to arrive at the rocky outcrop of Meall Mor – a fine little pinnacle with a great view of our next objective, Loch Achall.
To get there we descended to the bench again and took the path on the right, following a yellow waymarker.
This sometimes messy path contours around the base of the hill to reach a gate with a cautionary notice about cows and calves ahead, advising walkers to “keep a wide berth”.
We were thankful not to encounter any animals as we walked on towards Loch Achall on a wider track to another gate. White markers point the way here to a single-track road with the loch on the right.
The road crosses a bridge over the Ullapool River, cascading over rocks to form the picturesque Eas Dubh waterfall – a perfect picnic spot.
Upstream we watched a dipper bobbing about in the fast-flowing water as we walked on to reach the loch, then turned right on a rough track beside the river, doubling back towards the bridge. A point where the original bridge once spanned the river is passed and the track becomes a path before the road is reached once more. Continuing the circuit means doing some road walking now, heading west, downhill towards Ullapool. The road passes a large limestone quarry. Operated by the Breedon group, it produces lime for agricultural use as well as crushed stone aggregates.
At a cattle grid we turned off the road, following a green waymarker, on an ascending path back to the main path up the hill.
Here we turned right to return to Ullapool, but instead of following exactly the same route as on the ascent, lower down we turned left at a blue waymarker.
This path descends to emerge at a filling station on the A835, on the southern outskirts of Ullapool.
We crossed the road and wandered along the harbour, which had an eerily quiet feel to it without the throng of tourists.
Nevertheless it was a pleasant way to end the walk, meandering through the streets back to the car park.
Ullapool Hill and Loch Achall
Distance 7.5 miles / 12km
Terrain Hill paths and some road walking
Start/finish Car park opposite Tesco in Ullapool
Maps OS Explorer 436, Beinn Dearg
A not-too-taxing hill walk with excellent views, followed by a visit to a scenic loch