Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In Love With a Town Called Ullapool. . .

Last week the Liverpud and I, along with two dear friends headed up first to Edinburgh, then Inverness, then Ullapool in the north west of Scotland for a hiking holiday.

Our base for the week was Ullapool and the minute I saw the town laid out on this tiny penisula, I fell in love.  Could there be a nicer setting?  (I didn't know at the time that we'd be climbing Beinn Ghobhlach which you can see in the distance.)

It is a quirky town of about 1500 residents, but has such a wonderful array of shops and restaurants, a small museum in a grade 1 listed church, and some really beautiful galleries full of paintings and textile art.  This town is clearly a community of very talented, creative people.

I recommend Tea by the Sea for a cuppa if you are also in the mood for a friendly chat with the owners. And I can also vouch for the lattes, cakes, strawberry tarts, homemade soups and dinners at the Frigate Cafe which had such a lovely relaxed and cozy interior. 

And for such a small town, it supports, not one but two really good independent bookstores.  Ullapool hosts a literary festival every May with some big names attending.  Definitely a reason to return. I also loved that the bookstores stayed open late.  My friend Ann and I spent quite a bit of time browsing (and buying) both in the Ullapool Bookshop  which stayed open until 9pm . . . 

. . . and the Ceilidh Place which had a bookshop attached to the hotel/cafe/pub and stayed open as late as the pub did. Both bookshops stocked lots of books by local authors and about Scottish history, geology and the landscape,  but they also had a great selection of staff picks and tempting tomes just a bit off the bestseller track.  In short, my types of bookstore.

We arrived late on Saturday afternoon, just in time to catch the last fifteen minutes of the weekly market where lo and behold, it took me about five minutes to spy a large basket of wool. The vendor takes strands of Harris tweed wool (on a clear day you can see Harris from the tops of the mountains around here,) and plies them into cakes of gorgeous colour.  While the yarn is a bit rough, it will be wonderful for weaving and so I got a little excited and brought a few home with me.

And then I found a cone of Harris tweed in a dark charcoal-green colour in an antique shop for £5.  The beauty and ruggedness of the surrounding landscape that we walked through (I'll write about that in upcoming posts,) left me with a thirst to read more about the history of the area and its people.  Several books were recommended to me by our very knowledgeable guide who was also a big reader. I'm enthralled particularly by the poetry of Norman MacCaig, known as the Poet of the Assynt.

With the sun not setting until well after 10pm this far north, it was a lovely town to stroll around after dinner. Occasionally live fiddle music could be heard from one of the pubs.

And the sunset gave the hills and quiet loch a warm glow.

While its fiery centre was reserved for the other side of the peninsula where you can see the fullness of Loch Broom looking out towards the Summer Isles.  I really didn't want to leave.

The walking was fantastic too.  Stay tuned.

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