Living And Working In Ullapool
What is it like to live and work in Ullapool or the wider area? Those of us who live here all year round need and use facilities which visitors do not need, like schools and health facilities. We see the climate in all its variety and learn what is and is not available in the village.
If you are moving here and need to know about housing, jobs, shops, medical facilities, schools, clubs and leisure activities or what to expect of the weather and how to cope with driving in the Highlands then you may find some answers here.
Village Overview: Ullapool is a small village of around 1500 people which serves as the centre for a large stretch of the North West coast. It is 60 miles west of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, and 50 miles from Dingwall which traditionally was the market town for the west coast. There is a good trunk road link from Inverness as Ullapool is the main ferry port for the Isle of Lewis, population 18500. Despite its small population Ullapool has a primary and high school, swimming pool and leisure centre, a theatre, supermarket, butcher, post office, banks, various shops and lots of pubs and restaurants.
Housing: The whole of the Highlands and Wester Ross in particular are holiday and retirement destinations, which tends to make housing expensive and more difficult to find, especially in the summer season.
Rentals can often be found, but generally these are short term and mainly available in the winter.
Accommodation can often be found by advertised in the Ullapool News which is a valuable local weekly newspaper. Postal subscriptions are available.
Highland Council, Cairn Housing Association and Albyn Housing Society together operate the Highland Housing Register. Anyone looking for social rented housing in Highland can apply from any of the partner social landlords by completing a single shared application form.
Highland Residential are a social enterprise who offer mid-market rents to those who are finding private renting expensive or precarious.
Highland Solicitors Property Centre covers the private market, there are also other private agents.
The village of Ullapool is compact and easy to walk and cycle around. Less expensive housing can be found further away from Ullapool, but you may need to consider travelling for supplies and services. In the Highlands people often travel a long way to work.
Jobs: Tourism is the main industry in and around the village, so there is a lot of seasonal work in shops, bars, restaurants, hotels and servicing weekly letting properties. Some of this is year round but much of the work is summer only.
The local supermarket, Tesco is also an employer.
Work in the care sector includes a private care home - Mo Dhachaidh and NHS care home - Lochbroom House also the medical health center.
The fish sector has a local shellfish fleet, crab processing facility and salmon farms. The harbour is busy with fishing traffic and the CalMac ferry which sails between Ullapool and Stornoway.
There is a quarry just outside the village.
Medical Facilities: Ullapool Medical Practice covers the village and surrounding area. There are a number of doctors and it is the base for the Community Nurses, Midwives, Heath Visitors and other therapists. There is a dental practice two days a week.
In the most recent survey, 2015, 92% of patients rated the service good, very good or excellent. Outpatient care is mainly at the region's central hospital in Inverness, Raigmore Hospital, which is 1.5 hours away, although some services are available in Dingwall at the Ross Memorial Hospital.
Conanvet have a veterinary surgery in the village which has part-time opening hours.
Schools: Ullapool High School is the secondary school for a large area of the west coast. It is a six year comprehensive school with a roll of about 250 pupils ranging in age from 12 to 18.
When pupils reach the age of 12 they attend Ullapool High School with daily bus transport, except for Scoraig pupils who stay in a residential hostel in the High School grounds during the week.
Ullapool Primary School has an English language stream and a Gaelic stream in which all the subjects are delivered in the medium of Gaelic
College: West Highland College has an Ullapool centre which offers access to University of the Highlands and Islands courses plus various further and higher education courses in subject areas like Early Education, Health and Social Care and Administration and Technology.
Inverness College has a campus at Beechwood, which also forms part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
Universities: Degree level courses are offered by the UHI using both online study and courses based at many centres throughout the Highlands. Aberdeen University is the nearest traditional university, many students from the Highlands choose to go to universities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling and Dundee.
Sports clubs and leisure activities: There is an enormous number of clubs, groups, classes and informal leisure time activities in and around the village, some are: Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, Lochbroom Sailing Club, Lochbroom Camanachd Shinty, Ullapool Golf Club, Three Sheets to the Wind Choir, Gaelic Choir
Shopping: Ullapool has a Post Office and convenience store; a medium sized Tesco, a very good hardware store, two book shops and three art galleries. There is a community run charity shop and a charity run candle shop. For larger shops such as builders’ supplies and clothes shops, you will need to go to Dingwall or Inverness.
Cinema: Films are sometimes shown in the Macphail theatre and the village is a regular stop for the Screen Machine which is a comfortable 60 seat mobile cinema There is a multiplex cinema in Inverness.
Climate: Ullapool is just south of 58 degrees North. It is north of Moscow and 614 road miles north and west of London. Fortunately Ullapool has an oceanic climate, with relatively mild temperatures year round, considering its northerly latitude. The warm ocean current of the Gulf Stream keeps us from getting too cold and the January average temperature is 4.6 degrees C. On average the sun shines for 30% of the daytime, although daylight hours are 7 hours in midwinter and 17.5 hours in midsummer. In fact it really does not get completely dark even at midnight in midsummer.
The same southwesterly winds which bring us the Gulf Stream, bring us Atlantic weather systems with wind and rain, especially in the winter. 1147mm (45 inches) of rain falls in a year, about the same as most west coast UK towns. There are quite often a couple of days in the winter when the high pass on the road to Inverness is blocked with snow, and the village is cut off, but this does not usually last long.
There is contrast between winter with short daylight hours and sometimes changeable periods of wet and windy weather and summer with long daylight hours and some glorious sunshine. The weather can change quickly.
Midges: Between June and September you can meet midges, a very small flying insect which swarms in large numbers and bites. They can't fly very fast so a light wind will keep them away, but a good insect repellant can stop them biting too. They are worst on overcast windless days. If you can't find a place with a breeze they can be annoying, you may need to wear a head net or go indoors.
Driving: The Highlands are connected to the south of Scotland by the A9, a good modern road which is being made mostly into dual carriageway. From Inverness west the A835 trunk road is fairly easy to drive as long as you avoid sheep and deer on the unfenced west half. Deer are a menace especially in the dark and in the winter, so if you see their eyes in the dark, slow down.
The minor roads in the area are sometimes single track, which means that traffic has to pull in to passing places to allow passing. The protocol for meeting oncoming traffic is: when only one passing place remains between you and the oncoming vehicle, the first to reach it stops either in it, if it is to the driver's left, or opposite to it, if on the right. Then the other vehicle can pass, and should give you a friendly wave as thanks. If you can’t remember the protocol just be a patient and polite driver.
If someone wants to pass you from behind, please try to allow them by going into a passing place.
Art: Ullapool is a place with many artists. Bridge House Art runs art courses all year, and An Talla Sollas is Ullapool's visual arts centre. There are also galleries in The Ceildhe Place, The Harbour Gallery and Rhue Art which is about 3 miles north of the village.
Music: Ullapool is a notable place for music, especially traditional Scots music on fiddle, accordion and pipes.
Many of the pubs host regular sessions which are advertised in the Ullapool News, Welcome Ullapool Events page and notice board. Regular concerts of well know musicians are held in the Ceilidh Place Venue and the Macphail Theatre.
There are two community choirs, Coisir Ghaidglig an Iar Thuath (North West Gaelic Choir) and Three Sheets in the Wind, which sings in English.
The Gaelic musical organisation Feis Rios runs music courses for young people and older learners every year at the Macphail Centre, which is a great start into Gaelic culture and traditional music for many Highland youngsters.
Classical music can also be heard, in the form of concerts by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the travelling section of Scottish Opera, The Mahler Players, and the Edinburgh Quartet who run a weeklong event called Variations.
Social Enterprises: Because Inverness and Dingwall are beyond convenient daily travelling distance, several social enterprises have been set up.
Made in Ullapool is a sheltered workplace for vulnerable adults which makes and sells candles.
The Mens Shed is a place where men (and women) can meet to make craft work and socialise.
Ullapool Community Trust runs the Community Hub and has set up community owned businesses such as Lael Hydro and Lochbroom Woodfuels.
Ullapool Harbour Trust runs the harbour as a Trust Port, which is a community asset which invests profit back into the business and also the community.
Churches: Lochbroom Free Church, St Martin's Catholic Church, Ullapool Free Presbyterian Church, Ullapool Church of Scotland, St Mary's Episcopal Church are all present in Ullapool.
Organisations: The Rotary Club meets weekly at the Morefield Motel. The Freemasons meet at Lodge St Martin 1217 at the east end of Argyll Street.
Local Government: The devolved parliament in Edinburgh runs Scotland, and its 32 unitary authorities control schools, local roads and other local services. Ullapool is Highland, based in Inverness, which collects our Council Tax. A volunteer Community Council based in Ullapool, called Lochbroom Community Council, acts as a means of consultation and to undertake local projects.