Before I start, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. and anyway I have only managed 949. I was so stunned by the scenery the last time the Club went to Ullapool that I made a short slide show. It has remained I think the best trip I have ever done with the Club, so I have updated this and you can view it here: https://youtu.be/COyWw1JJZ0w
As last time we will be staying at SYHA Ullapool and have exclusive use (6 nights total cost £122.39). Situated right on the harbour front the dining room and kitchen have spectacular views straight out over Loch Broom towards Beinn Dearg. Ullapool itself has plenty of friendly pubs, cafes, restaurants, delightful local shops as well as a supermarket. In fact everything we need for our Hogmanay home from home!
But it’s the mountains that are the real draw, and so many and such variety to chose from. To the south lie the Fannichs group which includes 10 Munros (for the baggers): an area of long smooth ridges ideally suited to long traverses. Next comes Beinn Dearg and the peaks of Easter Ross, which include a further 7 Munros. Beinn Dearg itself sits at the head of Loch Broom at the centre of a group of craggy mountains whose accessibility from the road belies the existence of a vast tract of high remote ground extending from coast to coast. Or a visit to nearby An Teallach and its serious mountaineering traverses if that was on your list. In Coigach and Assynt to the north of Ullapool the scenery changes. Here a violent geological event from the past known as the Moine Thrust forced some of the oldest rocks in the world over younger layers. The line of the Thrust is now followed by the road north: to the west the hills of Torridian sandstone have been shaped into fantastic cones and mounds, capped with a layer of quartzite. These rise like giant whales or the bows of ships, sailing across bays, headlands, and moors studded with hundreds of lochans. The names of these hills ring resonant to mountaineers: Suilven, Stac Pollaidh, Quinag, so apt for such a mysterious landscape unlike any other in Scotland. East of the road the character changes again with outcrops of Cambrian limestone, and cave networks in which man once lived alongside long gone lynx and polar bears! You are now in Sutherland, the south lands of the Vikings, reaching north to Cape Wrath and the northern oceans! A further 2 Munros! They are sometimes described as the “Empty Lands”, not because they are a natural wilderness, but as a result of the Duchess of Sutherland forcefully evicting 15,000 crofters from her vast estate between 1807-21 and replacing them with sheep. This is why we have haggis!
This far north the days will be very short: the last time we were there I did not see Ullapool in daylight until the day we left: so it will be up early and back late to maximise what little daylight we have. The hostel however provides a delightful base for the long evenings and we will of course have the usual Rockhopper Hogmanay meal and shenanigans. And of course its winter, so hopefully we will have snow, but you must be prepared and ready for whatever extremes the weather can throw at us! Again this is an area of contrasts: it could be sunny on the coast, whilst those inland could be battling a white-out! For those who feel they need it we will be providing winter training through our usual instructor. If you are not into winter mountain walking there are of course coastal and lower level options: sandy beaches, nature-reserves, gorges, forest walks abound, and if its been raining heavily the Eas a ‘Chual Aluinn Falls are a must: the highest in Britain at nearly four times as high as Niagara!
I should maybe even mention climbing: the last time we went some rock-climbing was achieved on Stac Pollaidh on New years Day. The intrepid Rockhoppers involved enjoyed it so much they left the rope behind so they could go back the next day!
How to get there? We will of course be running the usual car share, but as is always the case at New Year many will not be leaving via London. Whatever mode of transport you chose you will be arriving via the A835 from Inverness. There are the usual options of flights and trains including the sleeper, in various combinations. For the final leg Citylink run a coach from Inverness to Ullapool but this really should be booked in advance. Beware of the seasonal timetable which may cause changes to coaches and Scottish trains on the 2 January as this is a Scottish holiday.
It should also be noted that in order to get to the hills from Ullapool cars will be essential. There is virtually no scheduled public transport onwards from Ullapool except for the ferry to Stornoway! We all need to be aware of this and pay close attention to the vehicle accommodation required. As on some recent trips getting organised to share a hire car was found to be a great solution.
I will attempt to answer any further questions as they arise, and there is a forum on the website dedicated to discussions for this trip. Also, as we are travelling so far, maybe its worth considering extending… skip two days of work and you can stay on until Sunday (although please note the hostel itself is not available outside of the club’s booking.) I will probably be taking my tent...
One of the following payments is required for this meet at the time of booking.Hostel accommodation £122.39