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Ullapool, Harbour

Harbour (18th Century), Pier (18th Century)

Site Name Ullapool, Harbour

Classification Harbour (18th Century), Pier (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Ullapool Harbour; Ullapool, Pier; Ullapool Pier; Loch Broom

Canmore ID 110255

Site Number NH19SW 29

NGR NH 1284 9388

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2023.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Lochbroom
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH19SW 29.00 1284 9388

Location formerly cited as NH 128 939.

For associated warehouses (NH 1280 9393), see NH19SW 30.

Formerly also entered as NH19SW 10 at cited location NH 1284 9388.

See also NH19SW 7.

NH19SW 29.01 NH 12793 93880 Ferry Pier

NH19SW 29.02 NH 12836 93841 Pier

NH19SW 29.03 NH 12857 93811 Ice House

NH19SW 29.04 NH 12861 93803 Beacon

NH19SW 29.05 NH 12984 93870 Beacon

Pier [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1985.

Ferry Terminal [NAT]

OS (GIS) AIB, May 2006.

(Location cited as NH 123 938). Pier, Ullapool, late 18th century and later. A short rubble pier, greatly extended in wood and concrete.

J R Hume 1977.

(Location cited as NH 128 938). Ullapool: the town of Ullapool in Coigach occupies a triangular promontory projecting nearly half a miler southwards into Loch Broom about one-third of the way along its SW shore. The anchorage SE of the town is thus the safest in the whole loch, the whole of which affords much valuable shelter. The pier is a mere adjunct to a natural harbour very similar to others in the sea lochs of this region.

Ullapool and its harbour reflect in their development a wide historical spectrum, partly because of the route of the present A835 is the easiest land exit from any point on the NE coast towards Inverness, Edinburgh and London. By 1745, a proprietor from the E, the Earl of Cromarty, had already replaced the local MacNicol. Loch Broom was the furthest N point on the voyage of the French ship Le Hardi Mendiant, which bore to France the news of Culloden. The Loch was the scene of several naval actions during the Rebellion and its aftermath. In the accounts of these quoted by Gibson, there is no mention of any pier or jetty, or even of a settlement at Ullapool. George, third Earl of Cromarty (a descendant of the pier-builder at Portmahomack) was a more active Jacobite than some of his W coast neighbours. The attention consequently paid to this area by the Commissioners for the Forfeited Estates, and especially their encouragement of road-building, may, though their settlement of 12 veterans at Ullapool failed, as did their linen industry nearby at Lael [Inverlael: NH 185 857], have been among the reasons for the inclusion of Ullapool in the British Fisheries Society [BFS] tour of 1787. This was undertaken by representatives of the Society for the purpose of selecting a site for a fishing port on the NW coast. Economic theorists at that time favoured bringing people together in large villages, where division of labour might make possible the production of goods for market. Hoping, apparently, to attract elements of the reduced and unsettled Highland population into such a village in preference to the migration which so many chose after American Independence in 1783, the Society purchased, in 1787, 1300 English acres [526ha] at Ullapool from the proprietor of Cromarty, by then Lord Macleod. The nearest Customs House was then at Fort William (NN17SW 40), with an outpost on Isle Martin [name: NH 094 995] near the mouth of Loch Broom, which became independent in 1789. Isle Martin was mainly a fish curing station, and the Collector and Surveyor lived at Ullapool. It may be an indication of wider trading interests in this area that the Commissioners for the Forfeited Estates had granted a 41-year of Isle Martin to John Woodhouse, a merchant of Liverpool.

Another significant incomer at this time was Robert Melville, nephew of a fish merchant in Dunbar, who chose to settle at Ullapool in preference to the West Indies, and in 1788 contracted to build the village for the Society to house its settlers. Melville angled for every advantage available to him from his experience of the different way of life of the S and E of the country. Visiting London in 1789, he achieved the siting of a pier and breakwater half way along the S-facing shore from the Point of Ullapool [Ullapool Point: NH 124 936], immediately opposite his own store house [presumably NH19SW 30]. (The jetty shown on the OS 1:2500 map of 1968, at the E end of the village, may have occupied the site of the landing place for droved cattle from the islands, for which Haldane records Ullapool as one point of entry). Melville contracted to build a structure designed by Call, a director of the BFS, which was to be 136ft (41.4m) long, 20ft 9ins (6.3m) broad, with a T-head 24ft 6ins (7.5m) broad. The sides, battered one in six, were to rise 8ft 10ins (2.7m) above the level of high water at the land end, and 21ft (6.4m) from the mud at the pier head, where 4ft (1.2m) would be clear of the water at the highest spring tide. Further out, beyond the head of the pier and parallel to the shore, a breakwater 137ft (41.7m) long, 15ft (4.6m) wide, and 1ft (0.304m) higher than the pier, was to be built. No preliminary survey was carried out, and the foundations spread outwards on the soft sea bed, so that the finished pier was larger, and the breakwater had to be built further out than was intended. Telford, appointed engineer to the BFS in 1790, was nevertheless satisfied with the pier, only criticising the breakwater for being too big. Shingle soon began to be washed up against the pier, so that modifications were made, with some success, in 1794. The completion of the pier and breakwater, as originally planned, in may of that year, was announced by the BFS in an advertisement for settlers, printed on May of that year, which described the existing amenities, firstly 'An excellent HARBOUR, which is now improved by the addition of a Pier and Breakwater, at the Society's expense'. Until the herring left Loch Broom, and migrated, at the turn of the century, round the N coast into the North Sea, ships came to buy the salted fish, many from Ireland having nothing to bring except ballast. This was used to make up the grounds of the Society's village, and is still traceable in its gardens. But the settlement did not thrive. Ullapool boats followed the herring to Caithness, but they were not built for deep-sea fishing. In 1846, the harvest also failed, and in 1847 the Destitution Fund Committees took over at Ullapool from the BFS, itself in decline ever since the institution of the Board of Commissioners for the British White Herring Fishery by the Fisheries Act of 1808. The Customs House was removed, and in 1847 the BFS sold all its western settlements, including Ullapool which fetched £5250. This money was used partly to finance improvements to the harbour (ND35SE 66.00) at Wick.

No structure datable to before 1850. Recent harbour works have extended over the site of the 1790 breakwater, which was formerly connected to the pier by a bridge.

A Graham and J Gordon 1988.


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