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Town (Modern)

Site Name Ullapool

Classification Town (Modern)

Alternative Name(s) Loch Broom; Coigach

Canmore ID 12147

Site Number NH19SW 7

NGR NH 1280 9410

NGR Description Centred NH 1280 9410

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2021.

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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 7 centred 1280 9410

Location formerly cited as NH 12 94.

Village laid out on a grid pattern by the British Fisheries Society in 1788, when a pier was built and the first lots developed for warehouses, an inn and cottages.

J Gifford 1992.

Architecture Notes


Mr Mylne's opinion on Mr Morison's Plan of an Inn at Ullapol has been sought by the British Society. The Secretary's letter to the Duke of Argyle mentions difficulty in obtaining the return of the Plans and Estimates of the buildings at Tobermory from Mr Mylne.

1788 GD/9/8/43

Secretary's letter to Donald MacLeod of Geanies. It accompanied Mr Morrison's and Mr Mylne's plans of an Inn and Warehouse. The letter asks Mr MacLeod to arrange a contract with Mr Morrison agreeable to his estimates and Mr Mylne's improvements on Mr Morrison's plans.


Secretary's letter to Donald MacLeod of Geanies. He has visited Ullapool and his report is critical of all Robert Melvill's building. He has observed alterations to plans and poor workmanship sufficient to deter "County People" from taking lots.

1790 GD/9/8/146

Letter that accompanied a plan of Elevation of the buildings required at Ullapool. It is sent by Roderick Morison to John Mackenzie.

1788 GD/9/4/70

Answers to Donald MacLeod's criticism of Robert Melvill's buildings and lay out of streets at Ullapool.

1790 GD/9/3/607-616

The Directors of the British Society ask for amendments to Mr Telford's plan. They wish the opening round the market place to be square and two more streets to be constructed. Lanes are to be allowed for, streets narrowed and drains left open.

1790 GD/9/3/650

Alterations to the Inn proposed by the Agent; approved by Thomas Telford; accepted by British Society. The Stable and Hayloft are to be converted into sitting and sleeping room for the use of the inferior class of persons, and a new stable built on the South side.

1793 GD/9/4/522

Mr Telford's plan for the Smith's Shop and Bakehouse is approved. Additions to the clergyman's house may be carried out. The Directors of the British Society ask for Mr Telford's proposals for a Brewhouse.

1790 GD/9/3/650

Report on the works at Ullapool for the British Society. Drawn up by Thomas Telford it covers dwelling houses, curing sheds, storehouses, pier, inn, storehouse, mill and streets.

A plan has been left in the hands of the Agent for a House with an Upper Storey for the clergyman and an alternative suggestion for adaption of schoolmaster's house.

1790 GD/9/3/581-606

Sheriff Depute of Ross and Cromarty, Donald MacLeod's report on the village of Ullapool. He accuses Robert Melvill of a number of deviations from Mr Aitken's original plan and sketches on p 168 and p 621 support his complaints.

1789 GD/9/3/617-627

Mr Telford asked to obtain estimates for the repair of the pier, the Church and the Manse and to report on the state of the settlement to the Directors of the British Society.

1807 GD/9/13/58


Scottish Field, March 1967 p.32


Publication Account (1995)

Ullapool stands on a flat, triangular spit of land jutting out into Loch Broom, and affords an excellent anchorage. It was chosen by the British Fisheries Society for one of three planned fishing villages, together with Tobermory on Mull and Lochbay on Skye, and construction started in 1788. Before this, remarkably enough, Stornoway on Lewis was the only village and customs house in the whole 1,000 miles of western coastline from the Clyde round to Duncansby Head. The advantages of the site included plenty of land fit for houses and gardens, a good anchorage, a lime quarry, and the fact that herrings regularly frequented Loch Broom. There were already curing stations for red herring operating on Isle Martin and Tanera further out in the Loch, which would help to employ the settlers and process the fish until new curing businesses were established.

Houses were to be erected by the settlers themselves, but the Society built amenity structures such as a warehouse of three-storeys and cellar, a pier and an inn. In 1790 various difficulties including trouble with the pier led to Thomas Telford being called in as 'Surveyor of Buildings', a post he held until his death in 1834. Though Ullapool was already laid out before he began work, he is known to have surveyed a herring house, a shed for drying nets with boatbuilders', coopers' and smiths' shops behind, and a storehouse for salt and casks.

Ullapool was spacious and not all of its grid of streets filled up, but many of the buildings in the streets along the shore and near the pier date to the early years of the settlement. Among the many simple but attractive harled houses is The Old Bank House in Argyle Street, with a fanlight and pillared portico to its door. By 1814 there were 72 houses, 35 slated and the rest thatched with turf, fern roots and heather; and a curing-house which had cured 5,000 barrels of herring the previous year. On the corner of Quay Street and Shore Street the building now called the Captain's Cabin, which houses the small Ullapool Museum, is a late 18th-century warehouse of three-storeys with an outside stair to the first floor. The Caledonian MacBrayne office in West Shore Street is another former warehouse, possibly built to Telford's design about 1800, though the long stair-window in the east gable is modern.

Ullapool attracted sufficient population to warrant a parliamentary church and manse, built in 1829 to plans by Telford. The church in Argyle Street has a gallery and much of its original fittings; it. now houses the Ullapool Museum and its interior can been seen. The manse in West Shore Street is now Ornsay House, a private house harled with painted margins and some alterations to the front door. Ullapool fared badly in the later 19th century when the herring failed and the inhabitants had in sufficient land to maintain themselves by farming alone. However this century has seen a revival of its early prosperity due to a variety of circumstances. Though the railway never reached Ullapool, refrigeration and improved roads have nade a great difference to its viability; it has again become a port for the herring and mackerel fleets, even if only as a transit point. The pier has been extended and the old fish houses reused. Tourism is important to the local economy, and Ullapool is now the terminal for the car ferry to Stornoway on Lewis.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).


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