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Ullapool is the centre of the parish of Lochbroom, a splendid little world of its own, with its face to the waters of the Minch and its back to the great hills and moors of old Ross and Cromarty. The parish is, in fact, the second largest in Scotland, and there is an infinite variety of scenery: from the bare, stony crags of the Coigach mountains and the Teallachs, through the dark browns of the upland moors, to the vivid greens at the head of the lochs and the golden sands in the sun-kissed bays. As varied as the scenery are the haunts of men: the village of Ullapool, with its criss-cross of streets and regular rows of houses, is completely different from the strung-out village of Achiltibuie, and even more so from the crofting townships straggling along the steep sides of Loch Broom, or scattered over the sandy machair.

Although never far from the sea, you can spend whole days out of sight and sound of its waves, among the hill paths, along the rivers, or on the lochs among the mountains. Though self contained, this little world is far from being inaccessible. You can enter it from Lochinver in the north or Gairloch in the south; but most people approach it from Inverness or Dingwall on the east coast. From the village of Garve, where there is a railway station on the Skye line, a wide, well-made road climbs up over the Dirrie Moor past Aultguish Inn.

At Braemore, twenty miles from Garve, the road divides. Taking the right-hand fork for Ullapool, another twelve miles, you pass on the left the magnificent Corrieshalloch Gorge, which is well worth a visit. Lying between the two roads, it is linked to both by a short footpath and bridge from which you can look down on the River Broom as it rushes through the narrow fissure and plunges down the Falls of Measach.

From Braemore the road drops steadily into Strathmore, the broad, steep-sided valley which continues sea-ward as Loch Broom itself. Above it on the right once stood the mansion of Sir John Fowler, the railway engineer and builder of the Forth Rail Bridge. He was a strong supporter of a project to bring the line from Garve to Ullapool, which received Parliament's sanction in 1890, but went no further. As we reach sea level, the valley floor widens, and the road is lined with rhodedendrons as it passes through the policies of a succession of mansion houses. Near the head of the loch a road branches off to the left, past the Kirk of Lochbroom, to serve the string of townships along the western shore, where the primitive foot-plough or cas chrom was used, because the fields were too steep for horses, long after it had been abandoned by crofters elsewhere.

Many of the hillsides are wooded, as they used to be; for here, although most of the " forests " with which the parish abounds are deer ground, destitute of trees, is the Lael Forest, an example of the planting done by the Forestry Commission since the first world war. About half of the people who live in this delectable parish are to be found in and about the village of Ullapool. where you can be assured of a real Highland welcome.

The parish and Ullapool have a long tradition connecting them with the sea. Loch Broom has several sheltered anchorages, and many of the men from round its shores presently engage in prawn, scallops and lobster fishing.

Ullapool was a place of great  importance in the herring fishing, which lasted from about October to March; at the height of the fishing season there were about 70 boats based here, and it holds the record for a catch landed at any port in one day, four-and-a-half thousand crans were landed here one day in 1953. The fishing grounds lie well out in the Minch, from the Butt of Lewis to Barra Head, as well as off the mainland from Handa and the Point of Stoer to the sea lochs round Skye.

Over 400 years ago Lochbroom was famous for its herring fishings and as this was mainly in the hands of Dutchmen the Scottish Parliament of the day, in 1587, passed an act which penalised them heavily when fishing in Lochbroom. Early in the 18th century the fishing on the north west coast was not in a nourishing condition until private enterprise engaged experts to report on prospects and on their suggestions a number of fishing stations were established along the west coast. Herring fishing boomed towards the close of the 18th century, this boom created the curing stations at Isle Martin and Tanera, the foundations are now the only remains of that prosperous period. The success attending these stations led to the formation of the British Fishery Society. This society began to build Ullapool in 1788, their most extensive station. The society spent over £10,000 in erecting public works, such as a pier, inn, storehouses, etc., on a scale rather more extensive than the infant state of the colony required, or the prospects of success warranted. During this prosperous period of the sea harvest, various small, well built houses were erected by the society and fishermen themselves.

Of course no holiday spent in Lochbroom need be confined to the village of Ullapool, or even to the alluring walks in its neighbourhood. The road to Lochinver, Scourie and Durness beckons from green Strath Kanaird on the north side of the village, and even without leaving the parish you can follow the winding road by Loch Lurgain, between the steep slopes of Cul Beag and Ben More Coigach, to the coastlands which lie round the arc of Enard Bay, from Inverkirkaig to Achnahaird and across the peninsula to Achiltibuie, facing the Summer Isles.

Westward, too, beyond Braemore, there are further attractions. Taking the Destitution Road, with its memories of relief work carried out during the potato failure of last century, you face the peaks of the Teallachs and drop down to Dundonnell, twenty five miles from Ullapool, at the head of Little Loch Broom. Gruinard Bay, ten miles beyond, with its inviting sands, is one of the most beautiful spots on all the west coast. The road here leaves the parish, and just short of fifteen miles further on, the famous sub-tropical garden of Inverewe, established in 1862 by the late Osgood Mackenzie, and now the property of the National Trust, demonstrates the mildness of the climate, and makes an ideal objective for a journey just fifty miles from Ullapool.

The parish derives its Gaelic name from Loch-a-bhraoin, a freshwater loch situated in the west side of the present deer forest of Braemore. This loch, which is about three miles long and one broad, is surrounded by high hills which attract the rain cloud, and thus, frequently, induce a drizzling rain commonly known as " Scotch mist." The Gaelic for drizzle is " braon "; hence Loch-a-bhraoin means the loch of the drizzling showers. A river, about twelve miles long, connects the loch with Loch Broom proper. It is known as the Broom, or Braon river, and, no doubt, derives its name from the loch that feeds it, and gives its name to the arm of the sea into which it discharges itself.

Lochbroom is indeed a remarkable parish. Its western edge is a rocky coastline about one hundred miles long, although it joins two points only twenty apart , and its inland boundaries are so irregular that not so long ago it was described as " utterly unknown." It invites you to enjoy the experience of exploring it.



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