A bit about Ullapool Tours

A wee while ago, I came across an old acquaintance, one James Stewart who used to sing in the choir – he has a fine bass voice. I nearly didn’t recognise him as he was sporting a full set of whiskers which suited him very well, I thought. He hadn’t been to the choir for a while, and as we fell to chatting, I started to understand why – he had been kept very busy with a new enterprise he started two or three years ago and which was doing very well…

His business is called Ullapool Tours and what he does is take very small groups of people – a maximum of six – on guided tours around the area. As the groups are very small, he tends to go where folk want him to – weather permitting. This might be just to Ardvrech Castle for a wander round with coffee break at Jan Kilpatrik’s Wild Tile open studio in Elphin, then up to the All Abilities path and on to Lochinver for lunch at the Larder – and a trip to Lochinver would not be complete without including the Visitors’ Centre where they are just now watching buzzard chicks being reared via a nest cam. Maybe the trip will take folk on to Inverkerkaig and Achins bookshop and café; or the beach at Achmelvic; and not infrequently he takes people all the way up the coast to Durness – always with good stops for refreshments James also takes parties out along the Rhue Peninsular to visit the studios there, and over to Achilibuie and Polbain; or south to the gorge at Corrieshallach; Gruinard Bay; Inverewe – you name it! As they travel along, they stop at places of interest such as view points – sometimes just to listen to the silence! His tours also include events locally such as art exhibitions, craft fairs etc. As he says, it totally depends on what people want to do – sometimes a good walk is involved and at other times it is very vehicle based, but always entertaining and informative.

The harbour in Lochinver in a serene seaJames has a lot of local knowledge on all sorts of subjects, so he can keep his parties interested with history or legend, geology, botany or biology. He never has a specific agenda in mind when he takes people out – he just “goes with the flow” as you might say taking into account the interests of the people he is travelling with. Sometimes he takes groups of passengers from the cruise ships which call there around the environs of Ullapool – maybe those who don’t want to go charging across the country to visit the Made in Scotland shop in Beauly! He will similarly take parties from the ships which come into Invergordon, whence they go to places such as Urquhart Castle, Inverness or the site of the Battle of Culloden.

This year, evidently, he has an exciting new addition to his already pretty busy schedule. He has come to an agreement with Lord Cromartie – chief of the clan Mackenzie – to take his small groups to Castle Leòid which is not far from Dingwall. There His Lordship will show the parties around and give them a dram, and then it’s on to the Dalmore distillery where they will get a tour and another dram! A coffee stop after that would certainly be called for James also does presentations – this year, for example, he has been asked to give a weekend of presentations and displays to guests at the Summer Isles Hotel in Achiltiebuie, which will also include a guided walk to local places of historical and/or geological interest.

There is just so much to see and do around here, and I think that James’s notion of taking small groups of people around to get a really full appreciation of the area is just fantastic! He and his wife, Alice, also have a small B&B and what they affectionately call “The Beach Hut” – which is a self-catering chalet. These can be found at www.wingfold.co.uk

It is no wonder with all this going on in his life that James no longer has time to take an active part in the choir! Unfortunately that’s our loss…

Sunday before last, the art class was out and about sketching the landscape. The weather was still as hot and sunny as it had been the day before for the Elphin Dog Show, with virtually no breeze, and it was a wonderful day to get out into the countryside to draw although as artist Mary said, it wasn’t a good day for contrasts – but you can’t have everything! I walked down to the Leisure Centre, taking pictures as I went, and then we got into a couple of cars and set off up the hill beyond Lochinver Lodge where there are some amazing views. There are nine in the group this year and we all, quite independently, chose nine separate views to sketch. This week, we were working in pencil, but next week we are supposed to be up there drawing the views we selected again only this time in colour. What happens if it is pouring with rain remains to be seen…

We were up there sketching for an hour or so, and then I walked home through the woods. Although I had covered my shoulders after getting them a bit burnt the day before, I still felt rather like a boiled lobster by the time I got home – but in a good way The pictures attached to this post relate to our afternoon out and about, and range from hot sheep to spectacular mountain- and seascapes. How very fortunate I am to live here…

Suilven from quite a different angle

[Photos by Clarinda]

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