Walk of the week - Meall Mor (Ullapool Hill Path)
NOT every walk has to leave you exhausted, footsore and ready for a hot bath. But I would argue that for a walk to be good, it also has to be exhilarating. That doesn't mean you have to go up the highest peak or along the narrowest ridge. For me, one of the best things about walking in the countryside is to get away from all things urban.
This short but relatively strenuous walk from Ullapool, in Sutherland, does just that, giving great views over the town and across Loch Broom, and then turning away towards the surrounding hills and high mountains beyond. Although short, it is rocky and muddy underfoot in places, so boots are needed, as is a waterproof because the weather can change quickly.
The first section is steep as you quickly leave Ullapool's streets behind and climb high, but there are plenty of benches to stop at and enjoy the view out to sea and the Summer Isles.
Once you have passed a cairn with a view indicator, you lose sight of the town and can fully enjoy open moorland. To the north, the spectacular mountains of Coigach and Assynt come into view.
A final steep clamber leads you to the top of Meall Mor. This is a lovely little summit, like a mountain in miniature. A few yards past yet another bench is the actual top, with great views inland over Loch Achall, nestled below wild mountain country.
From here you could be forgiven for thinking you were much further than a mile away from Ullapool – the panoramic view gives a genuine taste of the glorious countryside in this part of Scotland. And, with a different route of descent, this is a great introduction to the delights of the area.
Although it is nice to leave the town behind, this walk's closeness to Ullapool has helped improve access to the surrounding hills. The paths are well maintained and a network of way-markers means it is easy to explore a wide area. Head to the town's tourist information office for more details.
Distance 2.5 miles.
Height climbed 820ft.
Time 2 to 2.5 hours.
Map OS Landranger 19 and 20.
Park In the centre of Ullapool, there are a number of places to park. Any will do. Once parked, make your way back to the A835 for the start of the walk.
In summary Follow the A835 north from the centre of Ullapool and pass Highland Stoneware Pottery. A couple of hundred yards further on, go right, down Broom Court (there are two entrances to Broom Court – take the second one). Pass an electricity substation on the left, then go through a wooden kissing gate to follow a path uphill.
Ignore a path going off to the right and continue up to, and round, a sharp left-hand bend. When you reach a bench go right, uphill, on steep ground. At another bench, the path again forks, with a viewpoint up to the right. The main path goes straight on, past the bench.
Keep going, past a view indicator set on top of a cairn, then drop down and follow the path round to the left. On reaching a bench, go right to get to the top of Meall Mor. Return to the bench and go right.
When you reach another path, go left. A little further on, ignore a couple of paths going right. Instead, bear left to rejoin the path you went up on, by a bench. Go straight on here to retrace your steps to the centre of Ullapool.
Refreshments There are a range of places in Ullapool, including the fantastic Ceilidh Place, which has its own bookshop. The popular Seaforth Inn does really good steaks.
While you are in the area Geology can be interesting, honest. Drive 13 miles up the A835 to Knockan Crag, run by Scottish Natural Heritage (01854 613418, www.knockan-crag.co.uk). It tells the story of how some of the main principles of geology were discovered in the area, and has a hands-on exhibition that is great for kids. The visitor centre is set in the beautiful remote countryside of the far north and has great views of sharp-ridged mountains along with a number of trails that are worth exploring.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east