The royal family and the obeisance they inspire in otherwise sensible peeps give me the boke. So i was delighted to hear some architect gadge on the radio ripping into Luggy's Poundbury project the other day. His main point was that there's no good organic reason for this place to exist and that all successful settlements have an obvious raison d'etre. I ken bugger all about architecture, town planning or any of that stuff but i couldnae help agreeing.
Ullapool's organic reason for being is very obviously the sea. It was founded as a sheltered, deep water, easy access point to the vast herring shoals which used to head this way from the Atlantic Ocean. Today, most of the herring is gobbled up by floating factories much further west. The herring fleets of the British Isles and Scandinavia mos def aint wot they used to be. There's still fishing to be had out of Loch Broom though - most of the catch is shellfish and most of that ends up in restaurants in Spain and France. So Mand loved every second of our self-guided tour of the fishing boats last Saturday (oh no she didnae).
U-pool's also where the CalMac ferries head to Stornaway even on a Sunday and there were a fair few yachts and cruisers bobbin round the bay. The town's sea-going credentials are clearly alive and kicking despite the scarcity of herring. But we werenae in town to fish, ferry or faff in the sea, we were in town to catch up wi Goa chums, Eve and Donald. Oh aye, and to get reekin oot wir coupons on the booze.
To be fair, we did take my fascinating tour of the boats and we hit the barry wee Ullapool Museum for an hour or so. The museum's housed in a converted church originally designed by the prolific and highly talented Thomas Telford. (Bit wrong i ken, but i cannae help crackin a wee smile when churches are converted into somethin a bit more useful than erm...houses of worship.) TT also designed the grid pattern streets of the old town as well as the Village Hall where we caught Super Furry Animals 4 years back.
And that was pretty much that on the culture and tourist trail for us. We knocked back the chance to head south to Gairloch, Gruinard Bay or the wondrous gardens of Inverewe. We failed to head north and climb the spikey peak of Stac Pollaidh, pictured below by the snaptastic Dave Henniker.
We couldnae even be ersed jumpin 15 miles along the road to Corrieshalloch Gorge with its fab swingy rope bridge thing. Instead we hit the Argyll, the Arch and the Seaforth - scene of Al D's infamous karaoke incident. Al better relate that tale one day soon right here cos if no i'll do it for him and he'll come off a lot worse in my version.
As well as the sea, the scenery and the touristy stuff, U-pool's got a great rep for live music with local bands, traditional music sessions and erm...karaoke on most nights somewhere in town. This weekend coming it'll host the annual Loopallu festival (didja see what they did wi the name there?) I'm a daftie cos i shoulda planned the trip for this weekend so we could've seen our groovy chums, got pished and grabbed some top notch live music. But Ullapool's no gonna disappear anytime soon and there's always next year i spose.
In the meantime, Jo of the Isles will have some of her poetry read out on Ullapool based Loch Broom FM. I'm gonna try and get some kinda podcast link to it up here but should you fancy a cheeky wee taster of her works (and i think you should), follow this link to Ottertalk. It's right guid gear.