Delightful Ullapool, a stone circle, tragic Culloden and the ghostly home of Dracula

Our journey from Garve in the Highlands of Scotland back over the border to England started on a rainy and misty day, certainly not the best travelling weather.

The hills shrouded in mist on the way to Ullapool

However, we had already decided to go back to the pretty port of Ullapool where we had enjoyed dinner the previous night, so the first leg of the journey was very brief.

The pouring rain wasn’t conducive to wandering round the town

Our second look at Ullapool was somewhat curtailed by the pouring rain but we did manage a dash from the car park to the delightful little museum there.

Housed in an old Church designed by Thomas Telford, the famous Scottish civil engineer and architect, the museum has a wonderful display depicting local history and heritage of Ullapool and Loch Broom (in Gaelic Lochbraon – quite fittingly means “loch of rain showers”. )

This imposing pulpit dominated the building that once was a Church

The first thing we noticed as we walked in was the very high and imposing pulpit placed against the long wall of the oblong Church in the traditional style of the Reformed Church of Scotland. Some box pews had been left to show how the Church would have looked in the past and the gallery where some of the congregation would have sat during services houses a good sized reference and research library.

The gallery housed a good sized research library

Down by the pulpit you could sit in one of the pews and listen (through earphones) to the haunting sounds of the psalms sung in Gaelic in the traditional way. These visceral unaccompanied songs are started by the leader (preceptor) who first sings a line and this is repeated by the congregation but with much individual creative embellishment of the tune. The result is a primal cacophony of sound which surges and swells like the ocean. I was truly amazed by the beauty of this music and if you’re interested, you can hear recordings by the Isle of Lewis Singers on YouTube. .

Other things I really enjoyed about the museum were the stories you could read and listen to, about crofting and fishing – particularly the “klondyking era” in the 1970s and 80s when factory ships from Russia, Poland, East Germany and other Eastern European countries came to process the herring catch.

This exhibit talked about the local people’s relationships with the Klondykers

Also on display were a wonderful collection of ship models, a bi-centenary quilt and lots of other interesting artefacts.

This wonderful quilt had a distinct nautical theme

We drove on from Ullapool towards Bonar Bridge where we stopped to take a look at a “stone circle” – not an ancient site but modern stones showing the wide range of different rock types that are found throughout Northern Scotland.

On our way to Bonar Bridge
Bonar Bridge
This showed all the types of rock from around Scotland displayed here
Jonathan channeling Jamie from Outlander

The following day our first port of call was the museum at the site of the Battle of Culloden, where the tragic climax of the Jacobite uprising played out. The museum brought the Battle to life and did an excellent job of presenting the events of this period from both the Jacobite and Government perspectives. There was a terrific 360 degree “immersive” cinematic display which made you feel you were in the battle ground. It was a powerful reminder of the realities of war in general and Culloden in particular. I found it chilling and devastating.

Arriving at Culloden
Exquisite glassware displayed at the Culloden museum
The memorial cairn at Culloden around which lie the graves of 1,500 Jacobite soldiers
These little guys lifted the mood after being in the Culloden museum.

From Culloden we headed towards England marvelling at the stunning countryside and the sweet towns of Pitlochry and Coldstream before crossing the border.

The stunning countryside near Pitlochry
The town of Pitlochry
The grand memorial for Charles Albany Marjoribanks (1794 – 3 December 1833) was a Scottish Liberal politician from 1832 to 1833.

We arrived at our resting place for the night – the Jolly Sailor, a pub on the Yorkshire moors not far from Whitby. We had planned to have dinner at the restaurant but it was a little early to eat so we went for a glorious tramp over the moors to work up an appetite.

A lovely stone bridge on our walk
The beautiful heather on the moors

By the time we got back the Pub carpark was absolutely full and we regretted not booking a table. Fortunately, they squeezed us in and we enjoyed an excellent meal.

We couldn’t believe that the pub carpark had filled up in such a short time

Heading for Whitby the next morning the first glimpse of the bright blue sea was thrilling. We skirted behind the town which rises up from the lovely harbour that has scarcely changed since the time of its most famous resident Captain James Cook and made for East Cliff to the town’s oldest landmark- the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey.

The first glimpse of the sparkling blue sea was thrilling
View of Whitby Harbour as we skirted round the town
Ghostly remains of Whitby Abbey

There has been a monastery on this site since 657 AD but the soaring, ghostly ruins that dominate the town today were originally built in the 13th Century, as a Church attached to a Benedictine Abbey founded after the Norman Conquest and vandalised in the time of Henry VIII and the suppression of the monasteries (in 1539).

This was a particularly lovely view of the Abbey with its reflection on the small lake
Loved all the different colours in the stone
Such wonderful shadows created by the ruins

From the early 19th century Whitby became a popular seaside resort and the Gothic Abbey became a beloved subject for many artists and most famously in 1897 as the setting for Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

What a glorious day to be taking photos!
FIt’s easy to understand how these ruins were so inspirational to artists and writers

Walking through the ruins we could totally understand how these ethereal and romantic looking remains could provide so much inspiration to artists and story tellers.

It’s not hard to imagine the grandeur of this building in its heyday
Such amazing shapes

Right next to the ruins is an excellent museum which has some fascinating exhibits including some wonderful Anglo-Saxon crosses and other stone work and a rare signed copy of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

There were some great exhibits and lots of information at the museum
One of the ancient stone crosses in the museum

Before descending the flight of 199 steps into Whitby itself we had a look round the Church of St Mary’s – just a stone’s throw from the Abbey ruins and museum.

Inside the Church of St Mary’s

The Church was founded in the twelfth century but only the tower and transept date from those times – most of the building dates from around the late 1700’s.

The fabulous view from St Mary’s Churchyard

The views from the Churchyard and the top of the 199 steps was superb – the blue sea was sparkling and the narrow lanes of Whitby and the perfect little harbour looked enchanting, enticing us to take the the well worn stairs to explore this lovely town.

The bottom of the 199 steps leading into Whitby


Whitby Harbour
Looking back up the steps

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Delightful Ullapool, a stone circle, tragic Culloden and the ghostly home of Dracula”

  1. Hey Dot. I was actually at the dedication of the museum at Culloden back in 1986. By chance I visited on the day the Piper played the lament in a cloud of fog. Very atmospheric. My ancestors were Campbells. Fought for the English and were sneaky devils that went around the outskirts of the battle and attacked from the flanks. Not a popular tale even today in the Highlands.


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