The Dipping Lugger

Ullapool, Scotland, United Kingdom
Book from Book from £450 per night

A gourmet restaurant and rooms in the West Highland coastal village of Ullapool, on the legendary North Coast 500 route

Robert Hicks and Helen Chalmers eyed up this faded old manse on Ullapool's waterfront for years before finally taking the plunge and transforming it into a gourmet retreat. It became the perfect project for a couple with more than a smidgen of hospitality experience between them - they already had the Arch Inn along the street and an award-winning gin distillery in the village. Interior designer Eve Cullen-Cornes was brought in to help them create a luxurious three-bedroom bolthole that acknowledges the past – a hint of Miss Haversham in the drawing room, with its dark parquet-flooring and gold-and lion-themed wallpaper – while also luxuriating in modern-day comforts, such as super-kingsize beds and Nespresso machines.

But it’s the destination restaurant, headed up by chef David Smith, that’s the real star of the show. Gastronomic tasting menus showcase the Highlands' overflowing natural larder: the fruits of hill, forest and fresh coastal waters. We dined like lairds, and slept likewise. To burn it all off, the Scottish wilderness is on the doorstep. There are Munros to bag (we love remote, crag-ringed Beinn Dearg to the south), heather-sprung moorland to tramp, and the nearby Summer Isles' sea salt-soaked islands to kayak around. Pristine wilderness, five-star food and indulgent home comforts all rolled into one: a delectable taste of northern Scotland.

Highs

  • The seven-course tasting menu is a gastronomic extravaganza: that alone makes the trip worthwhile
  • The owners make gin and have a shop, the Highland Liquor Co Bottle Shop, where you can buy it
  • Fancy a midnight feast? There's a complimentary Sweet Shop and honesty bar at the end of the corridor
  • Location, location, location: right on the picture-postcard waterfront, with views of Loch Broom and mountains
  • With its wildly beautiful setting and beautifully boudoir rooms, we think it's a perfect romantic escape

Lows

  • For now, it's only open from Thursday to Sunday, so plan your trip accordingly!
  • Prices might appear steep but they include the fantastic gourmet dinner
  • No kids, pets or twin-bedded rooms; this is a Highlands haven for couples
  • The waterfront can get busy with ferry traffic heading to the Outer Hebrides, but it doesn't cause the roads to clog around The Dipping Lugger

Best time to go

It's beautiful here in spring and autumn. Summer months are lovely too, but busier, with lots of visitors travelling the famous NC500 route. Midges are in this area, but a sea breeze can keep them at bay. The Dipping Lugger is closed Mondays-Wednesdays, and also for a winter break in January and a summer break in July.

Our top tips

The Dipping Lugger, named after a traditional sailing craft, has an enviable lineage. Robert Melville built the original house in 1789, when he was commissioned by the British Fisheries Society to turn Ullapool into an important fishing port, then engineering royalty Thomas Telford reconfigured it in 1829.

Ullapool is now a creative community and was home for 15 years to the Loopallu (that's Ullapool backwards) music festival. Time your visit to coincide with the smattering of festivals and events that make this little fishing village come alive, such as the book festival in May or Guitar Festival in October – but book ahead.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique restaurant and rooms
  • 3 rooms
  • Restaurant and bar (open Thur-Sun only)
  • Babies only permitted
  • Closed: Monday to Wednesday
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

This bijou bolthole feels like an exclusive home from home. There are just three rooms (created from the seven-bedroom house), two with dressing rooms. With a nod to the building's heritage, each is named after a character connected to the manse. Melville (Robert not Herman – although there are whales on the wallpaper) and MacInnes (the family which converted the manse into a B&B) both have loch and mountain views, Telford has garden and Scoraig Peninsula views.

Room interiors are sumptuous, think leather armchairs, soft tartan rugs, original fireplaces, local artworks, Roberts radios, Nespresso machines and homemade biscuits. We stayed in lovely MacInnes, and from its huge, high and supremely comfy Princess-and-the-Pea-style bed we watched seagulls swooping and ferries coming in through the shuttered sash windows. Bathrooms are large, each with a walk-in shower and free-standing tub. Have a soak in the bath (ours was bergamot, cardamom and pepper-scented), then pad down the corridor in a fluffy robe to the honesty bar to mix a G&T.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite TV
  • Slippers
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Chef David Smith's tasting menu is the star turn. This is a destination restaurant. The intimate dining room is partly partitioned off for a chef's table and gin sampling room. The seven-course menu starts with snacks – our allium tart was a moreish mouthful of caramelised onion, wild garlic and onion seeds on crisp pastry. Each course is summed up with a single word. 'Hay' is the bread course because baked hay is infused in the water used to make the bread. The loaf arrives hot and crusty, with butter smeared across a rock from the shore. Our carrot course was elevated with a spicy pesto sauce, and our rich turbot was paired with celeriac, oyster leaf and a fish veloute. Each creation is presented on bespoke Highland Stoneware reflecting the local geology. There's a vegetarian menu alternative on offer too.

For breakfast there's porridge, of course, but the Hebridean Eggs is worth the extra calories, switching hollandaise with whisky cream and Stornoway black pudding to give the traditional eggs benedict a Scottish twist.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • This is the Scottish Highlands with the big outdoors on your doorstep. There are mountains to climb, cliffs to clamber and lochs to explore; you can buy fishing permits locally
  • To the west is raw, rugged Inverpolly National Nature Reserve, home to two of the region's most famous summits – Stac Pollaidh and Suilven – along with pine martens and wildcats. Scan the skies for buzzards and golden eagles
  • There's a 9-hole golf course on the edge of the village
  • Check out the beautiful sandy beaches nearby, some within an hours' drive including Gruinard Bay, Clachtoll, Achmelvich
  • Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve is another highlight and is part of the North Highlands Geopark, home to three billion years of geological history – check out Norman MacCaig's poetry carved into the rock
  • To the south are the dizzying depths of Corrieshalloch Gorge and the spectacular Falls of Measach, best seen from a Victorian suspension bridge. The River Droma rushes through the tree-lined canyon, threaded with woodland trails
  • Nearby Ullapool Bike Hire can cater for mountain biking enthusiasts

Kids

The Dipping Lugger is more of a romantic, couples' getaway sort of place, so it's probably better to leave the kids at home. Rooms, although spacious, do not lend themselves to extra beds. However, if your little one can fit into a travel cot, these can be provided at no extra cost.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Kid Friendly:

Location

Ullapool is a bustling fishing village on the shores of Loch Broom on the west coast of Scotland; The Dipping Lugger is found on its picturesque, whitewashed waterfront.

By Air:
Inverness airport is an hour and a half's drive away on the east coast, with flights from around the UK.

By Car:
This is road trip country so it's easiest to arrive by car. There's a small private car park for residents.

By Ferry:
You can catch a ferry here to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Inverness Airport 104.0 km INV
  • Edinburgh Airport 335.0 km EDI

Other:

  • Beach 0.1 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
8/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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