The Isle of Ulva is located south of the Isle of Mull and lies with Loch Tuath to the north and Loch na Keal to the south. It is reach from Salen via the B8035 and then the B8073 which runs along the north shores of Loch na Keal past Killiechronan, Killiemor and finally Oskamull where Ulva School is located. The turning here takes you to Ulva Ferry, a very busy port with a slipway and pier.
Ulva Ferry is the base for several fishing vessels and charter firms working the area including Mull Charters and Turus Mara. The ferry to Ulva works to and from here and is summoned by moving a sliding board on the boathouse wall. In the summer months, the ferry works almost continually.
If you are going over to Ulva (pedestrians and cyclists only, no vehicles) a visit to the Heritage Centre and Boathouse Tea Rooms is highly recommended. Please note that the ferry does not run in the winter months.
Ulva was once quite densely populated with the Kelp industry and basic crofting supporting 600 residents in sixteen small villages. Trades included shoemakers, square-wrights (carpenter/furniture makers), boat carpenter, tailor, weaver, blacksmith, dry stone mason and merchants.
Kelp was used in the early 19th century for making glass and soap. The industry was very labour intensive but only thrived during the summer months. For the islanders on Ulva the rewards from harvesting kelp were comparatively high and especially so for the owner of the Island.
Although the island’s population increased crofting declined as seaweed was no longer used on the land but exported off the island. The economic crash came to Ulva when prices for kelp went from £6 in 1790 up to £10 or £12 then crashed to £3 in 1840 as the demand disappeared.
This was followed by a potato blight on the island and finally a move to clear the population from the island. By 1851 the population stood at 150. Many of the cleared population emigrated to North America and Australia, some after unsuccessfully trying a new life in other parts of Scotland.
Today, approximately twenty islanders remain. There is a thriving visitor flow to the island. Ulva is enchanting and packed with wildlife and flora. Its geology is just as fascinating and that on Mull with basalt columns on the coast and the small island of Gometra connected at its eastern end by a bridge.
There are several well signposted walking routes around the island that is much larger than it appears to be on a map.
A visit to Ulva is again highly recommended.
The extensive history of Ulva is very well documented in ‘The Isle of Ulva – A Visitor’s Guide’ by J Howard and A Jones which is available at Tackle and Books in Tobermory and on the Ulva itself.
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