Isle of Ulva

Ulva is privately owned by the Howard family and was formerly the home of 600 people who made their living from the collection and exportation of kelp. Today there are 11 residents who make a living from sheep and cattle farming, fish farming, oyster farming and tourism.

Ulva is a privately owned island with a thriving population of approximately 16 people who are involved variously in traditional sheep and cattle farming, fish farming, oyster farming and tourism. Ulva was formerly the home of 600 people who made their living from the collection and exportation of kelp.

There are no tarmac roads on Ulva, so no cars, just the 4 wheel cross country bikes used by all inhabitants, young and old. The proprietors (the Howard family) are dedicated to creating a balance between the needs of the community and the preservation of one of Scotland’s most unique, beautiful and accessible islands.

Ulva’s woodlands, shores and open moors make it an ideal place for bird watching. Bird activity is intense throughout the year. There are exciting seasonal events – the coming of the terns to the small islands south of Ulva to breed, the puffins in the waters west and north of Ulva in early summer, the occasional cry of the Corncrake.

The animals and plants you see on a visit to Ulva will depend upon three things: the time of year, your powers of observation and pure luck. Red deer, rabbits and mountain hares, the occasional sea otter, stoat or hedgehog might be spotted at any season. A researcher from Leeds University studying the habits of otters managed to see them every evening for six weeks in the summer of 1986 along the south shore of Ulva.

Ulva is open from Easter to October; the ferry which takes foot passengers and bicycles runs Monday to Friday 9 – 5. The crossing only takes a couple of minutes and is on demand; summon the ferry by uncovering the red panel on the pier but don’t forget to cover it again as the boat approaches. The island is closed on Saturdays but opens on Sundays from June to the end of August.

Ulva is home to Sheila’s Cottage, a restored thatched croft house once the home of Sheila MacFadyen. Here you can learn about the famous visitors to Ulva, Boswell and Dr Johnson, Lachlan Macquarie and Sir Walter Scott. Beatrix Potter was a regular visitor to the island and found inspiration for many of her books here. The grandparents of the famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone once lived on Ulva and the walk up to Livingstone’s croft is a must. This is the ruin of the croft house which once belonged to the grandfather of the explorer David Livingstone. Mull Magic offers regular walking tours on Ulva with pick-ups in Tobermory and Salen. The cost includes the ferry to Ulva and entry to the island, packed lunch and afternoon tea in the Boathouse.

Ulva had it’s own Parliamentary church which was one of five churches on Mull and Iona to be designed by Thomas Telford and was completed, along with the manse, in 1828. In the mid 1950s Lady Congleton who owned the island purchased the church and the larger partof it was converted into a community hall. Only the north west portion was retained for ecclesiastical use. The church is now privately owed and a couple of services are conducted every year at Easter and Harvest time

There  is a licensed tea-room where you can have delicious home cooked food, hot or cold drinks and choose from a range of specialities (such as Ulva’s own oysters, marinated salmon etc.) based on locally available ingredients. In fact you can just have a cup of tea or you can have a three course meal at any time from 9am to about 4.30pm.