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Ulva is a pretty island but also in some ways depressing, certainly sad, because the remains of the past community of about 600 people are still so very obvious — the decaying and dilapidated church, the overgrown fields, and the ruined cottages buried in the bracken. However, it is a quiet haven, and the coastal scenery is fascinating with a mixture of basalt columns and limestone outcrops.
The island had been privately owned by the Howard family for decades, but in 2017 it was put up for sale (offers over £4.25 million), causing considerable uncertainty for the six people who still lived there. Perhaps surprisingly, a community buy was successful in 2018, most of the money being provided by the Scottish Land Fund. Whether the island can become economically viable we can but wait and see, and hope.
There is, not surprisingly, a ferry across to Mull where in 2016 some handy pontoons opened, with diesel fuel as well as the usual water and electricity (how the pontoons will pay for themselves I just don't know).
The anchorage is delightful with a great view of Ben More, so spiky from this aspect, not the rather lumpen shape it is from elsewhere. The Boathouse café does excellent seafood. When I was first there in 2007 it seemed to be in a state of glum sullenness but things are a whole lot better these days, spectacular even, now that it is in the capable hands of Emma Mckie and Rebecca Munro (ph 01688 500 241). Indeed, into the Good Food Guide in 2018. You can anchor briefly right outside but watch out for passing fishing boats and the underwater cables (better to row across from the pontoons). And then have a go at Ulva Sound, but not after too much alcohol. The café is not open on Saturdays, or Sundays except in the summer, presumably because the ferry doesn't run on those days, and nor in the evenings.
The adjacent restored Sheila's cottage is rather good because it shows how a 'blackhouse' was in the not so distant past — uncomfortable and probably very cold and damp in winter.
The walk around the edge of Ulva House (1950s rather dull-looking from the outside, to be converted into self-catering units) and the farm is really nice, and the 1828 church designed by Thomas Telford is worth a look, particularly the double-tier wooden pulpit.
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The not-to-be-missed Boathouse café
The pulpit inside the Telford church