The village lies on Loch Broom, on the A835 road from Inverness. The Ullapool River flows through the village.
On the east shore of Loch Broom, Ullapool was founded in 1788 as a herring port by the British Fisheries Society. It was designed by Thomas Telford. The harbour is still the edge of the village, used as a fishing port, yachting haven, and ferry port. Ferries sail to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.
The town was historically in Cromartyshire, a county made up of many separate enclaves scattered across northern Ross-shire. Cromartyshire was abolished and combined with surrounding Ross-shire in 1890.
Many of the pivotal discoveries of the Victorian era that contributed to the development of the concept of plate tectonics were made in this area, and there are still regular international geological conferences.
Parliament granted permission in the 1890s for a railway from Ullapool to the main Highland network at Garve, but the scheme was abandoned due to insufficient funds.
Ullapool has an oceanic climate, with relatively mild temperatures year round, considering its northerly latitude.
The region surrounding Ullapool is dominated by rugged mountains, and especially by Bheinn Ghobblach to the west, An Teallach to the south west (both across the loch), Beinn Dearg to the south east close to the head of Loch Broom, and Ben Mhòr na Còigich to the north. An Teallach is a massive mountain which dominates the area and consists of Torridonian sandstone, which is layered nearly horizontally. It is an easy climb but is several miles from the nearest road, so a long trek is needed before the ascent begins. The walker will be rewarded by magnificent views of the surrounds, especially to the sea and the islands to the west, but also to the south, and the desolate Whitbread wilderness.
Ullapool has a strong reputation as a centre for music, the arts and performance.
The village has a small museum housed in a Telford Church, An Talla Solais, an arts centre with frequently changing exhibitions and workshops, a swimming pool and fitness centre, and several pubs, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and hotels. It is a centre for walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and other holidaymakers and is situated in a spectacular and remote part of the United Kingdom.
In May every year there is the three-day Ullapool Book Festival which attracts a diverse range of writers and with work in both Scottish Gaelic and English. The Macphail Centre has a theatre hosting a regular programme of musical, dance and theatrical performances, many by the Scottish national companies but some work from smaller reps and travelling Edinburgh Fringe performers. Often the number of performances in any week will mean there is overspill to the Village Hall and other venues.
In July 2011, the Tall Ships visited Ullapool, a major event for the village and the surrounding area.
Ullapool is home to the shinty team Lochbroom Camanachd.
Throughout the year there are many small fèisean and music festivals in the local halls and hotels - especially in the Ceilidh Place and the Arch Inn. The Ullapool Guitar Festival takes place in early October every year, attracting high-calibre performers at several venues over the weekend. The Loopallu Festival, created by the American rockgrass band Hayseed Dixie and local promoter Robert Hicks in 2005, was very well received and has become a major regional annual event, more than doubling the size of the village during the festival. In 2007 it attracted several bands including the Saw Doctors, Dreadzone and Franz Ferdinand headlining on the second night. There are also fringe events at local bars. The Pigeon Detectives have played the Village Hall. Amy MacDonald in 2008 and Paolo Nutini in 2007 both played the Ceilidh Place. Mumford & Sons have also played in Ullapool twice.
Ullapool also has its own radio station called Lochbroom FM on 102.2 and 96.8 FM, with programming provided mostly by Two Lochs Radio in Gairloch.
Ullapool is referenced in the multiplayer video game Team Fortress 2 as the hometown of the Demoman and in the name of an in-game melee weapon that the Demoman can choose to have in his loadout.
In the various X-men series of Marvel comics, the mutant werewolf Rahne Sinclair is from Ullapool.