Last week I had a few days away across the county border in Sutherland, and I had the opportunity to explore the small village of Lairg.
Lairg is known for being in the heart of the North Highlands, with no less than four roads converging in the village. From Lairg, you can head northwest to Durness and Kinlochbervie, north to Tongue, east to main A9 road which is close to Golspie and Brora, south east to the Easter Ross town of Tain, and southwest to Ullapool.
We stayed 4 miles north of Lairg, in Pondside's self-contained flat, We had the most awesome views right from our window, as well as from a shared decking area, which looked across farmland and then further across Loch Shin. It provided a really relaxing stay for us. Pondside also has camping pitches and their own 'tin tents' (caravans) that you can stay in.
This post will concentrate on Lairg itself, and my next post will focus on two attractions found in the Kyle of Sutherland nearby. While it wasn't possible to safely walk from our accommodation into Lairg itself due to a lack of pavements for pedestrians, once I had been droppped off in the village I was able to do this on foot.
Lairg is very much still a crofting community, and visitors who are interested in local history, geology, wildlife and archaeology can expect to enjoy their time here. My first stop was Church Hill Woodland, a short trail complete with wooden sculptures.
It's a really short trail which climbs up to a nearby church, with a viewpoint across Loch Shin from a war memorial. You might be able to make out the huge dam in the background of the photo which was built in the 1950s. It's part of the most northerly hydroelectric scheme in the UK and includes a fish lift (which is actually what it is - it transports migratory fish to travel upstream). It's definitely a picturesque picnic spot.
Carrying on south from the main village, in just a few minutes you will spot "Jock Broon's Wee Hoose" on a small island in Loch Shin. Lochside, there are some information boards which give you more information about its history and the people of Lairg.
I also spotted this wizard, an impressive wood carving!
A renowned favourite with locals and visitors alike is The Pier. I had been wanting to visit for ages, so I was glad that the weather was dry for us to enjoy an al-fresco lunch!
There's a selection of light bites, soups and main meals, however, once I saw there was a seafood salad, I knew this was the choice for me! I did also order chips for us, these were proper chip-shop chips, such a treat!
Mr B chose the chicken burger which was well cooked, tender and had a strong Cajun kick to it!
It was getting chilly at this point, so we put the dog in the car and moved inside to warm up with coffee and cakes. We were spoilt for choice; out of shot, there were also two cheesecakes which looked amazing. While our drinks were prepared, I sneaked a look into their gift shop - a lovely selection of local and Scottish gifts, art and goodies to take home.
I arrived back at our table just in time to find two huge slabs of cake on our table - carrot cake for me, and chocolate (topped with Crunchie) for him. If you're in the area, definitely head to the Pier, we had a faultless meal there, and hopefully will head back during the season for an evening meal, as their evening menu features some delicious fish and meat dishes.
Of course, with a tasty lunch like that enjoyed, it's good to find more walks to explore. The Ferrycroft Visitor Centre has two walks which start from the centre.
In the centre itself, there's a giftshop, cafe and exhibitions in separate rooms.
These cover the themes of Water, Land and People. There are also temporary exhibitions throughout the year, so it's worth popping in and learning about the area. Families will be happy as there's a good children's play area to keep the kids entertained, as well as more carved animals to spot.
The first walk I did was the Ferrywood walk, a mostly flat waymarked walk through the forest to a view of Loch Shin, including a much closer view of Lairg Dam,
It's a really easy path to follow and at the furthest end of the walk, there are the remains of Dun Coille - an Iron Age Broch. Brochs are thought to be unique to Scotland.
Orkney is well known for them, but Caithness and Sutherland actually have a higher number. (The Caithness Broch Project does a sterling job in promoting these and other archaeological finds to locals and visitors alike; I find it fascinating thinking about Iron-age society and what we can find out about it through the remains of these buildings. The CBP has a goal to rebuild a broch which I'm looking forward to seeing this develop in future years! ).
Click here to see a Broch in Caithness
There was so much lichen on the trees, which reminded me of how clean the air is in this part of the world.
It was a lovely walk through the forest. Caithness has some wonderful scenery with big beaches, dramatic cliffs and beautiful big skies, but being in Lairg did make me remember that huge forests exist too, especially in this area of Sutherland.
The second walk from the Ferry Croft Centre was the Ord Hill Archaeology trail, an uphill walk on a good path (but not really suitable for pushchairs) up to the top of Ord Hill.
As you climb up the hill, there are signs of life that once was, and I read that the land was populated with farmers 3,500 years ago! These signs of life include a huge burial chamber and small stones which were remains of another chambered cairn,
The view from the top is stunning on a clear day, a wonderful panorama view can be seen in all directions. The directions of both walks can be viewed on the Walk Highlands site - such a good site if you are looking for a walk of any length or difficulty across Scotland!
Next week's post will see me explore some other attractions close to Lairg, in the Kyle of Sutherland.