Lairg is a relatively large village and parish, with the village size explained by its central location in Sutherland and having four important roads converging on it. Sitting at the end of the 17 mile long Loch Shin, Lairg is a great place to visit with hotels, B&Bs, caravan and camping parks, places to eat and drink, a good mix of shops, and plenty to see and do.
For North Coast 500 places to visit, Lairg is an easy and enjoyable detour off the A9 at The Mound and along the very picturesque Strath Fleet.
The Lairg Asteroid
Until fairly recently it was fair to say that Lairg’s main claim to fame was being home to the largest one day sale of hill sheep in Europe. But now we’re firmly on the map for another reason: the discovery that Lairg is where an asteroid crashed to the ground some 1.2 billion years ago. To learn more about the asteroid, come to The Ferrycroft Visitor Centre where you’ll find an impressive exhibition all about it.
The Ferrycroft Visitor Centre is also a great place to learn about the history of the area and local wildlife, plus there are games for children and a play area outside.
The loch is the longest in Sutherland at some 17 miles, with a dam located at Lairg and the water below it called Little Loch Shin. The main Loch Shin is a truly impressive sight, with some of the best views available from the roadside just north of Lairg and looking northwest up the loch.
Along with fishing, nature and bird watching, the loch is also popular with visitors bringing their own kayaks to explore its huge expanse and hidden coves.
Located on a tiny island just off the shore of Little Loch Shin, is the intriguing miniature house known as the ‘Broons Hoose’. There’s an interesting story behind it, and one you can read on an information board opposite the island and right by the road.
There are many interesting walks which start at or close to the village centre, with a leaflet available which shows these available from various locations including the Ferrycroft Visitor Centre.
Archaeology & History
People have lived in the Lairg area for over 5,000 years and evidence of their occupation is still visible in the landscape. On the Ord Archaeology Trail, you can discover the Neolithic chambered cairns built by the first farmers, who cleared the land, and the foundations of roundhouses from the Bronze and Iron Age period. At nearby Sallachy and the Ferrycroft Woodland Walk there are also the remains of two Iron Age brochs which are structures unique to the Northern Highlands and Islands.
Lairg village has grown from a settlement of small crofts ‘laid out in an orderly manner’ within two miles of the Kirk of Lairg in 1816. Most of the early inhabitants came from the surrounding townships on the higher moorland areas. These people were cleared from the old townships to make way for the big sheep farms of the 18th and 19th centuries. Ferrycroft Visitor Centre has exhibition displays telling the story of the settlement of Lairg and a Historic Map of Lairg is available as a self-guided tour of the village.
During the last 100 years the village has thrived as a centre for the county of Sutherland and continues today as a traditional crofting community, popular with visitors.
Trout fishing is available on Loch Shin and also the nearby Loch Beannach and Loch Craggie. Full details here.
Falls of Shin
Just a few miles south of Lairg is the Falls of Shin, which is acknowledged as one of the best places in all of Scotland to watch leaping salmon. The main reason it is such a good location to see them, is that the water level and flow of the River Shin is always essentially the same and regardless of rainfall – and that being because the amount of water is determined by the dam at Lairg. There’s also a play area and forest walks at the Falls of Shin site.
Nature and bird watching
The Lairg area is rich in wildlife with a range of different habitats, though of most note is Loch Shin and the areas of marshland and regenerating scrub woodland on its south eastern shore. The best place to view bird and other wildlife for each habitat is from Dalchork bird hide which is located 3.5km from Lairg on the A836. As the loch is dammed and therefore the water levels fluctuate greatly, it’s difficult to predict exactly what species will be seen – especially on the water or water’s edge. However, up to eight species of wader are regularly seen in the spring, with ospreys – which breed locally – often seen hunting for fish over the loch. Black throated divers are also often seen, with sedge warbler and grasshopper warbler present in the willow scrub.