Pairc Peninsula

By Craig Neil
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Summary

The Pairc peninsula – also known as the Parish of Lochs – is situated on the southeast corner of the Isle of Lewis between Loch Erisort and Loch Seaforth.

This vast and almost entirely uninhabited area covers over 68,000 acres of rolling hills and rugged coastline, pockmarked by countless freshwater lochs.

Visitors to Pairc will find one of the wildest places in the Outer Hebrides which appears hauntingly desolate at first glance but is, in fact, a haven for wildlife such as the enigmatic white-tailed sea eagle.

Address:Cromore, HS2 9QH
Ravenspoint, HS2 9QA
Grabhair, HS2 9QU
Calbost, HS2 9QR
Marvig, HS2 9QP
Opening Hours:The Pairc peninsula is accessible 24/7 365 days a year.
Admission Price:N/A
Parking:There are no dedicated car parks on the Pairc peninsula.
Parking is possible on many of the roadside verges in the area.
Contact:N/A
Facilities:Ravenspoint Visitor Centre in Kershader has tourist information, a grocery store, a cafe, and a petrol forecourt.
Cromore Lewis

The highlights

1: The Pairc estate is one of the remotest, wildest, and least inhabited areas in the Western Isles. Visiting the area is a great way to immerse yourself in a landscape that’s almost completely unspoilt by tourism.

The coastline on the northern tip of Pairc near Cromore is arguably the highlight it has a beautiful landscape of hills and freshwater lochs as well as a coastline that’s often visited by Britain’s largest bird, the white-tailed sea eagle.

2: The walking trail from Cromore past lochs Nighe, Dubh, and Bodach is a great way to experience the windswept coastline of Pairc. A number of islands lie to the east which are home to countless seabirds and there’s a good chance you’ll see white-tailed eagles during the trek.

3: A special mention has to be given to the cafe in the Ravenspoint Community Centre as the locally-made baked food is delicious and the views from the cafe windows are lovely. There aren’t many cafes in this part of the island so it’s a great destination to head to after a long walk or cycle ride.

Pairc Lewis

Visiting tips

1: Due to the fact there’s very little traffic on the Pairc peninsula it makes a great cycling route. To get there you’ll have to follow the busy A859 but once on the B8060 the amount of traffic drops considerably.

The road is dual-lane for the majority of the way after which it narrows to a single-lane road that’s well-surfaced and has lots of passing spaces. The options for routes are numerous but I can recommend following the B8060 to Leumrabhagh as the scenery is gorgeous.

2: The Pairc estate is home to herds of red deer which are very skittish and have good eyesight and hearing, making them difficult to catch sight of. Taking a pair of binoculars (link to recommended pairs from Amazon) and regularly scanning the hills from a distance is pretty much the only chance you’ll have to see them.

3: If you walk the route around Loch nam Bodach take the time to watch the running waterfall on the southern corner as it’s a good place to see otters. These shy animals are most active at dawn and dusk when they like to forage for crabs and shellfish on the shoreline.


Overview

The Isle of Lewis is an island of extremes. Towards the north the landscape is flat moorland, while to the south it’s mountainous and broken up by countless freshwater lochs.

This southern region of Lewis is one of the most popular places on the island for tourists, partly because it’s close to the mountains of Harris and partly because it covers an area that’s extraordinarily scenic, such as the Pairc peninsula on the island’s southeast coast.

Cromore Pairc Lewis

The Pairc peninsula (also known as Park and South Lochs) is one of the remotest regions of Lewis and it’s also one of the largest, covering around 11,000 hectares but with a resident population of just 400 people.

Although there are only 11 townships on Pairc they were able to form a trust and purchase the estate in its entirety in 2015, allowing the community to manage over 200 crofts with assured ownership of the land for years to come.

The significance of this event has its roots in the 1800s following the forced eviction of locals during the much-feared Highland Clearances when the islander’s way of life was almost destroyed when the land was forcefully taken from resident crofters by landowners who sought to introduce more profitable sheep farming.

On Pairc, many islanders were evicted which lead to the abandonment of several settlements whose ruins can still be seen today in places like Stiomrabhaigh on the southern coastline.

Although the peninsula lost many crofting families to the clearances it’s thriving today thanks to tourism, and it’s now one of the most sought-after places to book accommodation on Lewis.

Pairc is well known by ramblers for its unspoilt landscape and many tourists head there to walk across the hilly moorland with its picturesque lochs that stretch across the peninsula from the northern Loch Eireasort to the southern Loch Shiphoirt.

Cromore Pairc Lewis

Meanwhile, others head there on two wheels to soak up the scenery on a fairly short (14-mile) road that makes a nice detour from the West Highland Way, or drive to settlements such as Cromore and set off on foot along the many walking trails that have been established around the spectacular coastline.

If you decide to add Pairc to your Isle of Lewis itinerary you’ll find that access is best served by the B8060 which spurs off in an easterly direction from the busy A859.

This partially dual and single-lane road follows a winding route close to the shore for half its length before abruptly turning south to one of the remotest settlements on the island at Lemreway.

Visitors who choose to follow the road will soon find themselves enchanted by the hauntingly beautiful scenery of Pairc and will no doubt eventually find themselves drawn to the coastline which is one of the best places in the Western Isles to see Britain’s largest bird – the white-tailed sea eagle.

With a wingspan of over 2 metres (6 feet), this awesome bird is quite a sight but there are also golden eagles, otters, and a dozen other bird species to view around the Pairc peninsula, making it an unparalleled destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Cromore Pairc Lewis

Tourist information

For walkers and cyclists, this is (in my opinion) one of the nicest areas of Lewis, though visitors need to be aware that as it’s so lightly populated there are very few facilities.

That being said, the Ravenspoint Community Centre at Kershader has a wee convenience store, a petrol forecourt and a cafe, and it’s a good place to find out about the local area before starting an adventure into the great outdoors.

There are several walking trails that have been established on Pairc for the influx of tourists that go there to enjoy the scenery, but having been there several times myself I personally recommend picking up an OS map (link further down this page) and following the Cromore trail.

Cromore Pairc Lewis

This walking route offers a little of everything that makes the peninsula such a fascinating place with hidden-away lochs surrounded by hills and a rocky coastline that’s home to lots of wildlife.

Cromore is an attractive wee village with a sheltered bay that was once used by a large fleet of fishing boats. Today, the village mainly serves as a farming community but it still attracts the occasional hill walker thanks to the circular walk around lochs Nighe, Dubh and Bodach.

Rather than repeat what the excellent Walk Highlands website has already written about the Cuairt Cromor trail I’ll just include a link to it here that will tell you exactly where to go with a detailed description and a route map.

Another recommended destination on the peninsula is Stiomrabhaigh which is (or rather, was) a village overlooking Loch Sealg. The landscape is as wild as anywhere you’re ever likely to find on Lewis and it makes a great destination for a bike ride or an afternoon drive.

To get there, follow the B8060 to Orinsay (postcode HS2 9RG) and head in a westerly direction south of Loch Shaghachain.

Cromore Pairc Lewis

The terrain is rather boggy so you’ll need a good pair of waterproof hiking boots (link to recommended pairs from Amazon) and Google Maps (or ideally the OS Maps app) to keep you on course.

If seeing eagles is the main attraction for a visit to Pairc I highly recommend walking along the coastline between the villages of Calbost (HS2 9QR) and Marvig (postcode HS2 9QP).

Of the two I found Calbost to be the more interesting as you can see the remains of an abandoned crofting settlement, but both villages frequently have golden and white-tailed eagles in the area and both offer easy access to the rocky coastline.

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

South East Lewis – 457 Explorer.

Tarbert & Loch Seaforth – 14 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

Stornoway Harbour. Address: South Beach, Stornoway, HS1 2BE. Distance: 28 miles from Cromore.
Stornoway is the main town on the Isle of Lewis and is the largest settlement in the entire Outer Hebrides.

The town welcomes many visitors as it’s the main entry point onto the island thanks to the ferry terminal and nearby airport, but tourists also head to Lewis to wander around its busy harbour which sees a constant flotilla of ferries and fishing boats sailing in and out.

Lews Castle. Address: Stornoway, HS2 0XP. Distance: 27 miles from Cromore.
Lews Castle is the biggest tourist attraction in Stornoway as it’s home to the Museum nan Eilean which contains a large collection of objects that depict Lewis and the Hebridean way of life, including the famous Lewis Chessmen.

Lews Castle also features a collection of historical photographs, a gift shop, a cafe, and footpaths through extensive grounds.

Lews Castle

Ravenspoint Community Centre. Address: Kershader, Isle of Lewis, HS2 9QA. Distance: 6 miles from Cromore.
This community centre is located close to Cromore on the Pairc Peninsula on Lewis. The centre is a useful place to stop for visitors that need to stock up on groceries but it also has information about the wildlife that can be seen on the peninsula as well as a cafe serving hot drinks and home-baked treats.

Stiomrabhaigh. Address: Isle of Lewis, HS2 9RG. Distance: 8.5 miles from Cromore.
This historic abandoned village is located on the southern edge of the Pairc peninsula. At one time there were over thirty settlements on the peninsula but following the clearances the population dwindled to around 400.

Stiomrabhaigh (or Stemreway) is a good example of what the old villages looked like in the 1800s as many of the foundations of the ruined houses are still intact.

Bonnie Prince Charlie Monument. Address: Isle of Lewis HS2 9LE. Distance: 14 miles from Cromore.
This monument to Charles Edward Stuart – leader of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion – is situated on a raised position of the A857 between Stornoway and Tarbert.

A plaque commemorates the prince who landed on the site 18 days after the doomed battle of Culloden after a short voyage from the Isle of Scalpay.


Frequently asked questions

Why are Harris and Lewis separate islands?

The Isle of Harris and Lewis is one landmass, but it’s designated as two separate islands.
This is because the mountain range on North Harris meant that in the past it was difficult to travel between the north and south regions of the island, so residents classified themselves as either being from Lewis (northern half), or Harris (southern half).
Harris is further subdivided into North Harris and South Harris with both regions divided by an isthmus around the village of Tarbert.

What is the Isle of Lewis known for?

The Isle of Lewis is known for being the largest island in the Outer Hebrides as well as having many of the most-visited tourist sites.
Highlights are the Callanish standing stones, the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Stornoway and Lews Castle.
The Isle of Lewis is also known for its diverse landscape which is predominantly marsh and moorland towards the north but is mountainous towards the south.

Is a sea eagle bigger than a golden eagle?

Sea eagles are larger than golden eagles.
The sea eagle – also known as the white-tailed eagle – has a wingspan of up to 2.4 meters, is up to 90 cm long, and weighs up to 7 kg.
Golden eagles have a wingspan of up to 2.2 meters, are up to 88 cm long, and weigh up to 6.6 kg.

How common are golden eagles in Scotland?

Golden eagles live in open moorland and mountainous areas in the Highlands and west coast islands of Scotland as well as small areas in the Lowlands. There are currently around 400 pairs of golden eagles in Scotland.

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