By Eilidh Whiteford
Wonderfully secluded, covering some 12,500 acres of wild, rock-strewn hills on the west coast, Morsgail is one of the most stunning estates on the Isle of Lewis.
As for the island’s wild residents, guests at Morsgail are spoilt for choice with many golden eagles nesting on estate lands, deer grazing in front of the windows, and otters bobbing about in the river.
Boasting a prolific salmon river and renowned deer forest, the estate delivers some of the finest fishing and stalking opportunities available; as well as a plethora of other activities, from walking and wildlife-watching to boat-trips and water sports.
Built in a traditional style and fully modernised, Morsgail Lodge comfortably accommodates up to 10 guests in five en-suite bedrooms (three doubles and two twins), and can be booked for a minimum three-night stay.
The Lodge comprises of a spacious kitchen/dining room, drawing room complete with wood-burning stove, a further sitting room, and drying and utility rooms, as well as fishing/gun storage and outside kennels.
For guests, the estate's outstanding shooting activities include grouse from the season’s start in August while wild fowling is available from October until January. Snipe and duck, scattered throughout the moorland's wet areas, are also available for sport. The hills of Raparie, Griosmaul, Beinn a Bhoth, and Scalabhal are home to many of the finest stags on the island, and careful conservation and management both by the estate and its neighbours ensures that there is an excellent chance of seeing them, whether stalking with a camera or a rifle.
Guests can also enjoy a number of fishing opportunities at the estate, with exciting and secluded salmon, sea trout and brown trout fishing on Morsgail Loch and lower and upper Morsgail River.
Two boats are available for use on the loch, and the river can easily be accessed by foot from the Lodge. There is also some exhilarating fishing in the nearby Kinloch Resort estuary, particularly in late June and early July.
Working with local partners, including boat tour operator Sea Trek, surf-instruction Surf Lewis, and outdoor activities companies Harris Outdoor and Segway Hebrides, Morsgail Estate can arrange days out for guests.
One of the most outstanding ways to view the Outer Hebrides is by boat, and with the sea only 10 minutes drive from the Lodge, visitors can not only enjoy access to the islands wonderful beaches, but hop aboard for the chance to spot basking sharks, dolphins, porpoises, several species of whale, and otters, as well as Atlantic and Common grey seals.
Walking the shoreline will reveal the rich flora and fauna of the islands, and keen bird watchers will be treated to a range of migratory birds that stop over, as well as the local seabird populations including both golden and sea eagles, gannets, skuas and fulmars. The elusive corncrake can still be heard on a summer evening.
Morsgail Lodge was built in 1849 after Sir James Matheson had cleared land to create the islands' first Victorian deer forest. On his death in 1878, widow Lady Matheson let the estate to Liverpool businessman Hugh Heywood-Jones before it was inherited by her nephew, Major Duncan Matheson, when she died in 1896. After later Lewis owner Lord Leverhulme died in1925, the estate was bought by Mr Jones Hunter of Inch before being sold and resold several times.
The estate was rescued in 1984 by Robin Davidson who replaced the now crumbling lodge in 1986, and did much to improve fishing, implementing catch-and-release policies, restoring habitat and salmon restocking, while taking a keen interest in wildlife preservation. Morsgail Lodge was further upgraded in 2006 when London businessman Mark Molyneux purchased the estate, adding a new deer larder and introducing further wildlife friendly game management practices. In 2015 the estate was sold to Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate, which is now taking Morsgail to the next level of sporting estates.
For further information about Morsgail Estate and activities offered, please visit www.morsgail.co.uk