Where is Lairg?
The small peaceful town of Lairg is located in the county of Sutherland in the northern Highlands, Scotland. Often referred to as the gateway or the crossroads of the Highlands, Lairg is a small town on the shores of Loch Shin. It’s a great base if you’re looking to explore the true wilderness of Sutherland. It’s about 1h30 minutes’ drive from Inverness. To truly appreciate everything the area has to offer, we strongly recommend having a car although it’s possible to reach Lairg by public transport (see information below).
The Pier Restaurant
What a perfect place to build a restaurant, right on the banks of beautiful Loch Shin! When Jeremy Clarkson and his team passed through Lairg on their Grand Tour, they made headlines when they stopped here for lunch. No doubt they had heard about its excellent reputation. The restaurant has a wonderful outdoor seating area for the summer and cosy indoor dinning for chilly days. Both have pleasant views over the loch and towards the hills. There is also a small gift shop selling locally made stoneware and other crafts.
It’s a lovely spot but the food is the real treat at the Pier, the menu is incredible and always uses locally sourced produce, like haddock from Scrabster, black pudding from Stornoway and lamb from the Black Isle. If you don’t have time for lunch or dinner, then don’t miss out on sampling one the tasty homemade cakes paired with a delicious artisan coffee.
Sutherland Sporting Tweed Company
Scotland is famous for its tweed and the Sutherland Sporting Tweed Company in Lairg sells some of the finest. The small family run business established in 1995 is located right in the centre of Lairg. It prides itself on quality tailoring and as result now supplies the staff and owners of over 100 country estates, from the south of England to the far north of Scotland. Choose from a huge range beautifully crafted bags, gloves, coats, scarves, trousers and so much more.
Remote Loch Shin, located just north of Lairg is the largest Loch in Sutherland at 27 km long, it was enlarged in the 1950s as part of a hydro-electric project. Nowadays it makes for a beautiful drive in one of the wildest parts of the Scotland, in the background the Munros Ben More Assynt and Ben Kilbreck, dominant the landscape. On a Sunday the local fishing club are often seen on the loch in their little boats hoping to catch wild salmon and trout.
The loch is located right in the centre of Sutherland and it’s about an hour’s drive from the main NC500 route, you can join at Dornoch in the south or Tongue in the north.
Ferry Croft Visitor Centre
This is a great place to come if you have little ones! We used to bring our kids here when they were younger and they loved the kiddies’s corner – doing the quiz, colouring in, playing games and burning off some energy outside. The outdoor area is great and includes a play park, a zip wire and some carved animals. There are also two lovely walks that start from the information centre : the Ferrywood walk which includes a ruined broch and great views of the Shin Dam and the Ord Hill Archaelogical Trail where you’ll discover chambered cairns, hut circles and a burnt mound. Definitely worth a visit!
Dalchork / Loch Shin Bird Watching Hide
If you take the road out of Lairg heading north towards Altnaharra / Tongue (along the A836), you’ll find the Dalchork/Loch Shin Bird Watching Hide. It’s located just a short 5 minute drive from Lairg on the Shores of Loch Shin. There’s a small car park located 500 meters from the hide and is around a 10 minute walk (there’s a signpost that states that it’s wheelchair accessible – this is most definitely not the case). If you’re lucky, you might spot some skylarks, cuckoos, black-throated divers, curlew and ospreys. Perfect for the bird-watchers’ amongst you!
Loch Shin Glamping Pods (9.5⭐)
If you are planning an overnight stay at the crossroads of the Highlands (Lairg), then why not try something different and go back to almost basics with a spot of glamping. The luxury wooden pods are situated on a high vista with views over Loch Shin and the Munros beyond.
The comfortable pods are fully insulated and benefit from electricity and heating, but the best part is that they each have their bathroom, so no walking to the toilet block in the middle of the night. There is a choice of four pods with each sleeping up to four people, on a double bed and sofa bed.
There is a small kitchen equipped with a fridge and microwave, perfect if you decide to do a little self-catering. Should the weather be kind then you can take advantage of the private outdoor terrace complete with a picnic table.
The Falls of Shin
The Falls of Shin are located just a short drive south of the town of Lairg. It’s a popular place to see salmon leaping up stream, through the rushing peaty coloured waters of the river Shin. (June to September is the ideal time to see the fish). It’s lovely drive to get to the Falls on a picturesque road that followers the meandering river and once you arrive there is a massive tarmac carpark. To get to the falls walk across the road and then take the well-maintained path down to the excellent viewing platform.
On the other side of the road are some lovely woodland walks, which are clearly sign posted from the carpark, there is a choice of four and it’s a great place to indulge yourself in the abundance flora and fauna. If you are travelling with children the playpark, crazy golf and go-cart track will be a welcoming sight. The falls have always been a real favourite with our kids over the years, even though it has evolved during this time.
The Crask Inn
Located in what literally feels like the middle of nowhere, the Crask Inn is one of the UK’s remotest public houses. Of course, it’s this isolation that makes it so special. To find this unique pub pass through Lairg and head north towards the crofting community of Altnaharra, the Crask Inn is on your right in the minuscule settlement of Crask.
This historic watering hole was built in 1815 to nourish weary travellers in need of rest in this northern outpost. Today Denise and Douglas Campbell welcome you into a cosy little bar with a peat fire, local ales and whiskies. If you fancy something more substantial, then a small range of snacks are available including soup and sandwiches. You can also choose to stay overnight; the package includes dinner and breakfast for a very reasonable £75.
How to get from Inverness to Lairg by car
You can reach Lairg by car in about 1 hour 15 mins by following the A9 from Inverness. You have several choices as to where to veer off the A9 – you can take the incredibly scenic route via the Struie view point (avoid during the winter months though) or alternatively, take the A836 just before crossing the Dornoch Firth and passing by Bonar Bridge or finally, head north of the Dornoch Firth and take the A949 towards Spinningdale (so incredibly pretty!). Whichever road you take, you’ll be blown away by the views.
How to get from Inverness to Lairg by public transport
You might be wondering if it’s possible to reach Lairg by public transport. Amazingly, you CAN use public transport to get all the way to this northern outpost. In just under two hours you can reach Lairg train station from Inverness. Click here to check the timetable. There’s a train station in Lairg and there’s a train about 4 times a day from Inverness.
Alternatively, you can catch the “Far north bus” which runs a mini-bus service between Inverness and Durness (route 806). It only operates on set days so be sure to check the timetable here. It’s also worth booking a seat on the bus if you’re travelling during high season.