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Inn at Head of Loch Shell

Inn at Head of Loch Shell

M Macmillan, Schoolhouse, Lemreway writing to the letters page, Stornoway Gazette, October 1953

The Inn was situated in Gleann Airidh an Domhnuill, about two miles from the head of Loch Shell and between Beinn Mhor and Beinn na h-Uamha. The ruin can still be seen at this spot and the vegetation of the area shows signs of cattle congregating there at some time in the past. This suggests that the Inn was situated there as it was the site of the market at which the inhabitants of Pairc district sold their cattle.

It is probable that some of the 16 deserted villages in Pairc had been cleared by 1845, as the following year saw many clearances in the district including Brolum and Lemreway (which was re-occupied 15 years later). It is doubtful if the Inn could survive the clearances of 1846, so we conclude in was closed in that year or shortly afterwards.

For a different point of view.......Donald Mackay, Kershader, writing to the letters page, Stornoway Gazette, December 1953

What is today and for many years past accepted as the site of the old inn is not at Shell Head but two Scotch miles inland. About this building, Duncan Macrae, Head Gamekeeper, Eishken who was born there sixty years ago and whose father, the late Mr Murdo Macrae came to Eishken in 1878, says that definitely it was never slated nor was any of the land surrounding it ever cultivated. It was simply the shieling from which the glen took its name, Gleann Airidh an Domhnuill, with no dwelling nearer it than Shell Head and no seaman would ever think of trudging that far inland for a drink. It was the market stance for Pairc before the clearances and was very central and convenient for the drovers to meet there and take delivery of any stocks coming from Lochs Brollum, Claidh and Seaforth and on those occasions, a dram was certainly sold on the spot.

In 1833, there were 20 licensed places in Lewis, one in Lochs at Loch Shell Head where the shooting lodge now stands. Mr Macrae told me that in an old chart of over 100 years ago drawn up by Captain Otter, Eishken house is marked about where the boathouse now stands. That might have been the Inn where Lord Teignmouth tried to get a drink in 1841.

In the house at Ceann tigh-Shealg (Shell Head) there lived one Aulay Macleod. He was in charge of the smack used for ferrying sheep stock to the mainland at Ullapool for the market at Falkirk and also for ferrying them to and from the Shiant Isles. Aulay's son Angus, was postman for Mr Scobie from the Valamus steading to Balallan. Angus lived at Pairc till he retired as a very old man on the 28th of May 1906. He used to tell of the large numbers of sailing ships that used to be anchored for long periods in Loch Shell, waiting for a favourable wind and tide to carry them south through the Minch and out into the Atlantic in daylight. There was any amount of spirits and tobacco to be got on them and they were the ships that introduced woodworm into these parts.


Title: Inn at Head of Loch Shell
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Date: 1953
Record Maintained By: CECL
Subject Id: 36581