MORSGAIL - ONE OF THE MOST STUNNING ESTATES
Morsgail Estate has a deserved reputation as one of the most stunning estates on the Isle of Lewis.
The estate is wonderfully secluded, covering some 14,000 acres of wild, rock-strewn hills on the west coast of this remote Scottish Isle. The fully modernised lodge, which was built in the mid ’80s, retains a nod to traditional Highland character and overlooks the dramatic vistas of Loch Morsgail. This is one of the few land-locked estates on Lewis, and it’s surrounded by other great estates that constantly feed game into Morsgail. The estate is particularly celebrated for its prolific salmon river and renown stag forest, and is the ideal destination for fishing, mixed sporting and family parties.
In 1849 Sir James Matheson Baronet cleared livestock from his land on the south west of Lewis to create a Victorian deer forest – the first ever in the Outer Hebrides. On the edge of Loch Morsgail he built Morsgail Lodge, along with stables, kennels, a game larder, keeper’s house and gillies’ room, and a keeper’s cottage and bothy for gentleman stalkers four miles away at Kin Loch Resort.
While Sir James was not a sportsman himself, many aristocratic stalking guests were entertained at Morsgail Estate each year. He increased deer stocks, bringing in fresh herds from north Lewis, and rather unsuccessfully tried to introduce new blood with a Black Forest German stag. The highest day’s bag throughout the 1860s was shot by Colonel Herbert, totalling 7 stags.
When Sir James died in 1878, his widow Lady Matheson let the estate to Liverpool businessman Hugh Heywood-Jones at an annual rent of £950, with a bag limit of 50 stags. She continued to lease to seasonal tenants for the rest of her life and during this time the sport in general declined and grouse stocks dropped to such an extent that a bag limit of 60 brace was imposed on 1897.
Major Duncan Matheson
When Lady Matheson’s nephew Major Duncan Matheson inherited Morsgail Estate in 1899 he immediately began to increase stocks, importing grouse from Yorkshire, red stags from Exmoor and releasing 1,000 salmon yearlings into Morsgail River. He leased the estate to wealthy sportsmen, and later sold it to Viscount Leverhulme, who also purchased many of the island’s other sporting estates.
Mr Jones Hunter
After his death in 1925 Mr Jones Hunter of Inch bought Morsgail Estate for £9,200. He gave the estate a new lease of life, entertaining guests and locals each evening with the bagpipes, and Gaelic songs sang by his gillies. He then sold the estate in 1931 to a syndicate of four London stockbroking brothers and a captain, who were keen anglers.
After this, the estate passed from one pair of hand to the next until the estate was rescued in 1984 by Robin Davidson in 1986. He replaced the crumbling lodge and did much to improve the fishing, implementing catch-and-release policies, restoring habitat and salmon restocking while taking a keen interest in wildlife preservation.
In 2006 Morsgail Estate was sold to London businessman Mark Molyneux who has upgraded the lodge, built a new deer larder and introduced more wildlife-friendly game management practices. He was busy restoring Morsgail Estate to its previous Victorian grandeur.
Morsgail Estate was sold to Amhuinnsuidhe Castle Estate in 2015, who are hoping to take Morsgail to the next level of Sporting Estates
Image 1 – Sir James Matheson, Bt., who laid out the Morsgail estate and built Morsgail Lodge in 1852
Image 2 – Angus of Bernera, a Morsgail ghillie, with a fishing guest c1920
Image 3 – Morsgail Lodge in the late 1940s