Welcome to Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (The Galson Estate Trust)
Loch Stiapabhat is a large, nutrient-rich loch in Ness, in the north west of the Isle of Lewis. It is a shallow loch with an estimated maximum depth of 5m, and is 7m above average sea level, covering an area of around 2.5 hectares. It is rich in nutrients due to the underlying calcareous sand and surface drainage from the surrounding crofts. Loch Stiapabhat has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and in 2005, it was declared a Local Nature Reserve - the only one in the Western Isles.
The Reserve is home to a Nature Observatory, which makes the Reserve’s extraordinary wildlife much more accessible, both to the local community and to visitors to this part of Lewis.
In 2020, Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust), the community landowner of the 56,000-acre estate in which the loch is situated, signed a management agreement with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). The agreement arose from a joint aspiration of both parties to maintain and manage the SSSI and, under the terms of the new agreement, the RSPB will be permitted to undertake scientific surveys and research, monitor the flora and fauna of the area and highlight the assets of the Nature Reserve for educational, scientific and conservation purposes. These new agreed permissions will benefit visitors, local community and wildlife through the research, management and monitoring that will take place at the wetland Reserve, with particular emphasis placed on benefits for breeding corncrake, which is globally threatened as a species. Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn will be responsible for overall management and upkeep of the hide and boardwalk.
The north west of Lewis boasts fantastic coastal scenery, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, SSSIs and an exceptional range of flora and fauna including Golden Eagles, Corncrakes, Fulmars, Gannets, Otters, and the Great Yellow Bumblebee, amongst many others. Loch Stiapabhat provides a vital feeding and resting spot for many migrating bird species such as Whooper Swans, Barnacle and Pink Footed Geese, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck. How many species can you spot before they continue on their 500-mile journey to breeding grounds in Iceland & Greenland?
The Observatory is easy to reach by public transport from Stornoway, just get on the bus destined for Ness and ask to get off at Lionel School, the observatory is located opposite.