Phentland Road - Isle of Lewis - Western Isles

Phentland Road - Isle of Lewis
The Phentland Road - Single Track Scenic Road
Follow the sign for the refuse dump at Bennadrove on the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road, there is a large sign for Carlabhagh (Carloway) and Breascleit (Breasclete). The road leaves Marybank behind and turns into a scenic single-track road. The road wasn't actually tarmacced until the 1980's
Pentland Road - Isle of Lewis
The Pentland Road was constructed on the tracks of what was once could have been a proposed railway.

Some attribute the Road to Lord Leverhulme
Some have attributed it to be another of Lord Leverhulme's plans which never materialised. However the road /railway plans which were to have linked the harbour's of Carloway and Stornoway was planned before Lord Leverhulme was about on Lewis and Harris

The theory was that fish would be landed at Carloway and transported to Stornoway by railway. However the railway plans never came to fruition, the Pentland Road did finally get completed in 1912.

Though many attribute the road to Leverhulme, actually there was a walking track in existence some 40 years before this date and it was in the 1880s villagers campaigned for a proper road on the shorter link.

The Phentland Road - A Secret Road
This beautiful scenic road is almost a secret which perhaps only the locals are aware of - as it really isn't signposted well.
Scenery beside the Phentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Gently Graded Road for Horse Drawn Vehicles
The road was originally designed to be built as a gently graded road for horse drawn vehicles and shorter route than existing roads in the early 1890's. The road today is really beautiful, many bikers place this road on their "wish list" to do.
Government Funded Road
The road was definitely a Government funded road approved by an Act of Parliament in 1891.

Locals and local MP's continued pressing for a railman and it is from this that the myth that it was originally designed to be a railway appears to have come.
Contractor Went "Bust"
In fact £15000, had been given by the Council who then employed a contractor who went bust in 1893 and shortly after the Council's engineer resigned

The Old and THe New - Pentland Road - Turbines - Isle of Lewis
Litigation and Arbitration and Campaigns
Litigation and arbitration then ensued for several years. It was the local MP James Weir who never gave up campaigning for the road to be completed, which it was in 1912.

1919 Lord Leverhulme Plans For the Road
It was years later in 1919, when Lord Leverhulme plans showed the proposed railway (Leverhulme had purchased the Islands in 1917).
Phentland Rd - Scenery
In 1891 a Bill - Western Highlands
(Scotland) Works Act 1891 - was passed
Bill included £15,000 allocation for the Road. The bill included allocating £15,000 for the construction of the road. Work was started in late 1892, but later suspended due to "lack of funds".

An Electric Railway is Mentioned

Also in 1920 there was mention also of an electric railway with power supplied from a loch five miles from Stornoway in the Aberdeen journal in May 1925.
The Pentland Road - Isle of Lewis was constructed on the tracks of what was once a proposed railway. In the 1920s. It is a long single track road that cuts right over Lewis through the peat beds.

Road Named After John Sinclair - Known as Lord Pentland.
The road was named after John Sinclair, better known as Lord Pentland who was the Secretary for Scotland between 1905 and 1912 and who helped to secure funding for the completion of the road. The new road was officially opened on Friday 6th September 1912 by Thomas MacKinnon Wood who succeeded Lord Pentland as Secretary for Scotland

A large economic boom was created as the Pentland Road between Carloway, Breasclete and Stornoway was completed. At this time the islands fishing industry was in its heyday, cod and herring being carried to the town for processing and onward export to the mainland and abroad.

Carloway - Breascelete - Callanish - Great Bernera

You can take the road as a quick way to get from Stornoway to Carloway, or to follow through Brescelete on your way to Great Bernera passing

Achmore - Views of Uig Hills - Harris Mountains
The road forks left leading to Achmore. Achamore is a singular village in Lewis, in that it is the only one not anywhere near salt water. It is about 5 miles from the sea.
Phentland Road - Scenery - Isle of Lewis
Photo Gallery - Pentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Photo Gallery - Pentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Scenery beside the Pentland Road
Plenty of fresh water lochs about though. Above Achamore rises the hill of Eitsal where transmitters for radio, TV and mobile telephony have been built. Now a century later, the road saves locals a small fortune in petrol bills as it cuts nearly 10 miles off the longer Westside circular route.

Callanish Stones
Ten miles outside Stornoway, the road forks again. The branch to Breasclete leads to that village past peat banks down a steep slope. The Callanish stones are only a mile or two south of Breasclete.

The Carloway branch takes you there after a few more miles. If you follow the road this way it lead to the Carloway pier.
View of tHe Callanish Stones
Red Grouse - Seen along The Pentland Rd
The Pentland Road forks off to Callanish - The Stones
Red Grouse Seen Along the Pentland Rd
Views of The Phentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
A buzzard seen along The Pentland Road
Views of Part of THe Pentland Rd- Isle of Lewis
Photo Gallery - Pentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Much of the Historical information on this web page was gathered from varying sources, which I hope are correct, however many thanks to Contributions from Mr Ian Jolly who provided documentation gratefully received
We often travel along the beautiful Phentland Road - and have seen the tiny buildings or dwellings that are still to be seen on the moorland along the road. These are called sheillings and most of these appear now not to be used. The sheilings were originally constructed of an outer stone wall and a peat turf roof weighted down with stone. (wood was scarce) .

They were simple dwellings and inside would have only been essentials Chairs and tables were improvised and beds were made of heather. A hole in the roof at its highest point served to let out the smoke from a central hearth.

I was aware that these were used during the summertime in times gone by by the womenfolk who used to take the sheep to this are so that they could graze on the land here which provided good food for the sheep.

Sheilings in Summertime

The ladies sometimes had with then their children who would help with some of the chores and the families used the sheilings - and slept in these small almost hut like buildings for the short summer period when they were grazing the sheep.

I came across a very interesting article or blog recently when I discovered that the blog had a link to in it - and lo and behold, the blog was actually of the same subject matter.

It was written by a lady called Isobel who used to love the summers she spent along The Phentland Road - in one of these sheilings - and with her permission - reproduced with the permission of the author at Grits and Purls here follows her true story of life and childhood memories on The Isle of Lewis


Childhood Memories
As she got older she needed to take someone with her for company and to take care of her, and so her daughters took turns in spending a few weeks with her “out on the moor”. As children my sister and brother and I spent a few weeks each summer there staying with Granny in her shed on the Pentland Road. Up until I was nine, that was our only summer holiday. As we got older we complained that it was “boring”, and we longed to go to the city for our holidays, but while we were there we always managed to entertain ourselves and find something to do. Looking back, these days on the moor are some of the strongest memories of my childhood.

The Sheiling - Oil Lamps - coal Burning Stove - Natural Wells
The shed in which we spent our summers had three rooms, a bedroom with two big double beds, a living room, and a kitchen. There was no electricity or running water. We used oil lamps, cooked on a small coal-burning stove, and got our water from several natural wells. We had four wells near the shed, these were just natural pools in the moorland, surrounded by heather and grass. We used to mark where they were with old iron pots so that we could find them easily.

Most had an opening the size of a large plate–you could accidentally step into it with one leg but there was no danger of falling in completely. My cousin once lost a shoe in Granny’s well, but was too scared to tell her about it and so the shoe stayed there. There was only one well that was big enough to pose any danger and my mother warned us off that one by telling us about a boy who fell into it and was never found again. This was sufficient to scare me away from that well completely, which was the whole point of the “story”. Strangely enough, none of us ever asked “if there’s a dead body down there—why are we still drinking the water?”. I only thought of that question years later.

Short Sketches - Plays
We were miles from anywhere and had the freedom to run and play wherever we wanted to. There was a loch in front of our shed with a stony shore, and one behind with a small sandy beach, so we spent many happy hours by the water. There were also a few old abandoned sheds that we would use to “play house” in. In one, we cleaned out the main room and used it to perform concerts.

Our favourite performances were short sketches, usually involving at least one old woman “the cailleach”, played by one of us dressed up in my Granny’s old clothes and bloomers. So we spent our days either in or near the water, playing house, exploring on the moor, or telling each other scary stories and letting the atmosphere of the brooding moorland frighten us into running all the way back to the safety of the shed.

Surrounded By Sheep - Snug Sleeping Arrangements
Usually we were accompanied by my Granny’s dog “Sheila” as we wandered. And we were surrounded at all times by sheep. In Lewis the crofters let their sheep roam free on the moor during the summer—so there were plenty sheep wandering around grazing on the heather and short grass that covered the moor. Usually the sheep gave us a wide berth, running away if we got too close.

At night we piled in to the two available double beds. We were three small children and two adults (my mother and Granny), so two people got to sleep with mum and one unlucky person had to sleep with Granny. I say unlucky because Granny went to bed swathed in crocheted blankets and accompanied by a hot-water bottle, regardless of the weather. And she took up more than her half share of the double bed—so it made for a hot and claustrophobic night.

Silence on The Phentland Moor - Ghosts - Ghouls - No! just Sheep
The moor was absolutely silent. I remember waking up one night and hearing a noise—someone was creeping about outside! My mind filled with thoughts of ghosts and ghouls. What else could be making that rasping rhythmic noise outside the window? It must be the horrible breathing of a ghostly boy shivering and dripping with the residue from his watery grave. I called to my mother in alarm. Do you know what it was? It was the sound of a couple of sheep scratching their backs on the out side of the shed!

From Sheep Shearing to Shearing The Cat!!!!
One more sheep memory—early in the summer the shepherds rounded them up for shearing in a fenced enclosure (fank) on the hill behind our shed. In our quiet world, this made for a day of great entertainment. We hung onto the outside of the fences and watched as the sheep were manhandled and expertly shorn of their heavy coats, dipped and then sent off out onto the moor again looking strangely vulnerable and naked.

My brother in particular loved the fank. He was so inspired that once he got back home he “sheared” our cat with a scissor while it slept in a chair. Luckily he was spotted and stopped before he managed to complete the job.My Granny died when I was 11, and we never went to the moor again. All in all, being there for a few weeks each summer amounted to a very small part of my childhood, yet the memories are among the strongest.

Back at home we had all the comforts of the modern world, and all its entertainments, and as we grew older we enjoyed much more exciting holiday destinations. Out there on the moor we had no tv, no distractions, no conveniences. Yet we made our own entertainment, and in doing so made memories that outlasted the passing years and created shared experiences that forged deep connections within our family. I think that many families could share similar memories of camping or hiking holidays where all but the necessities were left behind.

I hope that my children will remember our camping and fishing holidays with the same fondness. It seems to me that it is in these times, when we have nothing to do but be with each other, that we can create some of the best memories and generate some of the connections that make us into strong families
Summer Holidays in Sheep Country by Isobel
Phentland Rd - Old & New - Turbines
A Sheiling Along The Pentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Sheep Just Relaxing - Isle of Lewis
A Sheiling Along The Pentland Rd - Isle of Lewis
Sheep Relaxing - Isle of Lewis
Photo Gallery - Phentland Road - Isle of Lewis
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