Uists and Barra

/Uists and Barra
Uists and Barra2019-02-01T10:32:16+00:00

The Sound of Harris, punctuated by islands, separates the Uists, Benbecula and Barra from Lewis and Harris. The island of Bearnaraigh (Berneray) which is well known as a favourite holiday destination for HRH Prince Charles, lies off the northern coast of North Uist and is now the only populated island in the Sound. The rest of the islands were cleared of people during the 19th century

North Uist is a place of sharp contrasts. To the east the rolling hills and moorland nurse countless trout filled lochs. On the west, the browns and purples of the moor change to a luxuriant green fringed by those great expanses of white sand which are so commonplace in the Western Isles. North Uist connects with Benbecula, via Griomasaigh (Grimsay) by causeway and bridge. Sea skies create a rather unique natural environment for those who holiday on Benbecula, so much so that one can understand the reluctance of visitors to leave

Another causeway joins with South Uist. All down the west coast of South Uist are vistas that delight the eye; beaches, sand dunes coloured by the flowers of wild orchids, green grasslands salted by the Atlantic rain, and the restless rolling waves of the same ocean. The long sea lochs of the east hold delights of their own. Historic Eiriosgaigh (Eriskay) lies to the south east

Barra and Vatersay form the southern tip of the Hebridean island chain. If small is beautiful they surely qualify, with an amazing 1,000 species of wild flowers identified on Barra alone. Loch waters glint in the sunlight, with the white sands backed by the mountain Heaval

These islands are rich with archaeological sites, and it would take many days to explore them all. North Uist contains some two-thirds of the chambered cairns found in the Western Isles, with Barpa Langass (five miles from Lochmaddy), of particular importance

By the time history came to be recorded, other structures appeared in the landscape; castles and religious buildings. Outstanding is Kisimul Castle on Barra, with its main tower dating from about 1120. Other castles, now ruined, include Borve in Benbecula and Ormacleit in South Uist. Teampull na Trionad (Trinity Temple) near Carinish in North Uist dates back to the early 13th century, and the sites of Teampull Chalum Cille in Benbecula and at Tobha Mor (Howmore) in South Uist, reflect these very early times. The chapels at Cille Bharra are well preserved and the whole site contains much of interest

These islands are also of great importance for the natural historian, particularly the bird watcher. The RSPB has a Reserve on North Uist at Balranald and the conservation agency SNH looks after the Nature Reserve at Loch Druidibeg in South Uist. Do not miss them

A Museum and Arts Centre can be found at Taigh Chearsabhagh (Lochmaddy) and museums at Sgoil Lionacleit Community School in Benbecula, at Kildonan in South Uist, as well as other local village museums spread throughout the islands during the summer. Barra now boasts the Barra Heritage & Cultural Centre in Castlebay, and the Thatched Cottage at Craigston