With 12 inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides archipelago, each with their own character and story, you can travel through Scotland’s island culture with an island hopping trip.
To the South, there’s Vetersay which is joined to Barra by a tidal causeway. From Barra, you can pop over on the 40 minute ferry journey to Eriskay. All the islands in Uist are connected by causeway, Eriskay to South Uist, South Uist to Benbecula, Benbecula to Grimsay, Grimsay to North Uist and North Uist to Berneray.
At Berneray, you can take a ferry to Harris and Scalpay, off the east coast of Harris, is connected by bridge.
Long famed for its beauty – boasting beaches, hills, machair and moor all in a small island – Barra is a special place to visit, especially if you arrive by plane. The airport is one of the most unusual in the world, with flights landing on the beach at Cockle Strand in between tides. At high tide the runway disappears beneath the waves.
Barra was the stronghold of the Clan MacNeil and last resting place of the author Compton Mackenzie, who wrote Whisky Galore – a romanticised story based on the facts of the 1941 shipwreck of the SS Politician subsequent salvage of 240,000 bottles of whisky by the islanders of neighbouring Eriskay.
This is a stunning backdrop for some great outdoor discoveries. Take a five minute boat trip from Castlebay to the medieval Kisimul Castle, the ‘Castle in the Sea’, which sits dramatically on a rock islet in the bay. This three storey tower house is the ancient seat of the Clan MacNeil, and gives great views from the battlements.
Stroll along beautiful white sandy beaches, such as Tangasdale, or enjoy breathtaking scenery as you cycle or walk around this small, but incredibly beautiful island. For an amazing sea kayaking experience, take to the water on a guided tour with Clearwater Paddling from Castlebay and explore a world of beautiful islands and sheltered bays, or play a round or two at Barra Golf Club, the most westerly golf course in the UK.
Benbecula is small, flat, low-lying and dotted with lochs and lochans and is linked by causeway to the neighbouring Uists. There is an airport at Balivanich, where there is also the only cash machine on both Benbecula and South Uist. Thee island is blessed with some spectacular beaches, backed by sand dunes and the machair typical of the Hebrides.
The east side of South Uist is mountainous, the highest point being 2034ft a. The west is characterised by some of the best beaches anywhere. Don’t miss a visit to the island’s main settlement, and port, Lochboisdale on the east coast. It is the main gateway to South Uist, so on the way look out for the island of Calvay which is home to an automatic lighthouse and the remains of a castle from the 1200s.
North Uist is a paradise for wildlife. It is characterised by its ‘drowned landscape’ of peat bogs and lochans. Visitors arrive by ferry at Lochmaddy, once a major herring fishing port. There are several prehistoric sites nearby, such as the huge chambered burial cairn of Barpa Langais.