Barra to South Uist/ Benbecula to Harris / Lewis

 

Our route
We bought a CalMac hopscotch ticket and took the ferry from Oban to Castlebay on the Isle of Barra.

Driving off on EriskayWe then drove and took ferries from south to north, along the length of the Outer Hebridean Islands to the Butt of Lewis, returning by the Stornaway to Ullapool ferry.

We actally placed foot on 13 different islands during our visit. It was wonderful.



INVERNESS-SHIRE


Until 1975, all the islands except Lewis were part of Inverness-shire. This changed with the sensible creation of the Western Isles Council, now known as Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, looking after the interests of the entire island chain.

Clansman in CastlebayWe spent a day travelling north and stayed in Taynauilt overnight, so we could take a leisurely drive to catch the afternoon ferry from Oban.

The cruise on the MV Clansman took over 5 hours to Castlebay and most of the time it was raining. The ferry was busy although most of the comfy seats had been ‘bagged’ with coats and rucksaks although they were unoccupied most of the time.



ISLE OF BARRA


A888The 14 mile A888 road encircling much of this beautiful island makes it easy to explore. The shoreline has rocky bays and stunning beaches surrounding a largely inaccessible and mountainous interior. Barra is one of the most prosperous communities in the Western Isles with an income from tourism, fishing and seafood processing,

Traigh MhorThe island was granted to Gilleonan MacNeil in 1427 by Alexander MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, and stayed in the family for 411 years, largely due to the impregnability of the clan seat of Kisimul Castle. In 1838, the 40th Chief of the Clan, Roderick MacNeil became bankrupt and was forced to sell Barra to Colonel Gordon of Cluny for £38,050. Gordon then proceeded to clear the island of its tenants to make way for sheep and they were forced to board ships bound for North America. Gordon died in 1856, not greatly mourned by the islanders who remained.

CastlebayIn 1937 the American architect Robert MacNeil, the 45th Clan Chief purchased most of the Barra estate that was lost to the family in 1838, including the Castle. In 2000 the current laird, Iain MacNeil, leased the restored Castle to Historic Scotland for 1000 years, for a rent of a bottle of whisky and £1 a year and in 2003 he started a process that will lead to public ownership of the whole island, at no cost.



Halaman Bay


Kisimul CastleWe sailed into the main town and ferry port of Castlebay, passing the dominant Kisimul Castle, which sits on a rock out of the waters of the bay. We left the ferry in the early evening and drove clockwise round the island to where we were staying at the Isle of Barra Hotel.

Halaman BayThis is situated in a superb coastal location at the north end of Halaman Bay where the sand forms a steeply shelving beach.

We walked to the southern end of the bay to the freshwater Loch Tangusdale. On an islet in the loch are the remains of Castle Sinclair, a medieval tower house which originally had 3 storeys and was another stronghold of the MacNeils.



Borve


Shore near BorveThe west of Barra is typified by rocky outcrops separated by broad sandy beaches, backed by dunes and sandy grassland called machair. Borve lies about half way up the west side where a deep valley leads into the heart of the mountains at its centre.

Borve is a small settlement and Borve Point is the site of a burial ground. We hunted for the Borve Standing Stones, two of just seven on Barra and the surrounding islands, but they are leaning and well hidden now.

West coast beachTwo minor roads lead into the valley to the east, where traditional blackhouses have been re-roofed with more modern materials. We followed the tourist sign to a restored blackhouse used as a museum at Craigston but it is no longer open and the restoration work seems to have been abandoned.

To the north is one of the most spectacular beaches on the west side of the island and near Cuidhir, is the Barra Golf Club, where all the greens are surrounded by electrified fences powered by solar panels to keep out the sheep. Queen Victoria's Rock

Just before Northbay we came to a reservoir overlooked by Queen Victoria's Rock. When viewed at the correct angle the rock resembles the monarch's distinctive profile. We couldn’t see this until we looked at our photograph later on, and then it was obvious!



Northbay


St Barrs ChurchNorthbay is a scattered community that starts where the northern spur road leaves the loop. This was traditionally Barra's second most important harbour but only a few small fishing vessels remain, moored up at the head of the loch next to St Barrs Church. Northbay

In recent years Northbay has become much more important to Barra's fishing industry with a purpose-built fishing quay on the north side of the loch at Aird Mhidhinis.

Aird MhidhinisThis area is better viewed from a distance as it is functional but not pretty.

In the 1970s a fish processing plant was built and was even visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales. This had to be sold eventually when things didn't work out.



Ardmhor


Otter statueUntil a few years ago only the western end of the next promontory was occupied, but in recent years the road has been extended east to Ardmhor with a new terminal to serve the Barra to Eriskay ferry. This is a magnificent area in which to spot wildlife and birds. The statue outside the ferry waiting room of two otters chasing a fish is by the artist Iain Brady. The waiting room is supposedly home to a cafe, but it was closed when we were there.

MV Loch PortainThe Sound of Barra ferry completes a project that been under way for 60 years, since the first bridge was built between Benbecula and South Uist. You can now travel by car the full length of the Western Isles from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis within a single day. This is about 140 miles and relies on the existence of the fairly long-standing causeways at North Ford and South Ford, plus the more recent additions linking Vatersay, Berneray and Eriskay to their larger neighbours.



Traigh Mhor


Cocklestrand BeachDriving north to Traigh Mhor, we came to an immense cockle strand beach which is home to one of the world's most spectacular and beautiful airports. This wide, shallow bay was famous primarily for its cockles until aircraft started to use the beach in 1933.

Plane landingBarra is now the only beach airport anywhere in the world to be used for scheduled airline services. De Havilland Twin Otters of Loganair connect Barra with Glasgow and Benbecula. The Airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, which also operates in Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree, Benbecula and Stornoway, Wick and Inverness, Kirkwall in Orkney and Sumburgh in Shetland.

Barra AirportThere are more than 1400 landings or takeoffs per year but we were not able to see one as there are no flights on a Sunday. The modern terminal looks like a lego building and we had a very nice lunch in the cafe. There were several motorhomes parked beside the beach in a lovely location.

Airport runwayVisitors are asked not to use the beach when the windsock is flying. There are three runways, the ends of which are marked by posts in the sand, which ensures that landings can always be made into the wind. For night flights, pilots rely on reflective strips laid on the beach and vehicle headlights. Tràigh Eais

Airport fire crews are often called out to help stranded dolphins or seals rather than for any reason connected with the aircraft.

We took a track behind the airport and climbed over the dunes to Tràigh Eais, this is a mile and a half of magnificent white sand that is comparatively rarely visited.



Cille Bharra


Cille-BharraA mile to the north, we arrived at Cille-Bharra which is the restored Church of St Barr. The fragments of the church that remain suggest it was built in the 1100s, probably on the site of an earlier chapel dating back to the 600s and dedicated to St Finbarr of Cork. There are also remains of a building known as the South Chapel that may have been built in the 1400s.

Kilbar StoneInside the North Chapel is a replica of the Kilbar Stone, a unique Christian-Nordic Runic Stone dating back to the 900s. This has a decorated cross on the front and a runic inscription on the reverse that means "This cross has been raised in memory of Thorgeth, daughter of Steinar".

GraveThe original stone is in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and efforts to return it to Cille Bharra have been under way since 1980 - 100 years since its abduction.

From the upper part of the graveyard there are magnificent views of this end of the island and one of the graves with a plain cross is that of Sir Compton Mackenzie author of the book and film ‘Whisky Galore’.



Eoligarry


Eoligarry jettyBlue seaEoligarry is a broad scatter of white painted cottages and houses. On the east side of the peninsula is the Eoligarry Jetty and this pretty spot is well worth a visit. It was a sunny day and the shallow sea was a beautiful turquoise.

Camping at EoligarryThe beaches that surround much of Eoligarry and the islands of Orasay, Fuday and Eriskay to the east are huge swathes of stunningly white shell sand. We were quite envious of the motor-homers parked there. The island is very good at providing facilities for campers.

Back on the main A888, the road heads south towards Castlebay. A turn along a minor road at Bogach leads you to the rocky coastline of North Bay with fine views across the north east part of Barra and east across the islands and lochs.

Buaile Nam Bodach is an old village on the shore of Loch na Obbe whose Gaelic name means 'Meeting place of the old men'. Further down the main road there are some superb views south over Earsairidh towards Vatersay.



Castlebay


Madonna and ChildOn the steep slopes of Ben Heaval, which rises behind Castlebay, is a white marble statue of the Madonna and Child. From here, there are spectacular views over the bay and beyond to Vatersay, Sandray, Pabbay, Mingulay and Berneray.

From 1869 Castlebay was the centre of a fishing industry with 400 small fishing boats and associated facilities. By 1894 there were three steamers a week linking Castlebay with Oban, and the Castlebay Hotel had been opened.

Castlebay from the castle

CastlebayThe Church of Scotland that was built overlooking the harbour on this predominantly Catholic island did not thrive. It is now derelict and burnt out, but the Catholic Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, built in 1886, has fared better. Named for the patroness of those who sail the seas, it dominates the Castlebay landscape and the interior is most welcoming.

Our Lady Star of the SeaIn 1949 ‘Whisky Galore’ was filmed here, although the events behind the story, written by Compton Mackenzie, were actually based on nearby Eriskay. Today there are two hotels, guest houses, shops, a bank and a hospital.

The Barra Heritage Centre, or Dualchas is run by the Barra and Vatersay Historical Society, and has been open since 1996. There are local history displays, art exhibitions and cultural events in the two galleries.



Kisimul Castle


Kisimul Castle Kisimul Castle is the home of the MacNeil of Barra, whose forebears were the terror of the western seas for hundreds of years until the 16th century. When they had dined, a bard would announce from the battlements: 'The MacNeil has supped; now the princes of the world may sit down to eat.'

Ferry to castleOur visit began with a short boat trip from the pier in Castlebay. It is possible that the rock was fortified as early as 1000AD and there are claims that one of the buildings was originally a chapel built by St Cieran at a very early date.

CourtyardThe original design was for a three story tower house with a curtain wall shaped to fit the rock on which the castle stands. A number of other structures were built, including the hall and the chapel. The earliest of these still standing today probably dates back to the 1400s.

Castle interiorThe castle would have been difficult to capture being entirely surrounded by sea, yet having a fresh water spring. It withstood several attacks but its lack of comfort and convenience meant it was abandoned as the family’s main residence in the 18th century.

Castle interiorSome time later it was gutted by fire, and by the 1930s much of it had been destroyed. Robert MacNeil’s restoration of the castle as the family home was completed in 1970.

Castle jettyThe first sight of the courtyard through the gateway is very striking and unexpected. There is a very unusual feeling of being in a real and living castle. We were able to see much of the interior athough some of the rooms are still used by the MacNeil family. We climbed up to the walkway around the curtain wall and got some lovely photos of Castlebay. The ferry ride back included a circuit of the bay.



VATERSAY


MemorialThe road to Vatersay is just to the west of Castlebay and at the top of the hill is a modern memorial. From here there are fab views over the bay and towards the causeway to Vatersay.

This causeway came into use in July 1991, costing £3.7m and using a quarter of a million tonnes of rock - most of it quarried locally from Barra. This has transformed access to Vatersay to ensure it will never be abandoned like Mingulay and the other outlying islands.

CausewayThe first ferry ran from Barra to Uidh between 1968-77, operated by a local fisherman who used his boat to ferry passengers on request. In 1977 a sea truck ran for 6 months, but when it had vehicles on board it had to land at Leidag and on the return journey it would land at Caolis.

Annie Jane memorialVatersay is three miles long, but so deeply indented by the sea that only a narrow strip of machair prevents it becoming two separate islands. On either side of this bar are superb sandy beaches. On the dunes above West Bay, a monument records the tragedy in which 350 passengers were killed when their vessel was swept onto the surrounding rocks in 1853. This was the three-masted sailing ship Annie Jane that was en route from Liverpool to Quebec carrying emigrants. The main settlement is a scattered township also called Vatersay, that lies at the southern end of the bar.

It is said that there was a curve carved into a stone near the waters’ edge at Cornaig Bay where Marion of the Heads had her stepsons beheaded. The stone was lost to tidal erosion in the 20th century. Marion and her son Ruari, lived in Kisimul Castle in 1427 following the death of her husband Gilleonan, the 29th Chief of MacNeil. He had 2 children from a previous marriage and in order for Ruari to become the next heir, Marion ordered her servant to kill her stepsons. Many beheadings were known to have taken place when she ruled Barra.

West Bay

During the 1900s the island became known mostly for its beef and lobsters. Cattle were transported to market by ferry from Castlebay, but first they had to swim the Sound of Vatersay.

EorisdaleThere is much to explore on foot, such as the standing stone, the south beach, Ben Cuier and the deserted township of Eorisdale. Along the road that skirts the north side of Vatersay Bay is the wreckage of an RAF Catalina flying boat which crashed in 1944 during a training flight from Oban. We were told it was easy to spot but we couldn’t see it.

East BayBy 1906 the island had been owned for 54 years by Lady Gordon Cathcart, who had only visited once during that time.

Pressure on land throughout the Western Isles led one man to sail to the island and invoke an ancient right by erecting a dwelling and lighting a fire within a single day. He was followed by others, who together became known as the Vatersay Raiders. Some were imprisoned, but in 1909 the Congested Districts Board bought the island and divided it into crofts.



THE SMALLER ISLANDS


The islands to the south of Vatersay used to be known as ‘The Bishop's Isles’ and are now completely uninhabited and a haven for wild birds. Many inhabitants were lost through emigration to Canada between 1790 and the 1850’s. The Islands have been owned by the National Trust for Scotland since 2000 and boat trips can be arranged from Castlebay on Barra.

Barra Head lighthouseBerneray is the most southerly point of the Outer Hebrides, with magnificent cliffs on the west side of Skate Point. It is frequented by grey seal, kittiwake, guillemot, auk and puffins. Barra Head lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson and constructed in 1833. From 1931, the only inhabitants of the island were the lighthouse keepers.

Ruined schoolhouseMingulay is currently used for grazing sheep. There are sheer cliffs on the west, a large number of sea stacks and a large natural arch. In the breeding season these are covered with nesting kittiwake, razorbill, shags, fulmar and guillemot. The island was last inhabitated in 1912 and there is an abandoned village in the east bay. Only two buildings survive,: the schoolhouse and the priest's house.

PabbayPabbay’s name originates from the Old Norse papa øy, meaning priest or hermit island. The island was the site of a Celtic hermitage and there is a Pictish carved stone on the slope above Bagh Ban. Pabbay is home to about 100 sheep, and many ground nesting birds. It never had a large population, and after all the able-bodied men were killed in a storm while out fishing in 1897, it was abandoned.

SandraySandray was heavily affected by the clearances in the 1830’s and the remaining families of shepherds and agricultural labourers abandoned it by 1934. Neolithic settlements and tombs were identified by archaeologists in 1991 and there are traces of the old chapel site Cille Bhride which served the crofts into which the island was divided in the early 19th century. The SS Maple Branch was wrecked on Sandray in 1882 and in World War ll the Empire Homer and the Barron Ardrossan were also wrecked.



ERISKAY


Sound of Barra ferryWe drove north to Ardmhor to catch the Sound of Barra ferry to Ceann a Gharaidh on Eriskay's east coast. Coinciding with the construction of the causeway to South Uist, new harbours and ferry slipways were built at the south end of Eriskay and on Barra. This service provides a more direct alternative to the existing triangular service from Lochboisdale to Castlebay and Oban.

Ceann a GharaidhThis pretty island is famed for the haunting 'Eriskay Love Lilt’ and the farcical 'Whisky Galore' episode. In 1941 the SS Politician, bound for New York with 243,000 bottles of whisky, foundered in the shallow sea north of Eriskay. It is thought that over 2,000 cases or 24,000 bottles were ‘liberated’ before the authorities arrived on the scene. In the aftermath, customs officers searched the entire island and several islanders were jailed for theft.

Am PoliticianSir Compton Mackenzie wrote a book on the incident which was subsequently filmed on Barra. Today it is possible to see bottles of "Polly" whisky in Eriskay's only pub, the Am Politician, in the main village of Am Baile, which is scattered across the rocky north west corner of the island. Unfortunately the pub was closed this early in the day!!

The island was owned by MacNeil of Barra until 1838 when Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula and Barra were purchased by Colonel Gordon of Cluny. He cleared most of the island of the people but Eriskay’s land was too poor to support sheep. Gordon generously permitted some of the people he had displaced to resettle there and as a result, Eriskay's population of 80 was quickly swelled by 400 refugees.

In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie put ashore here, from the French ship Du Teillay, the first time he had ever set foot on Scottish soil. He went on to raise his standard at Glenfinnan. Causeway dedication stoneThis beautiful beach is now called Coilleag a'Phrionnsa, which translates to "the Prince's cockleshell strand". It is home to the white striped pink sea bindweed, a flower not native to the Hebrides. The seeds are said to have fallen from Charles' pocket as he removed a handkerchief.Causeway

The causeway linking Eriskay to South Uist was completed in July 2001 and cost £9.4million. The end result is a 1650m long causeway containing 700,000 tonnes of rock, and carrying the island's water and electricity supply as well as the road. It replaced a private vehicle ferry as well as a foot ferry from Uist to Barra.



SOUTH UIST


Uist cottageWhereas most of the Western Isles are Protestant, South Uist is Catholic and small shrines and statues are scattered throughout the island. It stayed overwhelmingly Catholic after the Reformation and remains a focus of Gaelic culture, despite the efforts over the centuries of Governments and landowners to suppress the language and religion. Community crofting activities like peat cutting, wool dying and seaweed gathering are still part of everyday life. In the 1840s the Clearances led to many of the residents being evicted and forcibly shipped off to Canada.

MachairSouth Uist is the second largest of the islands in the Western Isles, 22 miles long and 7 miles from east to west. There are over 20 miles of brilliant white shell beaches running continuously down the west coast, backed by machair and dunes.

Uist sceneryThe A865 runs the length of the island with side roads to the east and west. To the east the ground rises to the mountains that run almost the whole length of South Uist, dominated by Beinn Mhor at 2033ft , and Hecla at 1988ft. The east coast is composed of fjordic inlets and bays and settlement is mainly around the heads of the three sea lochs: Loch Boisdale, Loch Eynort and Loch Skipport.



Pollochar


har standing stoneWe drove over the causeway to Pollochar where there are magical views south across the Sound of Barra. On the shore is a lone standing stone which is believed to have been used as a marker to help sailors make the passage through the Sound of Barra.

Pollochar InnPretty much all that is there is the Pollochar Inn which does a very good cup of coffee.

We met up with a family of cyclists who were doing almost the same route as us and who we were to see many more times.



Garrynamonie


Thatched croft house We started north on the B888 and took the road west through Garrynamonie passing a thatched croft house that has clearly survived for a very long time.

GarrynamonieThe beach is a beautiful broad sweep of white sand with the island of Orosay at its north end that can be reached at low tide.

Back on the main road we spotted a huge concrete coal bunker. As we got near it, the true scale and impact of the building became clear and we realised it was Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Our Lady of SorrowsVery incongruous in this desolate landscape, we wondered how it must have seemed when designed in 1965 by architect Richard J McCarson.

Our Lady of SorrowsOutside, there are vertical windows above the door and a mural below that was produced in 1994 by Michael Gilfeddar. Inside, it is serene and charming and the steeply pitched roof is reflected in the design.

The road to South Lochboisdale gives some beautiful views north across this complex loch. There are more thatched cottages, now being renovated and at the end of the road is a stone and metal sculpture. There are a number of these "road end sculptures" in the Uists and this one incorporates a number of old tractor parts.



Lochboisdale


Lochboisdale Lochboisdale is best known as the CalMac ferry terminus but we found it deserted as the ferry had already left. By 1953 steamers connected Lochboisdale with Oban, Castlebay, Mallaig and Lochmaddy in North Uist: as road transport was still difficult. Although Lochmaddy was served by vehicle ferries from 1963, Lochboisdale had to continue with a steamer service until the arrival of the roll-on, roll-off ferry in 1974.

Lochboisdale hotel On the south side of the loch is the island of Calvay with an automatic lighthouse and the remains of Caisteal Calvay, a castle dating back to the 1200s. This was one of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hiding places although it was already a ruin by then.

Lochboisdale developed it as an important fishing station with the herring boom in the 1800s and the steamer pier and hotel were built around 1880. The mission church was built in 1905 and a school in 1909 when only English could be used in Western Isles' schools.



Daliburgh


Daliburgh is focussed on a crossroads and is functional rather than picturesque with a hospital and South Uist's main power station that is run on diesel. Some of the best views of the area can be gained by heading west to the sand dunes

A couple of miles north is Askernish Golf Club. This was originally designed by Old Tom Morris in 1892 but part of the land was taken for an airfield in 1936 so there are now only 9 holes. There are plans to reinstate it.

Kildonan MuseumThe Kildonan Museum is well worth a visit. It was expanded and re-opened in 1998 as more than just a museum and now has a café and a craft shop. The museum has items collected by a local Parish Priest, Father John Morrison, during the 1950s and 1960s. There are archeological remains from the bronze age to the Viking era and exhibits contained within the rooms of a recreated croft house.

Clan Ranald StoneIt is also home to the Clan Ranald Stone which is thought to have been carved to commemorate John of Moidart, the chief of the Clan Ranald in the late 1500s. This once stood amid the ruins of Teampull Mor until 1990 but then disappeared until 1995 when it reappeared in a flat in London to be later returned to South Uist amid stories it was cursed.

Outside the museum is a nice sculpture made from steel and embedded in Uist stone. Cut into the sheet are two verses from a Gaelic emigrant song "In Praise of Uist".

On the opposite side of the main road is a a plaque surrounded by stone walls marking the site of Flora MacDonald's birthplace in 1722. She famously assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie avoid capture by Government forces after the Battle of Culloden.



Ormacleit Castle


Ormacleit CastleOrmacleit Castle is private property and the remaining internal structure is very unsafe.

It was one of the last castles to be built in Scotland, being finished in 1708. It was also one of the shortest-lived, being burned down in an accidental fire in 1715. Most stories date the fire to the eve of the Battle of Sheriffmuir which effectively marked the end of the 1715 Jacobite uprising.

It was built as the main residence of Ailean, Chief of the Clan Ranald. It was a T-plan structure on two floors which faced onto a courtyard with a range of ancillary buildings. Some say that Ailean was killed in the fire but Ormacleit Castle was never repaired.



Howmore


Thatched cottageAnother cottageThis village is home to one of Scotland's best collections of thatched buildings. It would have been quite picturesque had the heavens not opened on our arrival. There is a a crofters hostel in a white-painted thatched building but the village is perhaps best known for its remarkable collection of two ruined churches and three chapels which may have origins as early as the 1200s.

Teampull MorThese ruins of Teampull Mor lie on ground that lies slightly higher than the surrounding marshland. A stone wall surrounds part of the area which is a graveyard with two walled burial enclosures inside. Outside the walled area is Dougall's Chapel. A large gable with two windows lies to your left as you go through the gate in the wall.

Teampull MorThis was once the east gable of St Mary's or the Large Church. The gable that stands in the centre of the walled area was once part of St Dermot's Chapel, the second largest building in the complex. The remaining two chapels stood in the walled area. One was demolished in 1866, but the walls Clan Ranald's Chapel still stand and probably dates back to 1574.

Church interiorAt the time of the Reformation, Howmore turned to Protestantism unlike the majority of the island, so Howmore Church is unusual, especially as it has a central Communion table. Howmore Church

The Church also stands on higher ground and with its white harled exterior, it is visible from a long way away so it has been used as a landmark by fishermen off the west coast. The beach is less than half a mile from here and there are tracks to it through the dunes.



Geirinis


Our Lady of the IslesWe climbed up the western slope of Rueval, known as the Hill of the Miracles, to see the 30ft granite statue of ‘Our Lady of the Isles’, by the artist Hew Lorimer. From here, Geirinis appears to stretch along a narrow spit of land between the lochs. The north of the island comprises more water than land and Geirinis is a small settlement close to the south shore of Loch Bee.

Hebrides Missile RangeAbove us, on the summit of Rueval, there is a collection of large golf ball structures, aerials and buildings, while to the west there is an even larger complex. These form part of the Hebrides Missile Range, set up in the 1950s to test a range of military missile systems. The radar station was built later than the statue and diminishes its impact.

Access to much of the area is restricted when the range is operational so notices are posted by QinetiQ (part of the MOD) in a number of surrounding settlements. Red flags are hoisted and red lights are shown. At other times you can reach the beach by passing the heavily fenced off buildings and three launch areas.

There are 7 miles of unbroken white shell sand and Ardivachar Point is believed to comprise the oldest rocks in Britain.

Loch Bee is more or less the dividing line between the Catholic south and the Protestant north. This freshwater loch almost bisects the island and is famed for its mute swans. Loch Druidibeg National Nature Reserve is a breeding ground for greylag geese and a sanctuary for many other birds, including corncrakes.


 

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