I live on the Outer Hebridean Island of North Uist and I’m rather biased when I say that we really do have some of the most stunning beaches, landscapes and interesting archaeological sites to be found in Scotland! I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite places of stunning scenic beauty from Berneray all the way down to Eriskay!
1. Traigh Lar, Island of Berneray.
The reason why I’ve chosen this place doesn’t need much explaining, you can see for yourself the pristine vast expanse of white sand that looks out to the Islands in the North. Traigh Lar sits on the West side of Berneray, an Island which sits in the sound of Harris and is home to a lively and thriving community. The machair which also runs parallel to Traigh Lar is ideal for walking and is a haven for wildlife such as the elusive corncrake. It is also crowed with an assorted variety of wildflowers throughout the summer months! A stunning place overall!
2. Udal Peninsula, North Uist.
This area is one of the richest most sacred areas on the Island for viewing at first hand the time capsule which has preserved centuries of human habitation on the site. This is an area of astounding archaeological interest and is one of the richest human and natural environments of the Western Isles. There are three zones on the Udal site which were excavated between 1963 and 1994 under the direction of Iain Crawford. The excavations, over the years have revealed stories of humans living here over a period of some 8,000 years spanning the Neolithic period to the 18th Century. This certainly blows my mind and it’s a place you must see for yourself to understand the importance and extraordinary way in which this site has been preserved with such rich history.
3. Hosta, North Uist
Hosta beach sits on the West side of the Island and looks out to the uninhabited Islands of the Monachs and on a clear day you can even catch sight of St Kilda. It is a vast expanse of high sands dunes, varied machair soil, an abundance of wildlife, an exposed wild shoreline that takes the brunt of the storms coming off the Atlantic and some of the most incredible sites of geological interest on the Island. I personally enjoy going to Hosta on a stormy day and looking out to the incoming weather front, the edge of the Atlantic where the elements are constantly shifting, and you feel tiny surrounded by the impressive dominant environment. A place to stay for a while and watch the weather change constantly.
4. Barpa Langass on North Uist.
Barpa Langass is another site of archaeological interest. It is a 5,000-year-old burial chamber thought to be the place of a Neolithic chieftain. The chamber has partly collapsed and is quite dangerous to enter but you can see into the chamber quite easily as the tunnel is relatively short. It is also a stunning setting as from the hill where Barpa Langass sits you can take in the view to the North of the Island looking out to the hills of North and South Lee, Eabhal and even to the hills of Harris. The site is another place that has been well maintained and is spectacular to think about the history behind this structure. It’s so important that these places still exist and so it’s imperative to take care around this ancient site, respect the signs and just simply enjoy the views that have been enjoyed for thousands of years from this unique and significant place.
5. Benbecula, Peter’s Port
Peters Port on the Island of Benbecula is an area that is quite often overlooked on the little Isle. It is down a winding single-track road that leads you to a harbour which is home to an abundance of smaller Islands scattered out to shore. The views from here are stunning looking down to the hills of South Uist, North Uist and even on a clear day you can make out every single point of the Cuillins on Skye. It is a place of solitude and it’s a great spot to sit and scan the loch edge to look out for the abundance of wildlife that can be found in the area. This is a very popular spot for Otter’s, if you can sit for long enough be sure to scan to the North and South of the port whilst checking in the creeks as they can turn up anywhere. Remember, they are quite illusive though!
6. Loch Eynort, Island of South Uist.
Loch Eynort sits in an impressive area surrounded by the hills of Ben More, Corrodale and Hecla: all fantastic hikes to go on if you really want to see more of the Island and get a feel for the network of waterways and sea lochs that make up the patchwork of the Island. At the end of Loch Eynort there is an impressive forest walk through forestry plantations that offer scenic views out to the Lochs but also offers shelter from the prevailing winds that can be quite a constant here in the Western Isles. Again, this is another spot that is home to lots of wildlife, you can often see seals, otters and plenty of varied species of birdlife in this part of South Uist. An area to explore and make the most of the many walking routes that are popular and well maintained in this area.
7. Isle of Eriskay!
Eriskay sits on the south of the chain of the Uists. It is joined to South Uist by causeway yet stands alone in its unique beauty, history, culture and wildlife. It has everything you are looking for on an island, it is alive with the very essence of the Outer Hebrides; a varied environment, a significant landscape that is rich with layers and layers of history whilst being home to a unique and hardy breed of Eriskay pony that roam free around the Island.
Eriskay has also been made famous by the S.S Politician Ship that crashed off the shores of Eriskay in 1941. This very boat was carrying an enormous amount of precious cargo including many bottles of whisky which was in short supply on the Islands during the war years. The Island fishermen used their boats to reach the wreck, reportedly bringing thousands of the bottles ashore!
One of my favourite spots is Eriskay beach that looks over to the neighbouring Island of Barra. This beach is said to be the site where Bonnie Prince Charlie first arrived in Scotland. It is also a lovely starting point to walk around the coast of the island and explore the main village or head up the hill to catch some wonderful views overlooking the Islands and beyond. A gem of a place that beckons you to slow down and explore.