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Isle of Barra Western Isles Stock Photo Library - Map and Diary

The Isle of Barra is reached from Oban by Ferry ( 5 hours) or by plane from Glasgow ( 45mins) where a beach landing to the North of the Island at Barra Airport formed on the sands at traigh mhor is an exciting start to a visit to this lovely island. The west coast beaches are of white sands and the sea is crystal clear. Wildlife abounds and there are many walks throughout the island. Make sure that you walk to the top of ben heaval for magnificant views in all directions including castlebay, sandray, mingulay , vatersay - weather permitting!! To the south Vatersay is now reached by a causeway further extending the places to explore with ease. Commercial stock photo library images below.Visit this island for a week to do it justice and you will not want to leave....

Other Barra albums: [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ] [ 4 ] [ 5 ]

Most westerly inhabited island in Great Britain, population about 1300, highest point Ben Heaval - 1260 ft, only airport in GB at Traigh Mhor ( Cockle Strand) to be washed by the tide – enjoy a beach landing, 11th Century Kisimul castle in Castlebay, plus over 150 bird species and 400 plant species – don’t forget to see the machair in spring. I visited with my son in August 2000 when we were blessed with mainly clear and sunny skies. We arrived at 7.30pm on the ferry from Oban - a calm crossing under sunny skies. Keen to explore the island we quickly made our way to Vatersay just in time to catch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. The orb was visible right to the horizon but shortly after the temperature dropped several degrees very quickly. In the twilight of dusk we drove to the Bed & Breakfast at Ocean View, Borve where we were greeted by the Beatons. I had tried to fly to Barra the previous year in July - however this was not to be. The plane from Glasgow was delayed by bad weather and on arrival the weather closed in again and the pilot could not see cockle strand - all I remember was seeing a few waves crests through the clouds as we tried to land - one attempt only as the plane did not carry enough fuel for a second attempt. Then it was back to Glasgow and then back home to London totally dissappointed!! Hence the choice of the ferry this time - I was determined to make it and did!!

Barra is mostly owned by the MacNeil of Barra – Ian MacNeil, an American who teaches law at Northwestern University, Chicago. The Scottish Office owns the crofts in the North of the Island and Vatersay now linked to Barra by a causeway. Bar was a 6th Century Saint – an Irish missionary and disciple of St Columba who is reputed to have been sent to Barra because his predecessor had been eaten by the inhabitants. The medieval fortress of Kisimul Castle which includes a keep, hall and castle is built below the town of castlebay on a rocky outcrop in the bay.The castle is normally open to the public on Wednesday and Saturday. One of the world’s most exciting airfields is found to the north of the island at Traigh Mhor or cockle strand. In the 18th Century up to 200 cartloads of cockles were collected from this famous beach every day during times of famine. The wind sock is removed when the airport is closed and then the beach is popular for learner drivers ( and responsible adults… ) to practice their skills on this flat and wide expanse of sand – as my son will testify!! Apparently speeds of over 60 mph can be reached…..

A scenic flight is available to Benbecula which takes 20 minutes each way plus a 30minute stop-over at Benbecula airport. The cost was £30 return. I took a number of aeriel shots en-route which are displayed in the South Uist Album. The views from the air were truly magnificant – make sure you sit on the right hand side of the plane on both legs of this trip or all you will see is sea!! The new causway to Eriskay was underway which will remove its island status shortly.

We caught the Barra ferry from Eoligarry to Eriskay via South Uist one day passing the causeway currently under construction.

Barra beaches are mostly deserted . I sat on the deserted beach at Halaman Bay on a sunny day with my son whilst we inflated a small dinghy ( stamped on the side -"for fun use only not a life saving device" ) that we had bought along – within minutes several canoe’s appeared and about 12 people in the latest outdoor designer gear came ashore and decided to occupy "our space" on this wide and sandy beach – by then the dingy was inflated so we set sail rowing furiously hugging the coast for about a mile before landing again – the sea was very calm but there were a few rocks and one or two waves accompanied by a faint "hissing" sound from the dinghy……. but we made it!!!

The west coast beaches are of white sand and crystal clear waters – but very cold! I did not see anyone swimming at all!!

Beaches to visit ( basically any / all of those on the West Atlantic Coast):

Halaman Bay – wide sandy beach by the Isle of Barra Hotel where we ate most nights watching the sunset - excellant fare only a short walk from Ocean View.

Traigh Eais – on the west coast opposite the airport at Traigh Mhor reached by a short walk through machir and sand dunes some of which are very high. I took several photographs here early morning keeping a watchful eye for many species (oyster catchers, fulmar etc ) of birds not too happy at my early morning visit! One feels rather vulnerable when surrounded by a vast expanse of beach with no cover… an umbrella or stick becomes very useful!!

Borve Beach – Here a river enters the North side of the main beach creating some interesting photographs at sunset where the river meets the sea.

Vatersay bay – a short drive from Castlebay across the narrow causeway completed in 1990, brings you to East and West coast beaches joined by a narrow strip of fertile land. Vatersay Bay to the east is mostly tranquil whilst the atlantic rollers plague the west coast at Bagh Siar. Here there is a monument to victims of a shipwreck which occurred in 1853 when the Annie Jane left Liverpool bound for Quebec with hundreds of emigrants. The ship was swept onto the rocky Vatersay coast and the majority of the passengers were drowned. A pebble cairn with a wooden cross was next to the monument and inspired a rather creative sunset picture - see main photo-page. A walk north and upwards quite steeply provided great views of the isthmus and the islands of Sandray, Pabbay and Mingulay beyond. Did not quite make it to the top ( had just had a rather large evening meal at the Barra Hotel !! ) of this hill where no doubt the reward would have been fine views to Castlebay and beyond.

There are specactular views from both of the highest hills Ben Heaval and Ben Tangaval where one can see the rolling hills of barra to the North and the wide sweep of the Borve Valley dropping down to the sandy west coast. There are many enjoyable walks on this wonderful island – guides are available. Take care when walking in the hills as mists and sudden climatic changes have given rise to many ghost stories and mysterious disappearances! It is possible to walk around the island in an afternoon - the main road loops 12 miles around the island. In fact every morning I did a circuit ( in the car) looking for photo opportunities around sunrise. We walked to the top of Ben Heaval early morning on the first full day on the island, after a rather large ( too large for walking) and hearty breakfast and were rewarded by clear blue skies and views to South Uist in the North and as far as Mingulay to the South – I took several photos of Castlebay and beyond. We completely missed sight of the white marble statue of the Madonna and Child "Our Lady of the Sea " as we had decided to take the "direct" route which on reflection was very tiring and rather disappointing!! I had imagined an image with castlebay in the background taken from above the statue but I will have to come back for that! Two days later we were on Mingulay having taken a 2 hour boat trip from castlebay – see Mingulay Album for further details on this remote island which I consider to be a mini-rival to St.Kilda with 800 foot cliffs – sheer cliffs!!

The holiday over, with only one day of poor weather we headed back to Oban catching sight of several dolphins on a clear and sunny crossing. Who ever said it always rains in Scotland??

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