Vatersay – Barra

The islands of Vatersay and Barra are beautiful and arresting.


Camping on the Vatersay machair, there are beaches to the East:


and to the West.

The East beach is good for swimming and strolling. The West beach is more exposed, and a little more compelling: all pounding waves and gneiss boulders with fabulous ice-cream swirls. The beach is overlooked by an unmistakable iron-age broch, which looms dully on the horizon. The pools and waves run red with Rhodophyta — which seems suggestive of the beach’s sad history, and reminds you of the nineteenth-century bodies that are buried in its dunes.


Following the coastline on foot for a few miles, you will see many other signs of humans in the landscape: the standing stone (or is it a gate-post?) above Uidh; the abandoned village of Eorisdale; and the ruins of the laird’s house, whose absentee rule was overturned by the collective endeavours of the remarkable Vatersay raiders.

If your feet lead you to the hills, then walk up from Castlebay, where the highest of Barra’s island range (Heaval), lives up to its reputation as a materhorn in miniature:


From the top of the range there are stunning panoramic views. On Heaval, Jesus and his mum (whose effigies can be spotted all over the Southern Outer Hebrides) have nabbed one of the best ones.


It is fun to climb up to the highest point on the island.


But when the sky starts to darken, you can come down from the hills and head over to Cafe Kisimul. Here you might enjoy a Hebridean beer, great music, and some tasty scallop pakoras, in the location made famous by the 1949 Ealing comedy, Whisky Galore.


Barra is brilliant.