North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra & nearby small islands
Benbecula, North and South Uist Over the Sound of Harris are North and South Uist, with Benbecula separating the two. These islands are littered with fresh water lochs which support a surprising range of plants and trees from water lilies to native willow. The highest density of breeding waders are to be found here but they are under threat from foraging hedgehogs, four of which were brought to South Uist in 1974 by a homeowner looking for a solution to pest control in his garden. They bred. A lot. Cue a “you couldn’t make it up” story with Scottish Natural Heritage on one side and Uist Hedgehog Relocation on the other. UHR was set up to campaign against the killing of hedgehogs by SNH. In February 2007 SNH agreed to trial relocation of hedgehogs to the mainland instead of culling them. Fly away piggies!
Lochmaddy is North Uist’s town and ferry port and Lochboisdale is the main town on South Uist, connected to the mainland by a ferry from Oban. Benbecula supports a military base which in turn supplies St Kilda.
Eriskay, Barra and Mingulay South of South Uist is Eriskay, the infamous Whisky Island where the SS Politician ran aground in 1941 carrying, amongst other things, 264,000 bottles of whisky. The islanders “liberated” this cargo and by the time HM Customs arrived most of it had either been drunk or hidden. A few years later Sir Compton Mackenzie immortalised events in his book “Whisky Galore!”, an entertaining tale of events which was made into a film in 1948 on the neighbouring island of Barra.
Castlebay is the picturesque principal town on Barra, an island which is noted for its wildflowers and butterflies. Nearby are small uninhabited islands, some of which you may be able to visit, including Vatersay which is linked to Barra by a causeway and Mingulay with its St Kilda-like stacks and cliffs, the latter being recently purchased by The National Trust for Scotland.
DID YOU KNOW?
The first signs of habitation on Hirta (the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago and the only one you can really land on) are thought to have occurred c. 600 AD.