Introduction to Island of Barra in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. - The Outer Hebrides in miniature and one of the most beautiful islands in the whole group. In its few miles it holds over 1000 species of wildflower and one of Scotland's finest castles.
Phone code:44 (0) 1871 | Population: 1,316
It may be tempting to overlook the little island of Barra, only about eight miles long by five miles wide, but this would be a great mistake, as it's one of the most beautiful of all the islands in the Outer Hebrides. Here you'll find the best of the islands in miniature - beaches, machair, peat-covered hills, tiny crofting communities and Neolithic remains - and a couple of days spent on Barra gives a real taster of Hebridean life. Gaelic culture is also strong here but, with its Catholic tradition, Barra is a bit more laid-back than many of the other islands in the Outer Hebrides and doesn't follow the others' strict Sabbatarianism.
Travel Directions to Barra
Getting to Barra
The best way to arrive is by air at Tràigh Mhòr ('Cockle Strand'), the famous airstrip on the beach at the north end of the island. This is the only airport in the UK where flight schedules are shown as 'subject to tides'.
Barra is also reached by car ferry from Oban and Mallaig on the mainland (for more details, and also by car ferry from Lochboisdale on South Uist, and by passenger-only ferry from Ludag on South Uist.
Getting around Barra
There is a regular bus/postbus service (5-8 times per day Mon-Sat) that runs from Castlebay to the ferry port of Eòlaigearraidh, via the aiport. There are also buses (3-4 per day Mon-Sat) from Castlebay to Bhatarsaigh (Vatersay). You can also hire a car or a bicycle to tour the island at your leisure (see below).
The A888 follows a circular route of 14 miles around the island, making an ideal day's bike tour from Castlebay. Heading west, it passes the turning for the causeway to Vatersay, then runs northwest between two hills (Sheabhal to the east and Beinn Tangabhal to the west) to the west coast, where you'll find the nicest beaches. One of these is at Halaman Bay, near the village of Tangasdal (Tangasdale), overlooked by the Isle of Barra Hotel. At the turning for Borgh (Borve) there are standing stones. Next is the turning for the small settlement of Baile Na Creige (Craigston), where you'll find the Thatched Cottage Museum, an original 'blackhouse' and the chambered burial cairn of Dun Bharpa.
Info Museum open Easter-Oct Mon-Fri 1100-1700. £1. From Dun Bharpa there are pleasant walks into the surrounding hills, with the summit of Sheabhal offering tremendous views from the highest point on the island.
North of the turning, near Allathsdal (Allasdale), is another lovely beach, and just beyond are the remains of Dun Cuier, an Iron-Age fort. Make a short detour at Greian, and follow the headland to the rugged cliffs at Greian Head.
The A888 then heads east to Bagh a Tuath (Northbay), where a branch left leads to the village of Eòlaigearraidh (Eoligarry), near the northern tip, surrounded by sandy bays washed by Atlantic rollers. A private passenger ferry leaves from here to Ludag on South Uist.
The road to Eoligarry passes the island's airport at Tràigh Mhòr, the 'cockle strand', which once provided 100 to 200 cartloads of delicious cockles each day. Now the cockleshells are gathered and used for harling, the roughcast wall covering used on many Scottish houses. By the beach is the house that was once the home of Compton MacKenzie, author of Whisky Galore! He lies buried at Cille Bhara, to the west of the village of Eòlaigearraidh, along with members of the MacNeil clan. This was one of the most important religious complexes in the Outer Hebrides, built in the 12th century, and consists of a church and two chapels. One of these, St Mary's, has been re-roofed and houses several carved medieval tombstones and a copy of a runic stone. The original is in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.