Barra can be reached by ferry from Eriskay as well as from Oban on the mainland. Such is the appeal of this tiny island, with its green machair dotted with flowers in springtime and its beautiful, empty beaches, that it has been nicknamed "Barradise". The island's main road loops round in a circle, providing an ideal thoroughfare for cyclists. In my blog post about Eriskay, I mentioned that Eriskay was where the events took place which provided the inspiration for the Whisky Galore book and film. The film was shot in Barra (under the name "Tight Little Island" in the US). The main settlement on Barra is the village of Castlebay, which as its name suggests, has a castle in its bay. This is the medieval Kismul Castle, accessible to visitors via a ferry, and offering fine views of the bay. The castle was bought in 1937 by the chief of the Clan MacNeil, who has since leased it to Historic Scotland. Next week there is an international gathering of the clan at the castle.
Vatersay is another island, linked to Barra by a causeway which was completed in 1991. The island is a magnet for lovers of ancient remains, having an Iron Age Broch (at Dun a' Chaolais) and a Bronze Age cemetery (at Treasabhaig) to name but two sites. Nature lovers will find otters, seals and herons, along with sparkling white beaches. There is a monument on the island commemorating a shipwreck which occurred in 1853. The ship, Annie Jane, was on its way from Liverpool to Montreal, but succumbed to a storm off Vatersay, where, in spite of the best efforts of the local people, only a few survivors were rescued. Another reminder of past tragedy is the remains of the JX273 Catalina flying boat, which crashed here during a training flight from Oban.
Map of the islands.
© 2005 Chris McLean, via Wikimedia Commons