Benbecula is sandwiched between the islands of North and South Uist, and is reachable from either of them by road. There is also an airport, and those who arrive by air may be interested to known that it started off as a military airfield, built during World War II. Later, during the Cold War, the airfield was used as the control centre for the Hebrides rocket range. Nowadays there is an army base which is one of the main employers on the island, and which services the South Uist missile test range. The island has a similar topography to its neighbours, with numerous sea lochs dotted among the land.
The origin of Benbecula's gaelic name, Beinn na Faoghla, is slightly puzzling, since it means "mountain of the fords", however there are no mountains on Benbecula, whose highest point is 124 metres. The west side of the island is a mixture of machair (low grassy plain) and white beaches with sand dunes. In the south-west of the island lie the remains of the 14th century Borve Castle which was occupied by the MacDonalds of Benbecula until the early 17th century. The main settlement on the island is Balivanich, whose name, meaning "town of the monks", harks back to a monastery established in the 6th century.
Map of the island.
© 2002 Paul Birrell, via Wikimedia Commons