South Uist is an isle of two halves: the east is mountainous with numerous indentations and sea lochs, while the west coast consists of an almost continuous beach backed by dunes over 20 miles long. The flatness of the west coast makes it vulnerable to the elements, as was the case in 2005 when a devastating storm with 150 mph winds caused extensive damage to buildings and killed several people. In a terrifying vision of the effects of climate change, it has been predicted that sea levels around South Uist will rise by 37cm by 2080, making the future of the west coast precarious to say the least. Recognising the urgent need to provide protection for this coastline, and frustrated by the inaction of the local authorities, the locals have taken matters into their own hands, using tyres and fishing nets to build a seawall. The lochs of the east coast are rich in wildlife, such as the mute swans of Loch Bee. The freshwater Loch Druidibeg is a nature reserve with a large colony of greylag geese as well as a number of corncrakes.
South Uist, unlike other Hebridean islands, is Catholic, and probably the most prominent sign of this is the granite sculpture of the Virgin Mary known as "Our Lady of the Isles", erected in 1957. The statue was commissioned by a local parish priest in response to proposals to create a large missile test range on the island. The priest was one of the main opponents to the proposals, but his protestations fell on deaf ears and the test range went ahead as planned, overlooked by the statue. The island's leisure activities include an unusual example of a 'lost' golf course. Askernish Golf Course was first laid out in 1891 by Old Tom Morris, but was abandoned in the 1920s. However, the course was restored and reopened in 2008 with a new clubhouse. Fans of archaeology should head to the Kildonan Museum, where the archaeological finds include the Clanranald Armorial Stone, carved with the Clanranald Arms. The Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald, famous for her assistance to Bonnie Prince Charlie while living on Benbecula, was born on South Uist, and there is a monument marking her birthplace at Milton. The main town on the island is Lochboisdale, from where there is a ferry service to Oban.
Map of the island.
© 2007 F Leask, via Wikimedia Commons