Barra in the Outer Hebrides is a small island measuring 8 x 5 miles and covers about 20 square miles. The island is hilly with many beautiful beaches. The resident population numbers about 1,400. Both Gaelic and English are spoken on this mainly Catholic island. My photo albums of Barra & Vatersay

Monday, June 20, 2011

Arrival on Isle of Barra

Sunday, 12 June

We parked our car in Oban and loaded our luggage, a few supplies and groceries on our bikes. 

Feel like packhorse!

We embarked on a 5 hour CalMac ferry journey to Barra which arrived in the evening.  Our accommodation was a small but well-equipped, self-catering flat less than a mile from the main town of Castlebay and less than half a mile from the grocery store – the Co-op.  Our only complaint on this trip was the lack of free wifi and the misinformation on a website which stated that our provider, Vodafone, was available everywhere.  Our mobile (android) phones only received a signal in certain parts of the island, not where we stayed and not in Castlebay.  We definitely plan a return trip to Barra.


  • Friendly locals
  • Stunning, breathtaking scenery
  • Clear, blue-green sea
  • Wide, white, clean sandy beaches
  • Wildflowers everywhere!  Machir of daisies, buttercups, etc.  Wild orchids, wild irises. 
  • Dramatic rocky hills and cliffs
  • Perfect place for bike riding and hiking (although the hills can be rough!)
  • The Heritage Walks are wonderful, but they do need to be better marked with more posts marking the trails. 
  • Our flat:  Ceum a Bhealaich           
  • We saw where the movie Whisky Galore was filmed. 

Lighthouse passed on the way

Another CalMac we passed on the way

Sunny day!

Monday, 13 June

The forecast predicting rain all day was, fortunately, incorrect!  It was sunny all day and breezy but I think the island is breezy or windy most of the time.  The bike ride began with a trip of less than 2 miles to a hotel for lunch.  The Isle of Barra Beach Hotel  overlooks a gorgeous beach.  Our timing was perfect as a large pod of dolphins were feeding and attracted a crowd from the hotel to watch, many of us with cameras. 

We continued riding after lunch and completed the entire 12 mile loop around the island.  It is an incredibly hilly island and several times we had to stop and walk the bikes up hills. 

In the evening we walked to the Castlebay Bar next to the hotel and were delighted to find that some of the locals were having an impromptu music session playing mainly traditional Scottish music. 

Sunshine - bike ride to Vatersay

Tuesday, 14 June

We rode our bikes to the Isle of Vatersay which is connected to Barra via a causeway.  Very hilly which is exhilarating on the way down the hills but the return trip tests one’s stamina!  The beaches are simply breathtaking - white sand, blue-green clear water, rocky or rolling green hills. 

We walked part of the Vatersay trail which entailed climbing up steep hills and traversing rough ground.  Gorgeous views!

Wild orchid

Sunshine again!

Wednesday, 15 June

Forecast was again for rain all day and the day started with fog but had lifted by mid-morning and was again a beautiful sunny day.  It became party cloudy in the afternoon.

I was too knackered to hike so had a rest, did a load of laundry, and walked into town.  I, of course, had to do my duty as a tourist and visit the Hebridean Toffee Company and buy some tablet.  Yum!  I also visited the Heritage Centre which was interesting and looked like a great place to research ancestors from Barra – MacNeils being the most common.

Danny caught the local bus to the beginning of the Eoligarry trail, a hike which normally takes about 4 hours.  The hike ended at the airport which is the only airport in the world where the timetable depends on the tide.  Danny took these photos with his phone:

In the evening we rode our bikes to the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel for dinner and to use the internet via our android mobiles.  The haddock and chips in the Halaman Bar was excellent!  It was a lovely night but windy on a bike.

Mostly sunny hike

Thursday, 16 June

Hike on Tangasdale Trail
Rain was again predicted but it was sunny except for about an hour in the early afternoon.  It began to rain just as I’d packed away the camera in waterproof bags and was putting on my rain pants. 

The hike was of easy to moderate difficulty and fairly well marked with much of the walk overlooking the ocean with waves crashing on the rocks.  Very pleasant day. 

Rain! Wind! Shite!

Friday, 17 June

We rode our bikes to the airport in spite of the rain and winds, and although Danny didn’t find it too unpleasant, I found it to be a miserable experience.  We had lunch at the airport and planned to watch a plane land on the beach, but just missed one and were too early for the next one. 

Before we left we walked behind the airport and climbed a trail over the dunes to view a very long beach with surfers. 

Barra Airport - beach runways

Mostly sunny - short bike ride

Saturday, 18 June

A lovely day but we were very tired, so we packed a lunch and rode our bikes to a couple of beaches within about 2 or 3 miles of us.  We stopped at Halaman Bay again which is next to the Isle of Barra Beach Hotel.  It's also a good place to check the internet using our phones. 
Love this beach between a river and the ocean

Halaman Bay

Going home

Sunday, 19 June

We boarded the ferry in the morning for the 9.20 departure and discussed when we'd return to Barra for another visit. We were happy with the flat which was our accommodation, but would love to have had wifi. The location was convenient to the main town of Castlebay and was only about 1/2 mile to the grocery store. This is ideal for bicycyles instead of using a car. It would be nice to have a house or cottage facing the ocean as we've had on the Isle of Colonsay, but the price would be at least double and would likely not be convenient for using bicycles only.

On ferry leaving Castlebay

Ferry terminal, Castlebay

Seagull following our ferry as we near Oban