The most local shop is at Bayhead and has a limited choice but stocks milk and bread (which can be ordered). There is also a Post Office and fuel there. There are two Co-Ops, one at Sollas and the other at Creagrorry in Benbecula. These provide a good range of provisions. There is another supermarket in Benbecula, MacLellan’s. This provides a good range of provisions including sea food. The local bakery (MacLean’s) is also in Benbecula, and has excellent bread, rolls, oatcakes and cakes. It also has a butcher’s shop. The Hebridean Smokery at Clachan-an-Luib has fantastic peat smoked salmon,trout and pate. There is a fresh fish van which goes round the island, details of its stops are in the local paper Am Paipear.
The Uists have got to be one of the best places in the world for certain pursuits. What follows are some of the activities and places that we like but it is not exhaustive by any means and I’m sure you will find many more interesting and beautiful places. Most places are fairly easily reached. Please be sensitive to crofters’ crops and livestock especially when there are lambs and calves around. The map references refer to OS Explorer 454 and the names are in Gaelic:
- Lagan Arnal 664724. Easy. Just go out of the back gate, turn left and walk down the road/track. Once on the beach it’s better to turn right and head north west. Fantastic views of South Uist and Heisker to the South and West though. If the gates are closed on the track, you can open them as long as you close them behind you. However, sometimes the track can be flooded and sometimes there are cattle on the machair.
- Traigh nam Faoghailean 705705. Balranald Nature Reserve. There is a RSPB visitors’ centre here but if you want you can park at Hogha Gearraidh 710705 and walk SW, W and then N around the bay. There are otters here.
- Traigh stir 730715. Often called Hosta beach. This is becoming a cult beach amongst the surfing community. It faces north and with the right conditions the surf is great for body boarding and surfing. BUT, at high tide, the beach is steep with a dangerous tow and with an offshore breeze with the tide going out it can be quite a struggle to get back to shore so please be careful. Access is via gate off the A865. 727722.
- Traigh Iar. 765815. Park at Greinetobht 757818 and walk over the machair to this spectacular beach. This beach is also popular with surfers. Walk NE to Udal and an extensive Neolithic settlement 785825. Walk back across the machair and Traigh Ear.
- Traigh Hornais 765865 and Traigh Lingeigh 775875. Park at Hornais 768873 for both of these fabulous beaches.
- Bearnaraigh (Berneray) 815895. Park near the monument to Angus MacAskill at 803897. Great views west to Boraraigh and North to na Hearradh (Harris)
- Baile Sear (Baleshare) Park at 613779. Extensively damaged in the hurricane of January 2005, but still a great beach with huge piles of stones.
- South Uist and Benbecula. Virtually the whole of the west coast of these islands are made up of machair and beach. Buy OS Explorer map 453 to see more. Some areas are restricted due to military activity.
- Eabhal (Eaval). Only 350m but a good half-day walk. Park at the road end of the B894 Loch Euphort road 632892 and follow a “path” around Loch Obasaraigh to the foot 610910 and then make your way up avoiding the steep north facing cliffs. You can make your way back to Cairinis (Carinish) if you have left a car there but be sure of your map reading skills because it is quite tricky to find the right way.
- Beinn Langais 654844. A short walk before lunch/supper/dinner at the excellent Langass Lodge Hotel. Park at Barpa Langais car park 658835, walk up to this amazing Neolithic structure, on to the top and then to the Hotel via the stone circle Sornach Coir’ Fhinn (Finn’s stone circle, sometimes called Finn’s people).
- Loch a Chapaill and Loch Uisdean. Walk from the A865 at 744805 (around Ceathramh Meadhanach area) up the hill to the first loch and follow the track past Loch Eisadar to Loch Uisdean. You can carry on up to Marieabhal (230m) for some great views and the possibility of eagles.
- Li a Tuath and Li a Deas (North Lee and South Lee). These are to the south east of Lochmaddy and if you’re good at map reading, then you can park on the A865 somewhere near Loch an Daimh 678888 and walk south east to climb these two modest hills. The ground across the moor is very boggy but there are marker posts.
- Benbecula. Ruabhal (Rueval). Park at 536805 (OS Explorer 453) and walk east out the track past the rubbish dump to Ruabhal, or, if you fancy, carry on out this lonely but lovely track to the sea at Roisinis.
- South Uist. There are lots of hill walks around the three main hills but beware of mist forming quickly on all three. One nice but energetic walk to Beinn Mhor is to start along Loch Ainort (OS Explorer 453), park at the road end 283788 and walk along a track beside Bagh Latach and head up the hill north east to the pass (bealach) at 297818 (Bealach Crossgard). Once on the saddle of the pass, turn north west up the ridge to the summit (620m). There is a track along the ridge and it is advised to stick to it as the ground falls away very sharply to the north east. Obviously you are climbing from sea level so although 620m sounds nothing special, you should allow a good six hours for this trip assuming you retrace your steps.
- Balivanich, Benbecula. A nine hole course in reasonable condition next to the airport. Operates an honesty box system.
- Askernish, South Uist. A gem. 18 holes designed by old Tom Morris. Well looked after overall. A test for any player and some of the views from the tees and greens are quite stunning. Not cheap for visitors though but if you’re a keen golfer this is one opportunity you won’t want to miss.
Places to eat and drink in North Uist
- Langass Lodge. Off the Lochmaddy/Clachan an Luib road near Beinn Langais (see walk no. 2 above). You can choose from the bar menu or from the restaurant menu. £££’s
- Hamersay House. Lochmaddy. Good quality and plenty of it. Nice bar with local art on display. ££’s
- Stepping Stones. Balivanich. Large restaurant and good quality overall. ££’s
- Tigh Chearsabhagh. Lochmaddy. Excellent, innovative arts centre and museum with a café serving good simple food. Open during the day only. £’s
- Kirkibost Centre. Between Clachan an Luib and Bayhead. Open during the day only for teas and sandwich-type lunches. Excellent views and good simple food. £’s
- Westford Arms. Between Clachan an Luib and Bayhead. A local pub that serves good local food. Recently renovated, this is a very nice place to eat. Usually has Skye Brewery real ale in. ££’s