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Barra

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Outer Hebrides : Barra
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The 'runway' at Barra airport
Castlebay

Barra [1] is an island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The island has a population of 1078, and is connected by causeway to Vatersay in the south and by ferry to Eriskay (and hence South Uist) in the north. The airport is one of only two in the world where scheduled flights land on a beach runway. The main settlement is Castlebay.

Understand

Barra is a predominately Catholic island, so there are fewer restrictions on Sunday activities (shops etc) than the islands further North. There are also some wayside shrines which is unusual in Scotland.

The Tourist Information Office [2] is in Main Street, Castlebay (01871 810336) and open from Easter to October only (usually opens for evening ferry arrivals). Coming off the ferry, take the right fork in the road and head up past the shops.

Get in

By boat

Caledonian MacBrayne [3] operate to Barra from Oban on the mainland, Eriskay and Lochboisdale on South Uist. ScotRail [4] trains from Glasgow via the West Highland Line and Citylink [5] coaches from Glasgow, Fort William and, in the summer, Dundee connect with the ferries in Oban.

The ferry from Oban to Castlebay takes 5+ hours. In the summer, one journey per week travels via Coll and Tiree. During the winter (October - March) the Oban - Castlebay service operates only four days a week, with train connections from Glasgow on certain days only.

The ferry from Eriskay operates daily up to 5 times per day, with the crossing taking 40 minutes. This ferry lands at the north end of the island, and there are often (but not always) connecting buses to Castlebay.

By air

Barra Airport uses the beach as the runway, which means that flight times vary with the tide. Flights from Glasgow and Benbecula on most days (weather permitting) are operated by Loganair as a franchise of FlyeBe [6]. The prices of the flight from Benbecula to Barra are fixed and well worth the experience.

By causeway

Barra is linked by causeway to Vatersay to the South.

By bus and ferry

As part of the Western Isles Overland Route combination of bus and ferry, you can travel to Barra in under a day from as far north as Stornoway on Lewis.

Get around

Castlebay village can easily be explored on foot.

By bus

There are good bus services during the day Monday to Saturday, but little in the evening and none on Sundays. Timetables may be found here.

There are three bus routes:

  • W32: to/from Castlebay via either the east or west coast to Northbay, the airport, Ardmhor slipway and Eoligarry.
  • W33: between Castlebay and Vatersay

The buses on Barra form part of a much larger network covering the length of the Western Isles, including a complete journey northbound and southbound to/from Ness. All Western Isles timetables may be found here.

See

  • Kisimul Castle, Castlebay [7] - take the five minute boat trip out to this castle.
  • The airport - worth stopping by to watch a plane land on the sand.
  • The church - quite interesting, and gives good views of the bay.
  • Tangasdale Beach

Itineraries

  • Cycle or drive around the island.

Do

  • On a calm day, take a boat trip (enquire locally) to one of the uninhabited islands to the south.
  • Play golf.
  • Sea canoeing [8].

Buy

  • Co-op at Castlebay is open Mon-Sat 08:30-20:00, Sun 12:30-18:00.
  • Grocer on Main Street, Castlebay, sells newspapers.
  • Hardware store in Castlebay.

Eat

The meals in the hotels in Castlebay can be good, especially the fresh local fish and shellfish.

  • Isle of Barra Beach Hotel, Tangasdale Beach
  • Castlebay Hotel.
  • Craigard Hotel.
  • Dualchas Café in the Heritage Centre, Castlebay (daytime only).
  • Cafe Kisimul, Castlebay (By the Harbour down from the petrol pumps in Castlebay), 01871 810 645 or 01871 810 870, [9]. morning 'til late. In the evenings this cafe provides excellent food with a mixture of Italian and Indian cuisines. The aroma of the indian food is just too inviting. Great staff with a trattoria like atmosphere. Only about 6 indoor tables. It is advisable to book at weekends and in high season. If you like Indian style food just don't walk past in the evening ... that aroma is just too much and you might kick yourself for not booking a table ... highly recommended by the 10/08/11 editor. Not expensive.


Drink

  • Castlebay Hotel. Often has live music late on Saturday Nights. The food is reasonable value and quite good quality. The service is an excellent exapmle of Island hospitality. The seafood options are good.
  • Craigard Hotel.
  • Halaman Bar, Isle of Barra Beach Hotel. This is located several a few km out of Castlebay. Architect designed, it looks really posh. Great place to watch the sunset. Large car park.

Sleep

Booking ahead is recommended as the island can get fully booked at popular times.

Hostels

  • Dunard Hostel (Castlebay) 01871 810443 [10] is a 16 bed hostel which caters for families as well as individuals. Book well in advance to stay in summer. A few minutes walk from the ferry.

Bed & breakfast

Some can be found on the tourist board website [11], but many are no longer listed due to the charges and "hassle".

  • Tigh-Na-Mara Guest House [12] (Castlebay) 01871 810304

Self catering

Renting a house for a week or more is a popular option. Such places are generally let from Saturday to Saturday. Some of these can be found on the tourist board website [13].

Hotels

  • Castlebay Hotel - 01871 810223 [14] is a few minutes walk from the ferry. Website also has general info on the island.
  • Craigard Hotel (Castlebay) 01871 810200 [15] is a few minutes walk from the ferry.
  • Isle of Barra Beach Hotel - Tangasdale Beach, 01871 810383 [16] is in a lovely location next to Tangasdale Beach, about 2 miles from Castlebay.

Get out

Head north to the islands to Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Berneray, Harris, Lewis, maybe taking the ferry or flight back to the mainland from Stornoway.



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