North Uist or Uibhist A Tuathis is an island in the Outer Hebrides, north of Benbecula and south of Harris, with a total population of only about 1,200 people, yet is about 20 miles from north to south. It is generally flat and covered, especially in the north and east, by a very large number of lochans, or small lakes. It has no large built up settlements, having a dispersed population scattered mainly over its western side, where the machair provides grazing for crofting. Despite this its history and culture is fascinating, and there are facilities for back-packing, camping and cycling. Ferries arrive at Lochmaddy, a small settlement with a harbour, a couple of decent hotels, an information office, and one or two simple shops. The arts centre Taigh Chearsabhagh is to be found here.
North Uist, like the rest of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, has a long history of neglect by its landlords, and suffered from waves of clearances of the native population, as well as suppression of its native Gaelic language and culture. Gaelic, however, is still commonly spoken as well as English, and place-names and other signs are now usually by default in the Gaelic. A more sympathetic approach to the island's culture and language from the Scottish Government indicate that the island is showing signs of a revival in its fortunes. Unlike South Uist this is a predominantly Protestant island and the Sabbath is observed seriously here, and visitors should be aware of this, although North Uist is a little more relaxed than the more northerly islands of Harris and Lewis, where Sabbath observation can be very strict.
Caledonian MacBrayne, . Citylink coaches generally connect with the ferries on the mainland.
Lochmaddy from the Uig ferry, the mountains of Harris in the background
Uig on Skye to Lochmaddy on North Uist Mon-Sun 1 or 2 per day taking 1 hour 45 minutes. Takes vehicles.
Berneray to Leverburgh on Harris Daily 3-4 per day, taking 1 hour. Berneray is connected to North Uist by a causeway. A small ferry but takes vehicles.
In the Outer Hebrides, there are airports in Stornoway in Lewis, Benbecula and Barra. These airports provide direct flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. The nearest to North Uist is Benbecula
North Uist is linked by causeway to Benbecula to the South and Berneray to the North. On route south to Benbecula the causeway first links to Grimsay, a small island worth exploration for its rugged coast and inlets, fishing harbour, and a number of archaeological sites.
Buses link North Uist with Benbecula, and Berneray. As part of the Western Isles Overland Route combination of bus and ferry, you can travel in under a day from Stornoway or Castlebay on Barra.
Cars will need to have been transported by CalMac ferry, or hired from one of the companies on Benbecula. With the exception of part of the Carinish or Cairinis to Lochmaddy Road, all roads are single-track with passing places. It's important to learn the etiquette of driving on these roads, as well as taking special care.
There are reasonable bus services during the day Mon - Sat, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday.
There are many fine sandy beaches, mainly on the Western shore of North Uist. Traigh Lingeigh is a safe shallow suitable for snorkelling.
The beach at Clachan
Balranald RSPB reserve. Where corncrakes can be heard, if rarely seen. Allow 2 or 3 hours for the circular walk.
Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy. This is an excellent art centre with a museum and gallery, a cafe, post office and a shop. Also worth seeing are the outdoor sculptures (ask inside for the guide leaflet).
The coastline around Lochmaddy and the road to Loch Portain is remarkable for the number of little sea lochans.
There are several prehistoric sites worth visiting, including Barpa Langass, (NF 838657) a 5000 year old burial chamber, and the nearby Pobull Finn (Finn's People), a stone circle (NF 842650). Both accessible from the A687 Lochmaddy to Carinish Road and the islands lochans often contain interesting remains of duns, or fortified houses.
Dun An Sticir (NF 907794) an excellent example of an Iron Age broch reached across a causeway. Off the road to Berneray.
Scolpaig Tower (NF 731750) a folly c.1830 on a small islet that can be reached at shallow water close to the A865.
Teampall Na Trionaid (NF 816603) The Church of the Holy Trinity - an early Christian site close to Cairinis (Carinish) and next to the site of a battleground.
Walk, cycle; visit the numerous artists studios; enjoy the unspoiled natural landscapes; North Uist is excellent for bird-watching and the coasts abound with sea-life.
Multi-activity programmes, sea kayaking, scuba diving, power boating, wildlife watching, rock climbing, abseiling, walking and expeditions. Accommodation can be provided. Lochmaddy - at the far end of the road (past the police station) is the Uist Outdoor Centre (contact Niall Johnson, tel: 01876 500 480).
Visit St. Kilda. The fastest sea transport service to St Kilda (1.5 hours by RIB, carrying sea kayaks), can be organised through Uist Outdoor Centre (above).
Visit the Hut of the Shadows and other End of the Road sculptures. Completed around Easter 1997 with the help of local people by English-based artist Chris Drury on behalf of the Taigh Chearsabhagh.
In Lochmaddy, Leave your vehicle in the parking space just before the road turns left to the Uist Outdoor Centre. Take the track next to the house on the right which leads towards the sea on the right. Continue following the track past the high fences. It leads you to the small suspension bridge, and over the bridge, take the track down to the right towards the sea and you will reach the stone-built chamber. This is well worth a visit and you may be able to spot otters in the vicinity if you are patient.
Hebridean Smokehouse, Clachan, Locheport HS6 5HD for really excellent smoked salmon and other smokery gifts
Claddach Kirkibost Centre. On the A865 not far (1mile) from the Clachan junction is an outstanding cafe (daytime only), perfect for a lunchtime stopover or coffee and cakes. It also has a small shop selling postcards, knitwear and local books etc. It's in an old schoolhouse now used as a day nursery; doesn't look much from outside but worth a visit and there's great views over Baleshare.
There is a decent cafe for snacks in Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy.
For evening meals see the Hotels section.
Westford, pub on the west side of the island.
The information office, near to the harbour, will provide information on bed and breakfast and camping as well as hotels. Mainland tourist information centres will also book ahead for you.
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