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North Uist

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North Uist (Scottish Gaelic: Uibhist a Tuath) is an island in the Outer Hebrides, located north of Benbecula and south of Harris. It has a total population of 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 the predominant native language, and place-names and other signs are 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.

Get in[edit]

By boat[edit]

Caledonian MacBrayne [1] operate a number of routes to the Outer Hebrides:
Lochmaddy from the Uig ferry, the mountains of Harris in the background

All of the above ferries convey foot passengers and vehicles. Both Berneray and South Uist have road and bus connections to North Uist via causeways.

The ferry terminals at Uig and Oban have Citylink [2] bus connections to and from Glasgow, Fort William and Inverness.

By air[edit]

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.

By bus[edit]

Buses link North Uist with Berneray, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay. 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.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

Cars will need to be transported by CalMac ferry or hired from one of the companies on Benbecula. With the exception of the causeways and part of the Carinish (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.

By bus[edit]

There are reasonable bus services during the day Mon - Sat, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday [3].

See[edit][add listing]

  • 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 [4]. Where corncrakes can be heard, if rarely seen. Allow 2 or 3 hours for the circular walk.
  • Taigh Chearsabhagh [5] 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.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • 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.

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Hebridean Smokehouse, Clachan, Locheport HS6 5HD for really excellent smoked salmon and other smokery gifts
  • Co-op at Sollas [6], open Mon-Sat 8.30-18.00.
  • Grocer in Lochmaddy
  • Shop at Bayhead
  • Shop at Clachan

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • 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.

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Lochmaddy Hotel
  • Westford, pub on the west side of the island.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

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.


  • There is a Gatliff hostel on nearby Berneray.
  • Uist Outdoor Centre in Lochmaddy[7].

Bed and Breakfasts[edit]

Some can be found on the tourist board website [8], but many are no longer listed due to the changes and "hassle".

  • The Old Courthouse Lochmaddy HS6 5AE +44 1876 500 358 Bed and Breakfast from 25 - 30 pounds per person per night. Around 10 minutes walk from the ferry.

Self Catering[edit]

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 [9].


  • Tigh Dearg Hotel, Lochmaddy [10] 01876 500700 A new hotel (opened in 2005) located about 15 minutes walk from the ferry.
  • Lochmaddy Hotel [11] Tel: 01876 500331 An established hotel next the ferry terminal.
  • Langass Lodge, Locheport [12] 01876 580285
  • Temple View Hotel, Carinish [13] 01876 580676

Get out[edit]

Going North the next islands are Berneray then Harris and Lewis. Going South the next islands are Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay then Barra.

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