Rich in wildlife and history, with sweeps of white sand backed by dunes and machair, Berneray in the Outer Hebrides is a thriving community with an array of services and facilities. Berneray sits between the Isle of Harris and the Isle of North Uist, and its population of 140 is linked to the islands of Uist by a 900m-long causeway.
Ask an Islander
We asked locals in Berneray to tell us why their island is special. Here’s what they said:
The name Berneray is from the Old Norse Bjarnar-øy and means either ‘Bjorn’s island’ or possibly ‘bear island’.
The world’s largest giant, Giant Macaskill, was born on Berneray in 1825 and is noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest giant. Visit the Giant Macaskill Cairn that was erected in 1991 to commemorate his birthplace.
Local traditions are still upheld, and nowhere is this more evident than in their New Year celebrations. Berneray is one of the last remaining places celebrating Oidhche Challain – or the Old New Year – which is celebrated on January 12. Children dress up in fancy dress, visit each house and recite a verse in Gaelic – a duan that tells of their hunger – before asking the householder to hand over their surplus food or risk a curse being put on their house.
The island’s pure white sandy beaches and turquoise waters are frequently listed amongst the best in the world and were once used in error to advertise Kae Bae beach in Trat Province, Thailand. Check out the stunning West Beach, but be careful not to park on or damage the machair, which is a haven for rare flora and fauna. As well as some of the best beaches in the Outer Hebrides, Berneray boasts one of the best machairs in the Hebrides, with an incredible array of flora and fauna during the brief summer months.
Gaelic / Gàidhlig
The Gaelic name for Berneray is Beàrnaraigh.
What’s the Gàidhlig for a ‘sunny’? That’s ‘grianach‘!
You can reach Berneray via a causeway from North Uist. CalMac Ferries also operate sailings between Leverburgh in Harris and Borve on Berneray.
Find out more about getting to North Uist.
Find out more about getting to Harris.
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