North Uist

North Uist is a wilderness – and all the better for it.

The name evokes mystery, intrigue and far off places. The central belt of Scotland is another world away – Glasgow and Edinburgh – the names of metropolises. Cosmopolitan. Less calm and less friendly. The Uists are where home is; closer to nature and closer to the spirit within.

There are fewer places in the British Isles where you can feel so close to nature and to the elements. The sky meets the sea, and North Uist is well-placed to marvel at the world.

Much of North Uist is covered by water, and a number of its lochs contain both fresh and saltwater, giving rise to some quite unique natural habitats. Loch Sgadabhagh is particularly interesting, having been said to have one of the most “irregular and complex” coastlines in Britain. It contains a number of channels, promontories, islands and bays, and a number of crannogs and dùns were sited here.

North Uist suffered significant population reductions due to the Highland Clearances, and there was also mass-emigration to Canada due to a failure in the island’s kelp industry. Historically, whereas South Uist was predominantly Roman Catholic, North Uist was predominantly Presbyterian and so the clearances occurred later on North Uist.

The main village on North Uist is Lochmaddy, from which there is a direct ferry link to Uig on the Isle of Skye. Lochmaddy is home to an arts centre, called the Taigh Chearsabhagh, and it is also located close to the Uist Outdoor Centre. Other villages include Cladach Kirkibost, Paible and Sollas.

But one of the main draws to North Uist is its prehistoric significance. The earliest crannog site in Scotland is located on North Uist, at Eilean Dòmhnuill. There are standing stones and stone circles on North Uist, such as those at Fir Bhreige and Pobull Fhinn – the chambered cairn at Barpa Langass is also well worth visiting for a real sense of prehistory. The same can be said of the roundhouses at Baile Sear (Baleshare).

North Uist is a fantastic place for birdwatching, with corncrakes, Manx shearwaters, corn buntings, gannets and Arctic terns all to be seen here – the RSPB also has a nature reserve at Balranald. If you want to get the best out of North Uist, be sure to get a good map of the local area, such as the Ordnance Survery Explorer or Ordnance Survey Landranger maps.

So why not come to North Uist for your next holiday? Foreign travel has become tiresome, with tourists and tourist tat everywhere. North Uist offers beaches even more stunning than those you will find in Spain or the Caribbean, people are friendlier than anywhere else you will go, the air is cleaner than on the Continent, and you will be free from tourists. A holiday on North Uist is a holiday in the true sense of the word.

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