Visiting Benbecula - What to See and Do

(Benbecula Airport BEB, Scotland)

As one of Scotland's Outer Hebrides islands, Benbecula is linked by causeways to two other Hebrides islands, South Uist and North Uist. Otherwise, this island is only accessible by sea or air. Those who make the journey west of mainland Scotland to this isolated spot, however, will encounter a peaceful place lined with charming cottages along its sandy bays, as well as a handful of appealing attractions.

Most of Benbecula's slightly less than 1,250 permanent residents are Roman Catholic and over half of the local population speaks Gaelic as their first language. Less than a century ago, the majority of the island's population was made up of native Gaelic speakers. The island's Gaelic name, 'mountain of the ford,' comes from the only hill on this flat land, Rueval.

Benbecula's two largest settlements are Balivanich, a Gaelic name meaning 'town of the monks,' which comes from its ancient monastery, and Lionacleit, home to the island's main secondary school and community centre.

Ten things you must do in Benbecula

  • Visit the ruins of Borve Castle in south-west Benbecula. John of Islay's divorced wife, Amie MacRuari, is said to have constructed this 14th-century tower house between 1344 and 1363. The MacDonalds later occupied this stately structure well into the early 17th century.
  • Learn Gaelic from the island's friendly locals, over half of whom speak Gaelic as their native tongue. The percentage of native Gaelic speakers in Lionacleit, Benbecula's second-biggest community, is as high as 75 percent.
  • Travel south of the island's largest community, Balivanich, and see the remains of Columba's Church and the 6th-century monastery from which Balivanich received its Gaelic 'town of the monks' name.
  • Learn more about this tiny island's history from the Benbecula History Society, based in Balivanich, or the library and small museum situated in Lionacleit.
  • Tee off at the golf club next to the Benbecula Air Strip. The Atlantic Ocean and Monach Isles are the stunning backdrops to this naturally flat nine-hole course, where the biggest obstacles are rabbit scrapes.
  • Jog past the island's flowered grasslands and Market Stance as birds soar overhead and feed their young during the annual Benbecula Half Marathon, a 17-km / 11-mile long event held each year on June 1st. Shorter, but no less scenic runs, include a 10-km / 6-mile race, a 7-km / 4-mile fun run, and a 3-km / 2-mile fast track.
  • See the only major hill on this flat island, the 124-metre / 407-feet high Ruabhal. This was once one of the major transportation links between North and South Uist prior to the construction of the causeways connecting those two islands with Benbencula today.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the east coast village of Craigstrome and its surrounding moorlands, bogs and lochs, both of the seaside and freshwater variety.
  • Worship alongside the local faithful each Sunday at the Benbecula Parish Church of Scotland. This 'church without walls' has stood at its present location at Benbecula's walking centre, Griminish, since 1886.
  • Visit the village of Nunton, on the island's west coast, and its nearby Culla Bay beach, considered one of the finest attractions of its kind on the island. Culla Bay also ranks amongst the area's longest beaches, extending from Nunton to another nearby village called Aird.

Benbecula Airport BEB

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