Barra Blog ‘n’ Blether

Just Do It!

‘Bucket lists’ have been around for quite some time and mine, possibly like yours, was growing, with not many ‘must-do’s’ being crossed off.

So, it really was time to PLAN and take ACTION, otherwise that list would just keep growing!

High on my list was a trip to the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (indeed I’m planning to visit several of my Scottish Islands, and Barra seemed an excellent starting point!)

The decision was made all the easier, since a friend had recently moved temporarily (or so it seemed!) to Barra (calling it her #Barragapyear then, understandably, she fell in love with this magical island, and has now taken up permanent residence!) A mutual friend, Alison, was keen to accompany me, and so the plan became a reality.

Alison & I extend our grateful thanks to Eileen & Jackson for their generous hospitality during our stay.?

Come Fly With Me

One of the unique experiences of travelling to the Isle of Barra is taking the flight in a twin otter plane from Glasgow and landing on the beach at Barra (it’s the only scheduled beach landing in the world!)

Not as scary (and the landing not as bumpy) as you’d think – check out the video link below….and in a short hour, you’re there!

No overhead lockers, the pilot does the safety demo as well as flying the plane, and the seat configuration is very ‘cosy’. Cabin crew? Nope! Bring your own drinks & snacks!

The scenery en route is spectacular and has whetted my appetite for lots more island adventures…

So Much To See

Within the first 24 hours of landing, we had toured most of Barra & Vatersay (the neighbouring island over a causeway), courtesy of Jackson – our tour guide, generous host, cook, technician, dog-daddy and games guru! 🙂

As we travelled along the most gorgeous shoreline, sharing parts of the road with the local sheep, we were in awe of the vast emerald waters, crashing white waves, then quiet sandy coves and unspoilt stretches of sand that could rival Barbados, Bali or Bermuda!

Braving the very blustery winds and horizontal rain to take some photos, we were rewarded with a magnificent full rainbow as we dried off on our journey. Exfoliation treatments are free on Barra – courtesy of the sand & 60mph wind combo….

Trudging through mud, coo pats, over styles, dodging a herd of pregnant cows and battling up a very steep hill were well rewarded with the most magnificent vista of crashing ‘silent’ surf….muted only by the deafening sound of the relentless wind! It was breathtaking (in more ways than one) and a wonderful, raw face-to-face with Mother Nature. The analogy of ‘white horses’ was clearly evident in the powerful aquatic hurdles of the Atlantic waves.

The following day was calm – in total contrast – with a leisurely saunter along Craigston beach, collecting shells, identifying otter tracks and pocketing beautifully coloured pieces of sea glass, mischievously glistening in the morning sun.

Island Life

To say that life on Barra is busy would be an understatement….there are so many activities and events, both outdoors and indoors, taking place. It was refreshing to hear about the younger generation in particular enthusiastically participating along with adults in most of the activities on offer.

On the day we arrived, “Women’s Day” was in full swing with line-dancing instruction and accordion lessons among other taster options, and in the evening we were joined at dinner by Lesley Riddoch then invited to Northbay Hall to see her present a couple of short documentary films on the Faroes and Norway from her “Nation” series. Her enthusiasm and detailed knowledge were inspirational and it has made a very positive impression on my understanding of how small, remote countries can step up and ‘go it alone’ very successfully.


An abundance of animals is evident on this island. Within a very short time we had met the local sheep (and later got up close to some wee Soays) spotted a golden eagle, oyster-catchers, saw seals at play in Barra bay, highland cattle, wild ponies and not forgetting a very special wee resident dug called Thai!

There’s A Downside…

Barra Gin isn’t made on Barra! This learn was quite a disappointment for me, not just because I am partial to a wee drop of the clear stuff, but I had hoped to witness the true organic “botanicals to bottle” process while on the island. Alas, like some other ‘Scottish’ gins this was not to be, but the rainbow in the cloud is that I have the perfect reason to plan my next island visit…to Harris. Not only do they make their own most fabulous gin, their distillery is one of the best and busiest. Whilst there, experiencing 3 of my loves, I will no doubt be in Gin, Tweed and Candle heaven! Now, where is my diary and my map….

Until next time,

Love from Carol & the Scottish Keepsake Clan