In 1953 a bridge was built, linking the largest island in Loch Roag to Lewis. On the day it opened 4,000 people gathered to cross over and explore Great Bernera...
Visitors today can follow in their footsteps to discover an exciting island with a spirited past and a proud present – offering a wide range of attractions with something on offer for everyone.
The Bernera Bridge itself is an important example of engineering, being the first fixed link of its kind in the country to be built using pre-stressed concrete girders - a construction that came about only after the spirited islanders threatened to blow up the cliffs and create their own causeway!
Once across this significant structure you can immerse yourself in island history with a visit to Bostadh Sands, where in 1993 a wild Atlantic storm allowed the elements to expose the remains of a previously undiscovered Iron Age Village hidden beneath the dunes. Visitors can now view the excavated remnants of an intriguing Pictish settlement and even take a tour of a replica ‘figure of eight house’ placed nearby to aid understanding of these important archaeological artefacts.
The Iron Age House illustrates how early settlers lived off the natural resources of this island and also points to a proud tradition which has been carried down the generations of Bernera islanders - who have at times fought fierce battles to retain their crofting traditions – as evidenced by the evocative memorial to the 1874 Bernera Riot, which was erected by the local community in the 90s to remember their forebears who fought for local land rights, and won.
The memorial also illustrates the close bonds of the Bernera community and is built in the form of a cairn using a stone from each of the crofts in the area, and topped with coping stones taken from the homes of three men who were arrested in this important, and ultimately victorious, uprising.
To view the irrepressible island spirit in action today, visit the Community Centre and Museum at Breacleit, which not only houses an exciting collection of pieces from the past gathered by the local historical society, but also speaks to a bright future for Bernera, with the handprints of the island’s many ‘Millennium Children’ immortalised in its entrance.
The centre also houses a great cafe, which is the perfect place to refresh yourself and recharge before exploring a little more of what the area has to offer – with one suggestion being the stunning coastal walk through Tobson, over Beinn an Toib and down to Bostadh – looking out over the loch where the lagoons have been designated as a Special Area of Conservation and the shores and waters provide the perfect habitats for wildlife including otters and eagles.
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