North Uist - West side
The West Side is a great place to discover the island’s environment and natural heritage as well as learn a little more about the proud history and continuing community spirit of the North Uist’s inhabitants.
Visiting North Uist makes it easy to understand how local life is shaped and influenced by the island environment – and nowhere is the impact of the elements more apparent than at Traigh Iar – a stunning stretch of white beach, backed by sweeping dunes, which are in turn bordered by the rich machair grasses most commonly found here in the Outer Hebrides.
The Sands make a great place for a family picnic and at low tide you can even walk across to the island of Vallay – once home to linen maker George Beveridge. Vallay, a tidal isand which becomes cut off when the waters rise, has remained uninhabited since the owner was killed in a boating accident and his house now stands in ruins as nature reclaims the land he once prized.
If uninhabited and outlying islands interest you, then the West Side of North Uist is a great place to be. Climb the hill at Clettraval and visit the official St Kilda Viewpoint, where a you can use the binoculars provided to look out over this significant archipelago of outlying islands now designated as a dual world heritage site, or take a boat trip to the Monach Isles – just a short hop across the water from the wonderful west coast – home to one of the largest grey seal colonies on earth.
Witnessing the abundance of island isolation my bring a better understanding of the importance of community here on North Uist, which has drawn settlers since Neolithic age, as evidenced by the archaeological site at Udal – one of the UK’s most important due to its continuous occupation well into the 20th century.
The Scolpaig Tower, which sits at the centre of the Loch of the same name, is another echo of community efforts – having been built during the potato blight of 1830 as a famine relief effort by North Uist factor Dr Alexander Macleod. The octagonal tower built using stones from a prehistoric fort or crannog is also known as Macleod’s folly.
Today, the community on the West Side of North Uist is as strong as ever, and you don’t have to go far to experience the spirit borne of centuries of communal effort, with the Claddach Kirkibost centre providing a focus for activities and hosting a range of events throughout the summer season.
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