The Outer Hebrides are a beautiful island chain just off the northwest coast of Scotland. Known for its pristine beaches, rugged mountains, turquoise waters and abundant wildlife, the Outer Hebrides is a paradise retreat for city dwellers all around the world. One of the islands that you should definitely consider exploring at the Outer Hebrides is Benbecula. Situated in between the South Uist and North Uist islands, Benbecula is considered an off the beaten track destination that has plenty of surprises for travelers who are not afraid to venture into the unknown.
The island’s Gaelic name is Beinn na Faoghla, which means Mountain of the Ford. However, this is considered a peculiar name as there is no mountain on the island but a hill that stands at only 406 feet. This hill, which is called Rueval, acts like a gateway to the neighboring North and South Uist. Today, it is easy to cross to other islands through the causeways. However, it was not always the case centuries ago, as it is believed that crossing to the other islands involves going over treacherous tidal sand stretches.
Benbecula was also a site for an important airfield built during the World War II. On the eastern and western sections of the island, you will find fresh water lochs (inlets). At its coastline, which overlooks the Atlantic, sand dunes, grassy plains and sandy beaches await explorers. The main settlement on the island is called Balivanich. Situated on the northwest coast of the island, this is where the ruins of the 6th century monastery can be found. That’s why it is not surprising that the name Balivanich actually means “town of the monks”. Since it is the designated administrative center of the island, this is where most essential commercial facilities and government offices are located. Balivanich also houses the only airport on the island. The airport facilitates regular flights between the Outer Hebrides islands.
Being in Benbecula is all about soaking in its serene and relaxing atmosphere. But if you do need to do something more physical, why not try your golf skills at the Machair course of Benbecula Golf Club, or riding skills at Uist Community Riding School in Balivanich. Since the scenery of the island is amazing, cycling and walking are popular activities that tourists enjoy in Benbecula. The Rueval Hill is a favorite destination among hikers as it is the highest point on the island.
The way to the summit is quite an adventure as you will go past a historical cave. Other travelers who can’t get enough of the lochs and landscape, head over to the Linaclete settlement, on the southern end of the island. Just on the west coast of the island, you will find a nice beach where you relax the entire day.
The villages of Benbecula have successfully kept their culture and heritage. One of the best things to do while on the island is to visit small villages like Creagorry and Uachdar, and get to know some locals and learn about their daily lives. If you have an Indiana Jones-like interest in ruins and the island’s history, then you should definitely find your way to the other interesting ruins like the remains of the Borve Castle and the Nunton Hamlet.