Berneray, North Uist

Berneray, North Uist

Infobox Scottish island |

celtic name=Beàrnaraidh
norse name=
meaning of name=From Old Norse Bjorn's Island
area= 1010 ha (3.9 sq. miles)
area rank= 49
highest elevation=Beinn Shleibhe (Moor Hill) 93 m
population rank= 37
main settlement= Borve and Rushgarry
island group=Uists and Barra
local authority=Outer Hebrides
references= [2001 UK Census per List of islands of Scotland] Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh. Canongate.] [ [ Ordnance Survey] ] [cite web| url=| title=Placenames| author=Iain Mac an Tailleir| publisher=Pàrlamaid na h-Alba| accessdate=2007-07-22]

Berneray (Scottish Gaelic: "Beàrnaraidh") is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.

Berneray is one of two inhabited islands in the Sound of Harris. With an area of 10.1 square kilometres (2496 acres), Berneray rises to a height of 305 feet (93 m) at Beinn Shleibhe (Moor Hill) and 278 feet (85 m) at Borve Hill. There is strong evidence that points to Berneray being inhabited since the Bronze Age, and possibly before. The island is scattered with ancient sacred sites, stone circles, signs of Viking inhabitation and historical buildings, some several centuries old.


In common with most islands in the Outer Hebrides, the population has declined over the 19th and 20th centuries. However, the past few years has seen a gradual rise; as of 20 October 2006, the permanent resident population of Berneray stood at 130.

Most people on Berneray speak Scottish Gaelic, many as a first language. Berneray is known as the birthplace of the giant Angus MacAskill and for its sandy beaches backed with sand dunes. The west beach, a three mile stretch of wide, clean and often deserted sand, is widely acclaimed as one of the world's great beaches.Fact|date=February 2007


The main industries are fishing, crofting (small-scale individual farming), media/IT and tourism.

A key feature of Berneray is its machair. The machair is a coastal plain made up of windblown shell sand. Traditional crofting practice, which involves summer agriculture using seaweed together with dung from winter grazing animals as natural fertiliser, has, over time, bound together and stabilised the land. The machair is ploughed in rotation, giving a patchwork of crops and fallow of different ages which supports a wide range of flowers. Berneray has a particularly fine machair, a result of careful husbandry by the island’s crofters, helped by the absence of rabbits.


The crofting practises also encourage a wide array of wildlife on Berneray. On early summer evenings you can sometimes hear snipe drumming, and even the rasp of a corncrake. Mute swans can be seen on Loch Brusda, and greylag geese are common. In the winter they are joined by barnacle, and a few brent geese. Ravens and buzzards are often to be seen. Golden eagles and hen harriers are rarer sights, usually in the winter. Wading birds on the shore include redshanks, sanderlings, turnstones, oyster catchers, dunlin, curlews, whimbrels, ringed plovers and herons.

Further out, around the shores of Berneray, are mallards, eiders, red-breasted mergansers, and, more rarely, black-throated and great northern divers. Shags and cormorants fish in the seas around Berneray throughout the year, and in summer you can see gannets diving. Common seals often congregate at low tide on the rocks in Bays Loch, and can often be seen from the parking area a little way beyond the Post Office or by taking a boat trip out into the bay. Grey seals, which are larger and can be distinguished by the long 'Roman' noses, also haul out there occasionally, but are more common off the West Beach. Though the otters of Berneray are out during the day more often than on the mainland, they are still elusive, and it takes patience and luck to see one.


Possibly the greatest change in modern times occurred in 1999 when the causeway opened between Berneray and Otternish on North Uist. This has made travelling on and off the island, for example for employment, easier. The causeway contains culverts that allow the easy passage of otters and fish from one side of the structure to the other. In addition, broadband Internet provision became available in January 2006, providing another incentive to people wishing to relocate to Berneray and sustain the population and community.


See also

* Newtonferry

External links

* [ Isle of Berneray website]
* [ Panorama of Berneray Beach] (QuickTime required)
* [ Am Paipear Community Newspaper]

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