Explore – the island of Berneray. Experience total immersion in island life

Berneray hostel perches on the edge of the sea, with breathtaking views across the Sound of Harris.  To the north there are the hills of Harris, to the south North Uist.  On good days, when you can see across the Minch to the soaring hills of NW Scotland, you may feel a twinge.  You realise that you are on the edge of the world.  Island life is entering your soul.

Berneray has beautiful beaches, good walks around the island and a great social life in the community (hostellers are always welcomed at community events) and in the hostel.

The most oft heard remark from hostellers as they leave Berneray is, “I’ll be back.”

A tour of Berneray and the Youth Hostel

Julian Paren has created a video that introduces the Youth Hostel and attractions of Berneray.  It lasts around eight minutes and includes the haunting Gaelic song The Leaving of Berneray performed by Capercaillie. Enjoy!Read More »

50 Berneray Markers

Berneray is something of a marker – for it is located at the top end of the southern group of islands which comprise the Uists, Benbecula, Eriskay and Barra, as well as being close to the ferry crossing for Harris. There are 50 ideas in the list below of ‘Explore Berneray’ to illustrate that there is Read More ...Read More »

Free As Air?

Many scientists are devising ways of developing energy from a variety of sources. Kite-surfers and buggy-by-wind enthusiasts go directly to natural power. Once harnessed there are ways of getting around in fast, exciting and novel positions. Berneray is featured here and the composition of the images does give the impression that everything is as free Read More ...Read More »

Oidhche Challuinn

The seats outside the Berneray Hostel are places to reflect on the Gaelic New Year, celebrated here according to the Julian Calendar. It’s Oidhche Challuinn – on the island and in other parts where the custom is observed tonight – 11 January – for the new year begins tomorrow. This is the ‘oidche’ [night] of Read More ...Read More »

Berneray Otter

Even the most distant parts of the Earth have been covered by the Lonely Planet Guides. Of course, Berneray is no exception and its otters are featured on the pages of this acclaimed compendium of information. Dip into what it chooses to highlight – including the presence of otters. Hostellers are pleased when the creatures appear, Read More ...Read More »

Pictish Square Cairn

This artist’s impression of the Pictish Square Cairn on Berneray represents a scene from around 700 AD. There are only two other similar cairns in the Outer Hebrides, although they are more common in the Eastern Mainland and the Northern Isles. The one here – described in Archaeology Hebrides – is about a three metres square Read More ...Read More »

Berneray's Oldest Building

Here is an excerpt from the North Uist and Berneray website: ‘MacLeod’s Gunnery situated close to the Youth Hostel is the oldest surviving building on Berneray, dating back to the 16th Century. This was once the home of the famous 17th Century Knight, Sir Norman MacLeod, who was a scholar and soldier and fought at Read More ...Read More »

Doctors in the Family

The medical practice in Lochmaddy, North Uist, covers many outlying areas, including Berneray. Here is an account made in 2008 by Dr John Macleod, who practised there from 1974 until 2000 and who had succeeded his father, Dr Alex Macleod, who moved from Applecross in 1932, and his mother, Dr Julia Macleod. Lorna, John’s widow, Read More ...Read More »

Business As Usual

There is something special about geograph.org.uk with a photograph from every grid square of the UK Ordnance Survey Map. The country is virtually covered with appropriate images and here is the one for the grid in which the Berneray hostel stands. Pity about the spelling! There is, however, something special about the way in which the Read More ...Read More »

On to the Monachs

Simon Willis has included a reference to, and this image of, Berneray, in his blog that focuses on sea kayaking. He accounts for the criss-crossing of the Sound of Harris and then anticipates moving on from the beach which, he claimed, was as good as it looks. The destination was the Monachs. This is not Read More ...Read More »

Adam on Berneray

Look at this vista. Big skies; distant horizons; a causeway leading, apparently, to infinity; and no sign of another vehicle, either of the internal combustion variety or another self-propelled one. This is Berneray, visited by Adam and recorded with text and images on his blog. Why not spend a few minutes in his company as Read More ...Read More »

Present Opportunity?

Berneray acts as a magnet to photographers and their images are to be found in galleries, books, brochures and poster-displays throughout the world. Here’s one by Mike Shailes. It’s of Borve Beach and is, conveniently for this time of year, on sale. Could it be a present opportunity? The hostel is on the east side Read More ...Read More »

Manifold Manfred

Manfred is the person behind This Fab Trek, a blog devoted to his photographs that capture both the colour and wonder of locations throughout the globe. Do take time to wander through his gallery of images of Berneray and to relish the ways in which various times of day, angles of light as well as Read More ...Read More »

Listen In

Here’s an interesting one – an audio account by the author, Peter Kerr, on the background to his writing the story of emigration from the island published by the Berneray Historical Society. Islands have always attracted visitors and, in more recent years, enthusiasts. On the other hand natives and residents have often felt compelled (or Read More ...Read More »

A Lifetime of Islands

There are many island-enthusiasts and the occasional islomaniac. The former take pleasure in visiting and savouring; the latter in collecting and ticking lists. Here’s a blog devoted to the former – A Lifetime of Islands – that takes a benevolent view and presents interesting images of those throughout the UK. Berneray has an entry. It Read More ...Read More »

Rich & Wild

Rob Sutton writes about Berneray: ‘I usually go up either in early May or Late August which seem to be better times of the year for birds, but it does mean I miss the magic of the machair. These poor sandy soils are the only bits of the islands that can easily be cultivated and have been for Read More ...Read More »

War Graves

The Scottish War Graves Project has collated much information on a world-wide basis. It includes a detailed and well-illustrated account of the burial place on Berneray of those with island connections killed on land or at sea while in Army, Royal or Merchant Navy war-service. The new cemetery has no war graves – for they Read More ...Read More »

Fit to Feast

Berneray, like the other two Gatliff hostels, has its special attractions and here are kayakers enjoying themselves. In this case the group’s activities have been documented – logged, photographed and blogged on At Home in the Hebrides. So whether hill-walking attracts people to Rhenigidale; beach-combing to Howmore, self-propelled crossings through the Sound of Harris to Read More ...Read More »

New Year Ahead

There are, at this time of year, the inevitable signs for hotels and restaurants inviting us to book ahead for the festive season. These invitations do not apply to the Gatliff hostels where, although visitors for Christmas and the New Year are always welcome and evident, there is no booking system to ensure a stay. Read More ...Read More »

Barra to Berneray

From Barra to Berneray is the result of 13 years of archaeological research on 12 islands, all but two of them now uninhabited, at the southern end of the Hebridean chain. A team has recorded almost 2000 sites and monuments. Their pre-history has been illuminated by carefully-selected excavations on sites of all periods and types. It Read More ...Read More »

Berneray From Above

If, as suggested in a previous item, there were an airfield, albeit redundant, on Berneray then this photograph and the aerial image here would be part of the navigation guides. One aspect of the attractiveness of the island is how circumspect it is. Another relates, of course, to the causeway which may have diminished Berneray’s Read More ...Read More »

Machair and Mystery

This photograph of the machair on Berneray could be of an airfield, but according to the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust the location of a World War Two installation built here and used by the RAF as well as civil authorities is unknown. If anyone has information that could lead to the whereabouts of this Read More ...Read More »

50 Years On

There is something essentially 21st Century about this photograph by Craig Cameron of a walker on Traigh Siar, Berneray. He is dressed for the occasion and is facing in the direction of what is compelling – the hills of Harris in the distance. The photographs of Berneray taken 50 years earlier – in 1963  – Read More ...Read More »

A Simple Slipway

For the briefest of tours of the simplest of terminals go to the Terminals & Piers website where Berneray features.. Relax when you see the queuing lanes empty of vehicles. That’s how it often is. The timetables can be viewed through the CalMac website . The service plies the Sound of Harris every day and Read More ...Read More »

Interview with Gloria

From the Water’s Edge presents an interview with Gloria MacKillop, the widow of the legendary ‘Splash’ , and a long-time supporter of the Gatliff cause on Berneray. She originates from Australia, came to the island as the district nurse some 46 years ago and has seen many changes, met many people and hosted a wide range Read More ...Read More »

Through Light

This is rather an appropriate image for today – Saturday 26 October – as at 02.00 tomorrow the clocks go back and dusk becomes an hour earlier throughout the UK. So on the BST to GMT weekend take a look at a website called Scotland Through Light, compiled by landscape photographer, Chris Thomson. Berneray is featured Read More ...Read More »

Memories Revived

At Midsummer 2012, WordShore produced a blog about his experiences of living in Berneray some five years previously. He comments on and observes several aspects of an island on ‘the periphery of Europe’ with its long hours of daylight (in the Summer) and its stimulating beach walks taken either alone or in company. As well Read More ...Read More »

The Last Voice of St Kilda

Pabbay is described by Martin Martin as being ‘half a league from Berneray‘ and – considering that a league was originally the distance that a man could could walk in an hour – this is a slight underestimation. However, it’s where the steward responsible for St Kilda traditionally lived. The outlying island group – 41 Read More ...Read More »

Getting Away from Berneray

There is a book available from the Berneray Historical Society concerning the people who have left the island. Here are some details: ‘The book contains eleven clearly written chapters detailing events in the island of Berneray starting with the earliest Neolithic arrivals moving through to the present. Various listed data are accompanied by stories of Read More ...Read More »

Panoramic Vision

‘A key feature of Berneray is its machair, an area of land which edges the shoreline. Machair becomes fertile over time by crushed shells and other minerals. This land was once sea bed, but through geological processes, it has been elevated from the sea bed and dried. Sand dunes formed as grasses grew, able to Read More ...Read More »

A New House of Parliament

Consider again when Thomas Telford was commissioned to design and supervise the building of the so-called ‘Parliamentary Church’ on Berneray, little did he realise that it would continue for so long in the ecclesiastical sense and then migrate, in architectural terms, to becoming a house and studio that has been nationally acclaimed. The architects, Patience Read More ...Read More »

Berneray Harbour at Sunrise

This image of Berneray Harbour was taken from the marinas.com website, featuring havens far and near for vessels. It’s not at dawn, however, although this YouTube clip was taken at the same location as the sun was rising. Some hostellers will recall walking quickly past the harbour at that time of day, making for the Read More ...Read More »

Work Comes and Goes

Walking around Berneray gives many vistas – for although only three miles long and two miles wide, it does have an accessible coastline that’s virtually ten miles in distance.  One is to be found in the south-west corner at Braighe na Ceilp where, in the 1840s, there was a flourishing trade in the production of Read More ...Read More »

BC - Before Causeway

It now seems several centuries ago, but before the 1999 opening of the Berneray Causeway the route to the island was via the Newtonferry terminal and then on to Leverburgh in a passenger-only boat. It made the Sound of Harris crossing memorable for reasons of exposure, tidal conditions, wind-strengths and mist. The replacement service from Read More ...Read More »

See and Hear the Sea Here

The beaches on the west side of Berneray are famed for their perfection and images of them are framed by photographers and artists. They are a relatively short walk across or around from the hostel. Listen to the sound of the waves as recorded by DaveHillWriter on YouTube or reflect on the paintings of Ann Read More ...Read More »

From Companion to Company

Last night – Friday 19 July – was the occasion of the Ceilidh during the Berneray Week. The word comes from the Old Irish – cele –  meaning ‘companion’. From this singular form it has developed into an expression about people keeping ‘company’ and the coming together of the ‘community’ for a social occasion. The Read More ...Read More »

Take a Short Walk

Berneray is almost designed for walking – whether around or across or section by section. The walk from the ferry terminal is interesting enough, but If you take a stroll beyond the hostel you are soon in the vicinity of this stretch of coastline and a view of another part of the hinterland of Berneray, Read More ...Read More »

Almost Four Years On

It was on 30 July 2009 that Berneray resident, Donald Alex MacKillop, affectionately known as ‘Splash’ died, aged 78. He and his wife, Gloria, had hosted three visits by the Prince of Wales. The first was in 1987 when Prince Charles spent time with them learning the skills of crofting; the second was in 1991 Read More ...Read More »

Walk Tall and Right Around

Berneray has attracted people for centuries and the standing stone at Cladh Maolrithe was erected in Noeothic times. It is eight feet above the ground and is able to resist wind forces with its depth, also of eight feet. The photograph of this noted and documented menhir was taken by Billy Fear and the stone Read More ...Read More »

Back in Time

These images have a certain antiquity about them. Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar in 45 BC and  these fence-posts on a Berneray beach – from Phototravels – have weathered many 20th Century storms. A feature of the island has been the continued recognition of aspects of the Julian variation long after the introduction of Read More ...Read More »

Berneray Week 2013

In ten days time, on Friday 12 July, the eight-day Berneray Week will begin. Consider what’s on by reading its Event Poster and taking in the variety of activities for all age-groups. There is a long tradition of hostellers joining in these special occasions which encourage participation, bring people together and create pleasure.Read More »

Now Down to One

Boreray, in the Sound of Harris, is not to be confused with its namesake in the St Kilda Group. The 1841 Census indicated some 181 people living on the island about two miles to the west of Berneray. By the end of the 19th Century there were still a hundred people surviving there, but 90 Read More ...Read More »

The Hungry Hosteller

    There is a certain romance about staying at a Gatliff hostel, but the basic matter of food supplies needs consideration. Howmore lost its village store and so the Co-operative outlets at Daliburgh, South Uist, and Creagorry, Benbecula, are the nearest suppliers.  Berneray has the luxury of a local shop relatively close to the Read More ...Read More »

Machair is Memorable

The Wikipedia entry on Machair has not one, but two, images of Berneray. So this is a place to visit to experience the phenomenon. A walk around the island gives contact with the sea, shore, dunes and this fertile, luxuriant-looking pasture which features on some of the West Coast of the Mainland and certain of Read More ...Read More »

Small on Berneray; Big in Canada

Angus MacAskill was born on Berneray in 1825, one of 12 children to parents of average size. He showed nothing abnormal in his rate of growth during a childhood, spent first in Stornoway and then, after the family emigrated, in Cape Breton Island, Canada. However, he started to grow exceptionally tall during adolescence and ten Read More ...Read More »

The Revolution of '98

The last days of 1998 saw a revolution in the ways of life on Berneray. This was when the £6.6 million causeway unofficially opened and the small ferry sailed for the last time. CalMac services to and from Leverburgh, South Harris, became the crossing to the north and the road on the causeway, of course, Read More ...Read More »

Finance, Food and Forecasts

There is much to see in and around Berneray and a number of facilities that are particularly useful to hostel-users. At Backhill, the main settlement, is a Post Office where finance and mailing facilities are available. At the ferry terminal end of the village is the well-stocked Ardmaree Stores and Lobster Pot Tearoom (Summer Opening: Read More ...Read More »

Island Bus Timetables

All three Gatliff hostels can be reached by bus. No bikes can be carried on the buses in the Uists. The Western Isles Timetables may be viewed by clicking on the link.  You will find details of all the bus services, many of which integrate to enable passengers to travel from the Butt of Lewis Read More ...Read More »

Historical Access

There is much to learn from community websites. The Nurse’s Cottage on Berneray no longer provides medical facilities, but gives access to local information and historical records. Over the years many people have come and gone from the now causeway-linked island that is part of North Uist. Times and details of the Historical Society’s work Read More ...Read More »

The Brae and Bae in Berneray

There is a good guide to seeing more of this North Uist island in Berneray Explorer, presented by the WalkHighlands website. It refers, among much useful information, to that mix-up or subterfuge of four years ago when a tourist authority in Thailand used pictures of the west beach (here) to promote their Kai Bae beach. Descending Read More ...Read More »

Back to Life

Berneray has at least two buildings which have had a new lease of life recently. One is the Telford Parliamentary Church and the other is our hostel. Read More ...Read More »