Welcome to the serene, untouched beauty of the Uidh Peninsula on the Isle of Vatersay, where the grass is greener, the air is fresher, and the scenery is beyond compare.
Vatersay, an enchanting island with a population of just over 90 people, is a place where time slows down and the hustle and bustle of city life seem a million miles away, especially in the area around Uidh which sees few visitors yet has a wonderful collection of white sand beaches framed by clear turquoise waters.
Join us as we delve into the unique landscapes of the Uidh Peninsula – a place that truly epitomises Scotland’s wild and untamed beauty.
|Address:||Isle of Barra, HS9 5YN|
|Opening Hours:||The Isle of Vatersay is accessible 24/7, 365 days a year.|
|Parking:||There is a small parking area opposite Vatersay Church, as well as a grass area at the end of the road which can accomodate around 5 cars.|
|Facilities:||Cafe near the north end of Traigh a Bhaigh beach.|
The Isle of Vatersay is a real gem in the Outer Hebrides as it’s home to a number of gorgeous beaches that wouldn’t look out of place in a commercial for a far-flung tropical island.
Though most people tend to make a beeline for Traigh a Bhaigh beach as it’s the start of the West Highland Way, there’s another part of Vatersay that has equally scenic views and far fewer tourists.
The Uidh Peninsula is located on the northeast tip of the island which is easily accessed by taking the obvious road heading east instead of continuing south towards the Vatersay Hall Cafe.
It’s not a particularly large area at 1.5 x 0.3 miles, but it’s certainly big enough to keep visitors occupied for a good chunk of the day, whether activities centre around sunbathing on one of the beaches or taking a walk around the coastline.
The terrain is hilly with a couple of low-lying flat sections and is predominantly covered in grassland, though the southern side is mostly comprised of bare rock which makes walking around the entire peninsula rather challenging, to say the least.
Thankfully, there’s a tarmacked single-track running through the middle that allows easy access to the beaches at the far end and there are a couple of places to park the car for those tourists arriving with four wheels rather than two.
The first parking space can be found opposite Vatersay Church which is ideal for first-time visitors as it’s a good starting point for walks into the hills in the middle of the island as well as the Uidh Peninsula. The second parking space can be found at the very end of the road just beyond a small tarmacked area that’s reserved for buses to turn.
Beyond this point are beaches to the immediate north and south, and another couple of wee beaches on the northeast tip of the peninsula which can be accessed by walking around the coastline.
One thing to be aware of is that there are gates at the furthest parking area which may be required for use by farm vehicles, so it’s advisable to leave the gates unobstructed when parking the car.
With regards to facilities, there’s the community hall near Traigh a Bhaigh (one mile away) which serves delicious homemade food as well as hot drinks and has showers and toilets available for use by campers.
For avid wildlife watchers, I highly recommend taking binoculars as Vatersay is renowned for its wild animals which include golden eagles soaring over the ridges in the middle of the island and otters lounging around the shores.
There’s also a possibility of seeing some of the puffins that thrive on nearby Mingualy, while at ground level you might spot the occasional Prince Charlie’s Flower – a rare, delicate pink flower that grows in very few places in Scotland.
1: There are some lovely beaches on the northeast corner of Vatersay that see very few tourists, mainly because most visitors prefer to head to the beaches at the start of the Hebridean Way. If you’re looking for somewhere quiet, then the Uidh Peninsula on Vatersay is a great option.
2: The shallow turquoise sea between Vatersay and Barra is absolutely stunning when the sun shines. Don’t forget your camera!
3: The beaches near the end of the road on Uidh are great locations to set off with a kayak and explore the wee islets heading southeast towards Muldoanich (1.5 miles from the furthest tip of Vatersay).
1: Plan Around The Weather: Barra and Vatersay are known for their unpredictable weather, so it’s best to check the forecast before your visit and pack accordingly.
2: Explore The Wildlife: Vatersay is home to a variety of wildlife including seals, otters, and numerous bird species. It’s a great place for wildlife enthusiasts but visitors should remember to respect the animals and not approach them too closely or feed them, as it can disrupt their natural behaviour.
3: Respect the Environment: Vatersay is a beautiful, pristine island with a unique ecology. Ensure it stays that way by following the ‘leave no trace’ principle – don’t litter, stay on designated paths where possible, and refrain from picking plants or disturbing wildlife.
Things to do
Birdwatching: Vatersay is a haven for bird enthusiasts. The Uidh Peninsula is a hotspot for various bird species like terns, gulls, and puffins. Spend a day with your binoculars (link to binocular reviews) and watch these delightful creatures in their natural habitat.
Discover the Uidh Peninsula Beaches: The Uidh Peninsula on Vatersay is home to some incredibly beautiful beaches, with turquoise waters flanking white sandy shores which creates a truly picturesque scene.
Spend a day beachcombing, building sandcastles, or simply soaking up the sun. The tranquillity of these beaches makes this part of the island a perfect getaway to relax.
Historical Landmark Visit: To the immediate south of the Uidh Peninsula you’ll find the Catalina Memorial which is dedicated to the men who flew in an aircraft which crashed during World War II. Remains of the wreckage can still be seen on the hillside.
Hiking on Vatersay: Hiking is a popular activity on Vatersay and its varied terrain offers trails for all abilities. The Vatersay Beaches Circuit, for example, is a challenging but rewarding walk that will take you around the southern area of the island.
Wildflower Walks: During spring and summer, the Uidh Peninsula is blanketed with a variety of wildflowers that offer a perfect opportunity to practice your photography skills or simply enjoy the vibrant colours and delicate fragrances. Be aware that machair – a rare type of wild grassland – is easily damaged, so it’s best enjoyed from a distance.
Things to do nearby
1: Traigh Shiar and Traigh a Bhaigh beaches. Address: Vatersay, HS9 5YW. Distance: 3 miles from the causeway.
These white-sand beaches in the middle of Vatersay are celebrated for their stunning white sand and turquoise waters. A lengthy stretch of machair (rare flowering grasses) separates the beaches.
2: Vatersay Heritage Trail. Distance: starts 3 miles from the causeway.
A circular walking route that starts and ends at the Vatersay Hall Cafe near Traigh Shiar and Traigh a Bhaigh beaches. The 4-mile route runs along both beaches as well as the southern beach at Bagh A’Deas.
3: Kisimul Castle. Address: Castlebay, Isle of Barra, HS9 5UZ. Distance: 2.5 miles from the causeway.
Kisimul Castle is located on a small island within the bay of Castlebay village. The castle is managed by Historic Environment Scotland which operates boat tours from the village jetty.
4: Hebridean Sea Tours. Email: email@example.com. Tel: 01871 817803.
This is the main tour boat operator in Castlebay which takes tourists south to the wildlife havens of Sandray, Pabbay, and Mingulay.
These wild and uninhabited islands are regarded as having some of the finest coastal landscapes in Scotland, as well as being superb wildlife spotting sites.
5: Heaval. Address: Isle of Barra, HS9 5UH. Distance: 4 miles from the causeway.
Heaval is the highest point on Barra at 1,257 feet. This hill presents a moderately easy climb to the summit from Castlebay which shouldn’t take more than 3 hours to complete on a return hike.
Once at the summit, hillwalkers can enjoy stunning views of Castlebay and Vatersay to the south, and Eriskay and Uist to the north.
Frequently asked questions
Is Vatersay inhabited?
Vatersay is the most southerly inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides and the most westerly inhabited island in Scotland.
There is a permanent population of around 90 residents who live in the main settlement in the middle of the island (also called Vatersay), as well as a few houses towards the north in a settlement called Caolas.
Are there shops on Vatersay?
There are no shops on Vatersay besides a cafe in the community hall. The nearest shops are located in Castlebay on Barra, approximately 2 miles from the Vatersay causeway.
Can you wild camp on Vatersay?
Wild camping is permitted on Vatersay, as it is in Scotland generally, as long as campers follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
There are also paid designated camping areas for camper vans near the community hall on Vatersay which allow occupants to use toilet and shower facilities.
How to get to Vatersay
Vatersay is accessed via a causeway on the northern end of the island where it joins Barra.
The causeway is approximately 2 miles from the village of Castlebay which has a ferry terminal with links to the Isles of Tiree and South Uist, as well as Oban on the mainland.
See the Calmac website for details of ferry sailing times.