Not all Scottish islands are created equal. Barra is by no means the largest of the Western Isles, but its mile-long beaches and storybook scenery – not to mention an addictively unrushed pace of life – make it one of the most notable. The hilltop view from the main village of Castlebay, where eyes are naturally drawn to the island fortress of KisimulCastle, remains one of Scotland’s most poetic.
Land on the sand
Travel to Barra from Glasgow Airport involves one of the most unique landings in world aviation. The island boasts one of the only beach airports on the planet, its sands so broad and well packed that they double as a runway. Unsurprisingly, arrivals are at low tide only. You’re even free to wander the beach when it’s not in use as an airfield, an activity nicely rounded off by a cuppa from the airport café (Eoligarry).
Hike or bike
For many visitors, the landscapes of the Outer Hebrides are the chief reason to come calling. Lovers of the outdoors will find various waymarked hiking paths, while cyclists with a spare few days can use Barra as the start (or finish) point for an end-to-end bike ride of the entire island chain. The only populated island lying south of Barra is tiny Vatersay, linked by a causeway and well worth unhurried exploration in its own right.
Sample a slow culture
Castlebay not only has a matchless view across the water but also offers a number of spots in which to unwind. The Castlebay Hotel & Restaurant is well known for its shellfish dishes and fresh seafood, while the prime location of the Craigard Hotel makes it a popular spot for an outdoor pint. If you’re looking for something more active to offset the food and drink, the island also has a golf course as well as sea-kayaking operators.