A thin sliver of land standing proud of the North Atlantic, Benbecula is the doorway to the Western Isles. In Scotland’s most traditional quarter, tiny villages and crofters’ cottages are dotted across waterlogged moors, and windswept beaches see more seals than sunseekers. Travel to Benbecula from Glasgow Airport and experience Scotland’s wild west.
An island of culture
Traditional Scottish culture lives on in Benbecula, where more than half the population speak Scottish Gaelic as their first language. The tiny capital, Balivanich, with its airport and bank, is the starting point for journeys into Scottish history. Most families here can trace their origins back through the centuries to when the island was the seat of the clan MacDonald. Discover more about Celtic culture and music at the Ceòlas summer school on nearby South Uist.
The craggy ruins of Borve Castle are all that remains to tell the tale of the MacDonalds of Benbecula, the island’s ruling clan. Rather more evidence remains for the prehistoric peoples who made their home on the Western Isles. Chambered tombs, forts and stone circles abound, particularly on neighbouring North and South Uist. Nine times out of 10, that grass mound or pile of rocks on the hillside is a relic from Scotland's ancient past.
Waterlogged and wonderful
The landscape of Benbecula would inspire any artist, with its purple moorlands and sprawling lochs. This is prime country for walking and birding. Amongst this waterlogged landscape can be found some of Scotland’s most elusive inhabitants, from sea otters to rare waders, divers, gulls and ducks. The wildlife theme continues on neighbouring North Uist and South Uist, where the coastal meadows provide cover for corncrakes and other rare species.