Monday, June 9, 2014

Vatersay of the Beaches - 4

We'll end our tour of Vatersay's beaches with a visit to Traigh Caragrich and Traigh Uinessan on the northwest tip of the island. They are easy to reach. Once over the causeway drive a mile and a half, turn left, and then follow the road past the church of Our Lady of the Waves and St John. Continue to the bus turnaround at the end of the road and park on the turf. Standing here is Taigh Sanna, a self catering house in a wonderful location. Traigh Caragrich is a 30-second walk to the east. 

Traigh Caragaich at road's end
Once past the beach, a five minute walk to the east takes you to Uinessan. Although many references say Uinessan is a tidal island, I have visited it several times over the years, and never once checked the tides beforehand. Perhaps, like the tidal isle of Erraid, it is only isolated at extremely high tides.
Traigh Uinessan
On the east side of Uinessan you will find a low mound. On it stands the ruin of Cille Bhrianain, the chapel of St Brendan. Buried there is Mór nan Ceann, Mary of the Heads, the wife of a MacNeil chief. Her name is said to have come from her preference for fresh ox tongue, a once-a-day habit that cost the lives of several hundred cattle a year. Another version of her name says that she beheaded two of her two stepsons so that her son Ruari would become the Chief of the MacNeils. 

Mary wanted to be buried within sight of her native island of Coll, and so it was decided to bury her on Uinessan in a standing up position, facing southeast (towards Coll). It was a foggy day when they buried her, and when the fog cleared they discovered that the nearby island of Muldonach blocked the view to Coll. There were some who wanted to move her, but the chief decided to leave her buried where she was - or so the story goes.

The ruin of Cille Bhrianain (on the mound at centre) - Castlebay in the distance
Whats left of the chapel
Here we end our tour of Vatersay's less-visited beaches. Next time you are on Barra, pack a lunch, get youself over to Vatersay, and then spend a few hours on one of these remote beaches. Chances are you will have it all to yourself.
Looking toward Castlebay from Cille Bhrianain


  1. Uinessan is most definately tidal - we were almost cut off last year because it all looked quite benign when we crossed over the sand bar, but the water was rising fast when we returned - five minutes later and we would have been caught out!

    1. Thanks for the info - next time I visit I will be sure to check the tide tables.