A Twin Otter touches down at Barra Airport
Barra Satellite Photo

Barra is an island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The island has a population of 1078, and is connected by causeway to Vatersay in the south and by ferry to Eriskay (and hence South Uist) in the north. The airport is one of only two in the world where scheduled flights land on a beach runway. The main settlement is Castlebay.


Barra, Vatersay and the uninhabited smaller isles to the south - Pabbay, Sandray, Mingulay and Berneray - form the southernmost group in the Outer Hebrides, or Western Isles.

Gaelic is widely spoken but everyone also speaks and uses English.

Barra is a predominately Catholic island, so there are fewer restrictions on Sunday activities (shops etc.) than the islands further North. There are also some wayside shrines which is unusual in Scotland. The island featured on the BBC television series, "Island Parish". There is also a small Church of Scotland congregation.

Barra is the seat of Clan MacNeil, and Castle Kismul stands in on a rock in the bay of the island centre, Castlebay. A clan gathering takes place every two years, which reunites MacNeils from all over the world, some of whom are descendants of forced emigrants long ago. The population is over 1100, and the island has a busy community life.

The Tourist Information Office is in Main Street, Castlebay (01871 810336) and open from Easter to October only (usually opens for evening ferry arrivals). Coming off the ferry, take the right fork in the road and head up past the shops.

Get in

The island can be reached by Calmac ferry from Oban or Eriskay but is famous for its beach airport.

By boat

Caledonian MacBrayne connect Barra with the Oban on the mainland, Eriskay and Lochboisdale on South Uist. ScotRail trains and Citylink coaches to and from Glasgow connect with the ferries in Oban.

The Summer schedule is as follows:

During the winter (October - March) the Oban - Castlebay service operates only four days a week, with train connections from Glasgow on certain days only.

By air

Barra Airport uses the beach as the runway, which means that flight times vary with the tide. Flights from Glasgow and Benbecula on most days (weather permitting) are operated by Loganair as a franchise of FlyeBe . The prices of the flight from Benbecula to Barra are fixed, extremely cheap, and well worth the experience.

By causeway

Barra is linked by causeway to Vatersay to the South.

By bus and ferry

As part of the Western Isles Overland Route combination of bus and ferry, you can travel in under a day from Stornoway on Lewis.


Get around

By bus

There are good bus services during the day Monday to Saturday, but little in the evening and none on Sundays.

There are three bus routes:

The buses on Barra form part of a much larger network covering the length of the Western Isles, including a complete journey northbound and southbound to/from Ness. All Western Isles timetables may be found here.




There are several local events that have become internationally known.



The meals in the hotels in Castlebay can be good, especially the fresh local fish and shellfish.



Booking ahead is recommended as the island can get fully booked at popular times.


Bed & breakfast

Some can be found on the tourist board website , but many are no longer listed due to the charges and "hassle".

Self catering

Renting a house for a week or more is a popular option. Such places are generally let from Saturday to Saturday. Some of these can be found on the tourist board website .



There are designated campsites, and there are public conveniences in Castlebay and in Eoligarry.

Go next

Head north to the islands to Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Harris, Lewis, maybe taking the ferry or flight back to the mainland from Stornoway.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, February 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.