North Uist

Lochmaddy-Loch nam Madadh

North Uist or Uibhist A Tuathis is an island in the Outer Hebrides, north of Benbecula and south of Harris, with a total population of only about 1,200 people, yet is about 20 miles from north to south. It is generally flat and covered, especially in the north and east, by a very large number of lochans, or small lakes. It has no large built up settlements, having a dispersed population scattered mainly over its western side, where the machair provides grazing for crofting. Despite this its history and culture is fascinating, and there are facilities for back-packing, camping and cycling. Ferries arrive at Lochmaddy, a small settlement with a harbour, a couple of decent hotels, an information office, and one or two simple shops. The arts centre Taigh Chearsabhagh is to be found here.


Satellite view of North Uist

North Uist, like the rest of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, has a long history of neglect by its landlords, and suffered from waves of clearances of the native population, as well as suppression of its native Gaelic language and culture. Gaelic, however, is still commonly spoken as well as English, and place-names and other signs are now usually by default in the Gaelic. A more sympathetic approach to the island's culture and language from the Scottish Government indicate that the island is showing signs of a revival in its fortunes. Unlike South Uist this is a predominantly Protestant island and the Sabbath is observed seriously here, and visitors should be aware of this, although North Uist is a little more relaxed than the more northerly islands of Harris and Lewis, where Sabbath observation can be very strict.

Lochmaddy is a village that serves as the island's administrative center. Local signs use the Gaelic name Loch nam Madaidh'. In summer the village's Tourist Information Office, located near the pier, is usually open for ferry arrivals.

Get in

Lochmaddy from the Uig ferry, the mountains of Harris in the background

North Uist is linked by causeway to Benbecula to the South and Berneray to the North. On route south to Benbecula the causeway first links to Grimsay, a small island worth exploration for its rugged coast and inlets, fishing harbour, and a number of archaeological sites.

By boat

Calmac Ferries runs a few ferries which take vehicles and foot passengers to the island. Citylink coaches generally connect with the ferries on the mainland.

By air

In the Outer Hebrides, there are airports in Stornoway in Lewis, Benbecula and Barra. These airports provide direct flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. The nearest to North Uist is Benbecula.

By bus

Buses link North Uist with Benbecula, and Berneray. As part of the Western Isles Overland Route combination of bus and ferry, you can travel in under a day from Stornoway, Lewis or Castlebay, Barra.

By yacht

Lochmaddy has a small marina which opened in 2014, which charges £2 per metre of boatlength per night. There are also some mooring buoys at £10 per night.

Get around

By car

Cars will need to have been transported by CalMac ferry, or hired from one of the companies on Benbecula. With the exception of part of the Carinish or Cairinis to Lochmaddy Road, all roads are single-track with passing places. It's important to learn the etiquette of driving on these roads, as well as taking special care.

By bus

There are reasonable bus services during the day Mon - Sat, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday.


The beach at Clachan

There are many fine sandy beaches, mainly on the Western shore of North Uist. Traigh Lingeigh is a safe shallow suitable for snorkelling. The coastline around Lochmaddy and the road to Loch Portain is remarkable for the number of little sea lochans. There are several prehistoric sites worth visiting, including and the island's lochans often contain interesting remains of duns, or fortified houses.


The Hut of the Shadows, Lochmaddy


Lochmaddy main street near the grocer

All the shops in North Uist are shut on a Sunday, but shops on on Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay are open on Sunday afternoons.


For evening meals a hotel may be the best option. There is a decent cafe for snacks in Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy. There is also a cafe and shop on Berneray.


Drinks can be found in the Lochmaddy Hotel and in Westford at the pub on the west side of the island.


The information office, near to the harbour, will provide information on bed and breakfast and camping as well as hotels. Mainland tourist information centres will also book ahead for you.


There is a Gatliff hostel on nearby Berneray.

Bed and Breakfasts

Some can be found on the tourist board website, but many are no longer listed due to the changes 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.


Go next

Going North the next islands are Berneray then Harris and Lewis. Going South the next islands are Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay then Barra.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, September 13, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.