Things to do on Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
Barradise and Barrabados are two nicknames this bonnie wee island has earned. Though Barra may be wee, it’s an island filled with adventures to be had, seafood to be sampled, and cares to be forgotten.
We spent five wonderful days on Barra, experiencing both sunny cloudless skies and sideways rain- so we have you covered on the best things to do on Barra whether the sky is leaking or the sun is shining!
I’ve also asked locals what are their favourite things to do on Barra.
Planning a trip to Barra?
I’ve also written a helpful guide on planning a trip to the Isle of Barra, so give that a read if you would like more advice about travelling the island! There is a ton of helpful advice, including information on opening hours, accommodation, getting around, and general tips.
Table of Contents
Things to do on Barra
Do the Barra Beach Landing
One of the best ways to arrive on Barra is by flying- and landing on the world’s only official beach airport!
Scheduled flights have been arriving at Tràigh Mhòr beach in the north of Barra since 1936. Loganair operates two flights from Glasgow per day, and landing times are determined by the tides.
This is how we arrived on Barra, and surprisingly, the landing in was one of the smoothest I’ve experienced. Expect a crowd- locals and visitors to the island will often crowd at the airport cafe to watch the wee Twin Otter plane land on the beach.
Cost: We paid £340 for return flights from Glasgow for two adults (infants fly free).
Local recommendation: Traigh Eais beach
”Traigh Eais beach in the north of Barra is my favourite beach on the island. The light changes all the time in Barra, so it’s beautiful for photographers,” – Joan, Isle of Barra Beach Hotel
Traigh Eais beach is located on the…
A visit to Bùth Bharraigh should be one of your first stops on the island. It’s the visitor information centre that also doubles as a shop and free Wi-fi space, selling fresh produce and a variety of locally made knitwear, jewellery, art and more!
They also have an excellent range of books, featuring many titles about the Outer Hebrides and the rest of Scotland.
This shop is the beating heart of Barra, and is an excellent source of information that will help you make the most of your time on the island.
Isle of Barra Distillers
Did you know that Barra has it’s own gin distillery? Isle of Barra Distillers is a family-run gin distillery located in Castlebay.
Made with selected botanicals from the land and carrageen seaweed collected from the sea, their Barra Atlantic Gin is, quite literally, Barra in a bottle.
Their main product is Barra Atlantic Gin, but they also sell a range of gin liqueurs, including Rhubarb and Heather, and Strawberry and Ginger. They also have an island dark rum, and rumour has it they will release a whisky soon!
Their shop is well worth visiting so you can take home a bottle (or more) for yourself.
Kisimul Castle sits on a wee isle in Castlebay harbour. Home to the MacNeils of Barra, the castle was leased to Historic Scotland by the current clan chief for an annual fee of £1 and a bottle of whisky! His dram of choice? Talisker, apparently.
Kisimul Castle was most likely built over the remains of an ancient broch, sometime in the 15th century. Today, it is the only medieval castle in the Western Isles.
Disappointingly, the castle is closed for conservation work, which is a shame as it’s such a wee gem in the Outer Hebrides. You can still book a free boat tour to get closer to the castle- book at the Castlebay Marina or at the Bùth Bharraigh visitor centre.
The smallest room in the castle is flushed twice by the tide. When the tide rolls in the castle appears to float!
Castlebay and Ledaig Shore Walk
Time: 1 hour
Distance: 3km / 1.7 miles
An easy walk that gives you lovely views of Kisimul Castle and the surrounding Castlebay is the walk to Ledaig. The walk is mostly on roads and walking paths, beginning in the centre of Castlebay.
As you get closer to Ledaig you’ll have a pictureske views looking back towards Castlebay. If you’re lucky you’ll spot seals lazing on the rocks!
Local recommendation: Climb Heavel
”I enjoy walking up Haeval- the highest point on Barra when I need some solitude,” – Grant Smith, Director and Maintenance Man at Castlebay Hotel
Heavel is the highest peak on Barra and provides a dramatic backdrop to Castlebay.
The WalkHighlands guide is a good one to follow.
Cielle Bharra is an atmospheric ancient burial ground and home to the church of St Barr.
Compton MacKenzie, the author of Whisky Galore, is buried here. The author lived on the island with his mistress (!) while his unsuspecting wife lived on the mainland.
One of my favourite days we spent on Barra was a morning at Tangasdale Beach. With its wide sweep of white sand stretching out to azure waters- this beach is truly one of the most beautiful we encountered on Barra.
We had the entire beach to ourselves all morning. It’s a memory I’ll always treasure- the three of us playing in the sand under a cloudless sky.
The Isle of Barra Beach Hotel overlooks this bonnie beach, and they open to visitors for tea, coffee and cake from 12.30 pm-3.30 pm.
See the flowering machair
When visiting any of the beaches on Barra in late spring and summer, be sure to look out for the wildflowers in bloom on the machair.
Machair is Gaelic for ‘fertile plain’ and is one of the rarest environments in Europe. This unique grassland fringes many of the beaches in the Outer Hebrides. It is made up of sand and shell fragments dispositioned by the wind, and is an important habitat for many invertebrates and birds.
It’s important you do not drive or park on the machair.
Brevig Standing Stone
The Brevig standing stone is a Neolithic standing stone located on the east side of the island.
The standing stone is a whopping 3 metres tall, and is the largest surviving standing stone on Barra. It is one of three- the second standing stone is 2.5 metres in height but is broken in half, and the third stone lies 15 metres down the hill.
To reach the Brevig standing stone, it’s a 300 metre walk uphill.
Take a day trip to Vatersay
Everyone planning a trip to Barra should visit Vatersay, an island connected by a short causeway to the south of Barra.
My recommendation is to walk the Vatersay beaches circuit, which will take you to many of the island’s main attractions. Highlights on Vatersay include the splendid white sandy beaches, the Piece of Cake Honesty Box, and a dun (site of an ancient fort) that offers spectacular views across the island.
I’ve written a guide on things to do on Vatersay, so make sure you check that out when planning your day trip.
Go on a boat trip to Mingulay
A unique adventure you can experience while visiting Barra is taking a boat trip to Mingulay, a stunning uninhabited island in the southern chain of the Outer Hebrides.
Mingulay was previously inhabited, but a sickness wiped out most of the population over 100 years ago. The remaining islanders abandoned the island, and today you can still see what is left of the village. If weather permits, you can land on the beach, a particularly stunning wide strip of white sand.
Today Mingulay is home to towering cliffs and a wide variety of seabirds, including fulmars, guillemots, kittiwakes, oystercatchers, and puffins!
What is your favourite thing to do on Barra?