On a misty summer’s day, we spent a blissful day exploring Vatersay, one of Scotland’s most remote islands in the Outer Hebrides. What we discovered will forever be etched in our minds: the machair dressed with wildflowers billowing in the light breeze, azure waters lapping at the white sands, and the bright pink honesty box bearing an abundance of home baking. We walked the circular route around the island exploring its beauty and its history.
Before the causeway was constructed, Vatersay almost lost its inhabitants due to its remoteness, as more and more of its residents moved across to Barra or elsewhere for an easier life.
For such a beautiful place, it’s easy to forget the island has experienced its fair share of disaster and hardship. Evidence of this can still been seen on the island; the wreckage from the WWII Catalina seaplane that crashed on the island, the remains of a deserted village, and a memorial dedicated to the Annie Jane shipwreck, where 350 people sadly perished.
As soon as we stepped out of the taxi we were greeted by wildflowers blowing in the breeze on the machair. Our taxi driver, Cursty, bid us farewell, agreeing to pick us up in a few hours.
We decided to do the Vatersay beaches walk- a circuit around the island, which would take us past many of the main attractions. Beginning at the Vatersay Community Hall (also home to a cafe) we headed west to our first beach: Traigh Shiar.
As soon as we broached the lip of the hill, turquoise waters spilled onto a white sand beach, provoking an ‘oh wow’ to escape my mouth. We’d landed in beach heaven.
We walked along the beach rather than the path along the machair, as it was too pretty not to. We arrived at our first (and toughest) climb of the walk; a steep 40-metre incline to reach the dun, an Iron Age fort, which stood on the top of a hill.
Multiple swear words escaped my lips as I trudged up the hill with my pack loaded with too many baby supplies, but the view from the top, as it always is, was worth it.
We swapped packs, and Alex was strapped in snuggly to my back. We descended the dun to reach boggy moorland, and wound our way around the craggy landscape to reach a standing stone, which, according to my research, no one knows anything about!
We were now on the southern part of Vatersay, and had unobstructed views across to Sandray, an uninhabited island. We passed an unnamed beach, and I was about to go down and explore it when another sight caught my eye: about 30 cows lying on a beach further north!
Bagh A’Deas is a secluded (and lesser known) beach- and perhaps why this herd of cows chose this as their spot! At this point, Alex had fallen asleep on my back, and was snoring softly.
A wet mist crept over us, and so we decided to forfeit the walk around Bagh A’Deas to the deserted Eorisdale village. A shame, but we wanted to make sure Alex was comfortable on his first-ever hike.
The village was occupied up until the 1970s when the last resident died. What is left of it will remain a mystery to us until we return, but from images I’ve Googled, several croft ruins surrounded by craggy hillsides lie where the land flattens out before a small bay.
Had the causeway been built many years earlier, would folk have stayed on?
We found the bright pink Piece of Cake honesty box and we greedily filled our pack with Malteeser slice, rocky road, and a Galaxy caramel slice.
We passed cows grazing along the road, and we headed towards our final beach: Traigh a Bhaigh.
Many will recognise Traigh a Bhaigh as the setting for the famous image of the gate hugged by sand dunes opening out to dusty white sands with islands dotted around the horizon. I took a photo of the famous setting, although the misty, moody sky certainly cast a different effect to the usual bright, sunny images you see on postcards.
We played on the beach until we could no longer stand the rumbling of our tummies, and we headed across to the cafe at the Vatersay Community Hall for lunch.
Soon Cursty arrived in her taxi, and she stopped at the Catalina Memorial so we could take a look.
The Catalina Memorial is what is left of a World War II aircraft that tragically crashed into the hillside after getting lost in low cloud during a training exercise. Islanders rushed to free the soldiers from the wreckage, but sadly three of the nine men died.
It’s a little astonishing that the wreckage sits here on the hillside after all this time, the wings clearly visible. It was a humbling way to finish our time on Vatersay, an island so beautiful, yet has witnessed its share of disasters.
Back at our accommodation, I died and went to heaven upon my first bite of the Malteeser slice from the honesty box, somehow perfectly crunchy yet the chocolate so smooth. My only gripe was that I had to share it with the Haggis. Damn it, I should have bought two!
It was a perfect way to end a perfect day.
Have you been to Vatersay, or do you plan on visiting?