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Isle of Barra, Scotland

barra.jpg (13087 bytes)Barra measures only 8 miles from north to South, and about 6 miles from east to west. The Isle of Barra is the home of the Clan MacNeil. Barra is also where you will find Kisimul Castle, the stronghold of the Clan MacNeil.  Barra can be reached by a five hour journey on a ferry from Oban, or you can fly there.  Planes can only land at low tide however as the airport on Barra uses a cockle strand beach as the runway!
The Isle of Barra is considered by many to be the most beautiful little island in Britain. It's tranquility, distinctive culture and fascinating history make any visit to Barra an exclusive and memorable one.
There are lots of different bus routes through the Uists and Barra. These routes are listed on the Official Western Isles Tourist Board web site.  This Highlands and Islands travel timetable book is updated each year in April. You can pick up free sheets with timetables for each route from tourist offices in the Western Isles and at Stornoway bus station. If you need the times before your arrival, you can contact the local tourist office (Telephone: 01851 703088 / Fax: 01851 705244) with your enquiries and they might fax you the times back. Buses generally run in time with the ferries and there are less in winter than in summer.
An excellent place for cycling, Barra's main road loops twelve miles around the island. At Northbay, an offshoot takes you up the Eoligarry peninsula to Barra's northern tip. The local Post bus running between Castlebay and the airport takes on passengers for a small fee.
Barra is also home to the most western golf course in the British Isles.  Located in Clete, it is a nine hole course with fenced greens to keep the cattle off.  The Barra course has a "preferred lies" rule that allows you to move your ball one club length from any lie one the course. It could be that the roaming cattle are the reason for that rule!  The Barra course features some of the most outstanding views of the ocean around the Isle.  Seals can often be seen playing in the surf just offshore.
At the 2001 census the resident population was 1,078, and mostly Roman Catholic. The area of Barra is 35 square miles, the main village being Castlebay. Barra is now linked by a man-made causeway to the neighbouring island of Vatersay. Barra is abundant with stunning scenery, rare flowers and wildlife, which can be appreciated by coastal or hill walks, drives or cycle rides along the various small roads. Car and bicycle hire are available locally.
Some of you may have read the wonderful book Whisky Galore by Compton Mackenzie.  It is set on the fictional isles of Great and Little Todday, and is the story of what happens when a ship full of Scotch runs aground on a very small island during a period of wartime rationing!


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