Sunday, 20 June 2021

The Sands of Uig

Debate rages over which beach is the finest in Scotland. Common consensus says it is somewhere in the Western Isles, and those who know these beaches only from photographs often vote for the photogenic white sands of Traigh Sheileboist in Harris.

Those who intimately know these places in person however, usually have another favourite.

Approaching Crowlista, Uig:


Uig is special. An inlet of the sea like Cata Sand in Orkney, Uig bay is really several beaches in one, joined at the centre by the airfield-sized expanse of Traigh Uige. From the saltings and shallow reflections of Traigh nan Sruban at Crowlista, to the eruptions of gneiss from the dunes at Cappadale Sands, creating tucked-away picnic spots out the wind, each beach has its own atmosphere. The reason this place is not terribly well-known is simple: even for the Hebrides, it's miles from anywhere. 

Overview of Uig from Forsnaval:


Thirteen years ago, we cycle-camped the Hebrides: Oban - Vatersay - Butt of Lewis - Tarbet - Armadale - Kilchoan - Craignure - Oban. Barra and Vatersay were small enough to explore completely on bicycles, but Lewis wasn't. We wanted to see Uig and Mangersta, but decided it was too big a detour, 28 miles down a single-track road, and 28 miles back. We'd come back one day with a car.
That trip was thirteen years ago. 

  Uig at last:


What a place this is! Our first few days had mixed weather, the pale sands brightening and softening the grey surroundings. But the sun briefly burst out from behind the cloud one evening, and we were entranced. 


One of the joys of exploring the Sands of Uig are the rivers that cross the sands. Near the island broch of Dun Borranais, a bridge crosses the river issuing from Loch Suaineabhal: the rest of the time you must seek out the shallows and wade across barefoot. 

About to wade across: 


On the sands you look at the seaweed and corrugations, and wonder what fun you could get up to before the tide comes in again. A touch rugby or beach volleyball tournament. A mass barbecue. A land yacht race. Or land a plane...



You can't travel far in the Hebrides to realise the locals have a taste for picturesque burial grounds, and the manse at Timsgarry is no exception. I took my hat off out of respect and we looked around.

Timsgarry graveyard:


This seems a peaceful place today, but the name Uig is the Gaelicification of the Norse Vik, meaning bay. This sheltered bay was an important settlement for those restless sea-rovers, the Vikings. According to tradition, several whale tooth and walrus ivory chess pieces were brought ashore by a shipwrecked trader. His rescuer saw the chess pieces, and turned to murder to acquire them for himself, confessing the crime years later when on the gallows in Stornoway for another misdemeanour. The pieces remained lost for centuries until they were discovered in a sand dune 1831 by Calum an Sprot, and eventually bought by the British Museum in London.

Replica chess piece:


If that story is not strange enough then, if you are lucky, at high tide you might see an actual mermaid out in the bay... or in reality, local swimmer Kate Macleod (source: BBC).



The Sands of Uig. Contender for the finest beach in Scotland?

2 comments:

Douglas Wilcox said...

Robert I totally concur with your choice of Uig. Great photos :)

Robert Craig said...

I know others who say another beach, not too far away from Uig! Will post on that soon...