Outer Hebridean Islands of Scotland
- Berneray and Eriskay
There are two islands with the name Berneray (the name is from the Norse "Bjorn's Isle) in the Hebrides. One lies between North Uist and Harris and has a population of around 140. Only three miles long by 1½ miles wide, the low-lying island has a beach which is three miles long. There are traditional thatched cottages at Ruisgarry on the island and there is a standing stone near the village of Borve.
Berneray is only a half mile from North Uist but it took a long, hard campaign by the residents to convince the Scottish Office that a 6.6 million pound bridge should be constructed. It was opened in April 1999 by the Prince of Wales (who has spent time on Berneray on a number of occasions with a crofting family). But strenuous efforts have been made to keep one traveller out - Berneray is free of rabbits and the road had to be made rabbit proof to stop the thousands of rabbits on Uist crossing over.
The second Berneray is the most southerly of the Hebrides and has been uninhabited since the lighthouse became automated. Just to add to the confusion of names, the 600ft cliffs on its southern edge are known as Barra Head.
Eriskay (possibly from the Norse for Eric's Island or from the Gaelic "uruisg" or "water sprite" island) lies between South Uist and Barra and there is a ferry service to both. Technically this small island is the most densely populated Hebridean island as it still has a population of 200 in an area of only 2½ by 1½ miles.
Eriskay's has crept into the history books on more than one occasion. This was the first landfall in Scotland of Bonnie Prince Charlie at the start of his Jacobite Uprising in 1745. And in 1941 the merchant ship "Politician" sank off the island. The "rescue" of its cargo of 5,000 cases of whisky was the inspiration for Sir Compton McKenzie's> novel and film "Whisky Galore" (known as "Tight Little Island" in North America). A Gaelic song, the Eriskay Love Lilt> has also made the island better known.
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