Benbecula or Beinn Na Faoghla is an island in the Outer Hebrides. In the main it's low-lying and sits between the larger islands of North and South Uist, to which it is joined by causeways. However it possesses more resources than its neighbours in the shape of shops, schools, colleges, and an airport as a result of having been, until recently, a military base and missile firing range. As a result, most visitors, perhaps unfairly, pass through Benbecula relatively quickly.
Balivanich is the main village. It is the home to a military base and an airport and the hospital for the Uists and Barra. The airport and the military housing are the main things that you see passing through the village.
Nunton is a hamlet a mile south of Balivanich, on the westerly route of the island. Many buses pass through the village each day of the week, except Sunday.
Creagorry is a small village at the south end of Benbecula
Uachdar is a village at the north end of Benbecula
Benbecula is the 'cushion' between the northern Protestant islands, and the Catholic communities of South Uist and Barra. It was dragged into the modern world more quickly than the other neighbouring islands by virtue of its military base and the need for supply routes and other facilities necessary for maintaining a military presence. These have now largely, if not totally, disappeared, but the island has been left with a legacy of unlikely institutional housing developments and, depending on ones viewpoint, the more welcome facility of an airport.
Flights to Benbecula Airport operate from Glasgow, Barra and Stornoway. The terminal is a short walk from the rest of the village and if you are heading elsewhere in the Uists, buses stop outside the terminal. Most flights are operated by Flybe.
Buses link Benbecula with North Uist, Berneray, South Uist and Eriskay. As part of the Western Isles Overland Route combination of bus and ferry, you can travel in under a day from Stornoway or Castlebay on Barra. In Balivanich the buses generally stop at the airport and the hospital, however there are a number of bus shelters located throughout the village.
Caladonian Macbrayne operate a ferry from Lochmaddy, Lochboisdale and other places to and from the mainland.
Car hire is available from three locations:
- MacLennan's Garage, Balivanich, ☎ .
- Ask Car Hire, Creagorry, ☎ .
- Laing motors, Lochboisdale, ☎ .
- Beach down the west coast of the island.
- Culla Bay. One of the best beaches on Benbecula, it stretches from Nunton along to the neighbouring township of Aird. There are many access points to the beach from the main road.
- 1 Borve Castle (OS map ref NF 773505). A small ruin just off the main road. No facilities and no charge.
There are many things on offer for you to do in Balivanich from coastal walks to picnics in the park. Balivanich's coastline also provides some of the best snorkelling within the UK. There are also two children's play parks in Balivanich for children to enjoy. One, Balivanich Park, has the benefit of areas with benches, plants and many wild flowers.
- 1 Uist Community Riding School, East Camp, Balivanich, HS7 5LA., ☎ . Horse and pony riding, including rides on the beach.
In Balivanich there is a range of shops from gift shops to grocers. In the central area of Balivanich, located among a large housing estate, there is MacLennan's Self Service. It has a range of local and national produce. This is a Nisa Today Store.
Located nest door is Lovats Benbecula. This is also a grocers offering a range of videos and DVDs to rent and buy.
There is also MacGillivrays, a small gift, furniture and flooring store. It stocks a wide range of gifts including the ever-popular Harris Tweed. This is located next to the airport and military base on the north side of the village.
Less than a mile south out of Balivanich is D.R. MacDonald Hardware. This stocks gifts.
About two miles north of Balivanich is J H Luney Carpets & Furnishings. This is a home and floor furnishings store with a wide variety of furniture and gifts.
- 1 Macleans Bakery, Uachdar, HS7 5LY. M-F 8AM-3PM, Sa 8AM-2PM. Small baker baking bread and oatcakes with a shop onsite.
- 1 Stepping Stone Restaurant, Balivanich, HS7 5LA, ☎ . Offers some of the best food in the Western Isles. It is spacious and light, with large picture windows on each side. Its cuisine is a mixture of Scottish and international, and uses local produce wherever possible. The prices are always very reasonable, the atmosphere is friendly and informal. You can dine in the formal, raised section of the restaurant named Sinteag, or in the informal section named The Food Base.
- An Caladh, Balivanich (located on the East Camp premises). Cafe serves up a range of meals and snacks at very reasonable prices. You get good value for money as the servings are more than the usual.
- The Low Flyer. This is a small cafe/bar where you can order bar food such as spare ribs or chips.
- 2 The Airport Cafe. Open to non-fliers and there is free parking next the terminal.
- 3 Sgoil Lionacliet. Have a school lunch at Sgoil Lionacliet during the summer holidays.
- Nunton Steadings, Nunton. This is a cafe, gift shop and licensed bar run by the Ladyman Family.
- The Low Flyer is the only pub/bar in Balivanich. It also serves food. You can enjoy a game of pool or watch the TV while relaxing with your drink. The Low Flyer has a takeaway facility and serves all week. Its prices are reasonabl.
There are many other bars on Benbecula for you to explore.
There are two B & Bs in Nunton, or you could go down the road to Muir of Aird where you will also find a B & B. The Dark Island Hotel is 5 miles away in Liniclate. Or perhaps you are camping or caravaning. Shell Bay Caravan Site is also in Liniclate with Excellent tourist facilities.
- Ceann na Pairc Guest House, 3 Nunton, HS7 5LU, ☎ . From £45.
- 1 Nunton House Hostel, HS7 5LU, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A four-room hostel with 4 bunks per room. £20-25/adult, £15/child.
- 2 Dark Island Hotel, Liniclate, HS7 5PJ (next Liniclate School), ☎ .