BALRANALD BAY VIEW
The Beach Cottage
Frequently Asked Questions about a holiday on North Uist
Visitors have plenty of choice and everyone has their favourite route. North Uist can be reached in a day from most areas of the UK mainland.
There are regular ferries both from Uig (Isle of Skye) to Lochmaddy (2 hours) and from Mallaig to Lochboisdale (3.5 hours). The summer ferry from Oban now terminates at Barra (4.5 hours). However, with an overnight stay on Barra followed by a short ferry crossing from Barra to Eriskay (40 minutes), North Uist can be reached by road via the islands of South Uist and Benbecula, which are all connected by causeways. Allow 1.5 - 2 hours for the drive from Eriskay to the cottage because the road is single track with passing places. The scenery is lovely and everyone on the road waves to each other!
Whichever ferry you choose, the sea journeys are fascinating. You may see whales, dolphins, porpoise and birds such as shearwaters and gannets during the crossing. The approach to Lochmaddy is a good place to see white tailed sea eagles. Throughout all of the ferry journeys, many new islands will appear on the horizon. The ferry from Mallaig allows stunning views of some of Scotlands most scenic high mountains and also passes close to the Isle of Skye. The ferry from Oban passes the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the scenic islands of Mull, Eigg and Rhum.
There are daily sailings from the Isle of Harris to Berneray (a one hour crossing) which is linked by a causeway to North Uist. Berneray is a 30 minute drive to the cottage.
Book your ferry journey through Calmac Ferries (www.calmac.co.uk)
Which airports are near North Uist?
Loganair (loganair.com) operate regular non-stop flights to Benbecula Airport (30 minutes from the cottage) from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Inverness.
A more adventurous alternative is to fly to Barra, where the aircraft lands on the beach at low tide!
Car hire and taxi companies are located in both Benbecula and Barra
Can we bring our dogs?
As animal lovers ourselves we are happy to consider requests to bring your dog on holiday. This needs to be discussed and agreed with the owners at the time of booking.
Can I work remotely from the cottage?
Yes, most definitely. Our reliable high speed satellite internet is ideal for those who need to keep in touch or focus on an important project, without the interruptions associated with their usual workplace. The cottage is also equipped with a VOIP (voice over internet phone) with free unlimited calls to UK landlines and we operate an honesty box system for other calls. Mobile phone signal reception is less reliable and supplier dependant. EE appears to have the best reception locally. Printing is not available.
The study has a large mahogany desk and WiFi reception extends throughout the cottage. The lounge and breakfast bar can also provide an attractive working ambiance, provided you are not too distracted by the views of the ocean through the window!
Where are the shops?
There is an excellent Co-op supermarket at Solas, a beautiful 15-20 minute coastal drive. The nearest convenience store/post office is at Bayhead, which is less than 10 minutes drive from the cottage and sells most things you are likely to need including petrol/diesel. The Hebridean Smokehouse is a 15 minute drive and sells gorgeous local seafood which you can watch being prepared on site, as well as frozen white fish and a selection of other quality provisions. There are two more well stocked supermarkets at Benbecula and one at Lochmaddy, both a 30 minute drive.
Can I buy fresh fish?
Yes, fresh locally caught fish is available year round on Wednesdays from a van which calls at Bayhead Stores around lunchtime (please check precise time in the Store). Local fishermen may be able to supply fresh lobster and other delicious freshly caught fish upon request. Kallin Shellfish catches and processes shellfish at the Grimsay pier including lobster, langoustine, crab and scallops. Our local fish are caught in some of the cleanest and most pollution free waters in the world- enjoy!
Where is the nearest petrol station?
Petrol and Diesel are available at Bayhead, less than 10 mins drive from the cottage. Petrol stations can also be found at Lochmaddy and in Benbecula.
Where can I find an ATM cash machine?
There are ATM machines at both Lochmaddy (Bank of Scotland) and Benbecula (Bank of Scotland and also inside MacLennan’s Supermarket), all about 30 mins drive
Where are the local Restaurants?
Langass Lodge is a 20 minute drive and has a good licensed restaurant serving local produce and advance reservations are advisable. Other options for eating out are the Lochmaddy Hotel and the Berneray Bistro on Berneray. The Westford Inn (about 15minutes drive from the cottage) serves good food and has been highly recommended.
How far is the nearest pub?
The historic and award winning Westford Inn at Claddach Kirkibost reopened in 2015 and is a 15 minute drive from the cottage.
How do I arrange a trip from the cottage to St Kilda?
North Uist is the nearest landmass to St Kilda, which lies just 38 nautical miles away. Uist Sea Tours have day trips to St Kilda from the Lochboisdale/Eriskay and also offer wildlife watching trips. Boat trips from the nearby island of Harris take around 3 hours each way. Kilda cruises and SeaHarris run day trips during the summer. All trips must be booked in advance.
Where can I hire a bicycle?
Bicycles can be hired from Morrison Cycle Hire, Bonnie View, 19 Carinish. Bicycles can be stored securely in our large garden shed.
Where are the nearest medical facilities?
The nearest hospital is located in Benbecula, about 25 mins drive from the cottage. The hospital has an Emergency Department with X-Ray facilities and inpatient beds. The postcode is HS7 5LA and the phone number is 01870 603600
All emergency services (Ambulance, Fire, Police) are available on the island and can be accessed by dialing 999. When 999 is dialled from the house phone, the emergency services will be automatically alerted to the location of the house, so that even if the caller cannot speak they will still come to the house.
For less serious conditions, there is a General Practice service and also a Dental Practice available at North Uist Medical Centre (open weekdays 09.00 to 18.00 hrs). The phone number is 01876 500333. For general medical emergencies "Out of Hours" dial 111
Where is the nearest veterinary facility?
The nearest veterinary service is at Clachan, about 15 minutes drive from the cottage (Southern Isles Veterinary Practice, postcode HS6 5HD, phone number 01876 580350)
Is the fishing really world class?
The fishing amidst the spectacular North Uist scenery has certainly been described as world class and includes wild brown loch trout, sea trout, arctic char and salmon. There are about 800 lochs and lochans on North Uist, most of which contain wild brown trout. Loch Hosta (3 minutes by car) has some of the "best wild brown trout fishing in Britain" according to Flyfishing Magazine.The North Uist Angling Club has the latest information and permit prices. Boats, equipment and guides can be hired locally and fishing permits can be obtained from the Westford Inn (phone 01876 580653).
Recommended websites include www.fishingthefly.co.uk and www.wildaboutfishing.co.uk. Fishing permits can be booked in advance online through www.fishpal.com
Where can I hire a Ghillie?
Ghillies can be hired through Langass lodge (a 20 minute drive) which caters for stalkers and wildfowlers on its 35,000 hectare estate. They can be contacted on 01876 580285 or through their website www.langasslodge.co.uk
Can I go Horse riding?
Yes, The Uist Community Riding Centre and British Horse Society approved riding School are in Benbecula, approximately a 30 mins drive, phone 01870 602808. The school is a registered charity and as such, the cost of rides is relatively modest compared to the UK mainland. As their website say’s “There’s little to beat the thrill and excitement of a horse ride along a beautiful Hebridean beach”. Contact the school and centre through www.ridehebrides.org
Where can I book wildlife watching boat trips?
Boat trips are a great way to explore the coastline and see wildlife such Golden Eagles, White tailed Sea Eagles, Red Deer, Seals and Otters. They can be arranged with Nick Ingledew on the Lady Ann Boat.
Where can I see Golden Eagles?
Golden Eagles have been sighted very frequently in the vicinity of the cottage and surrounding area. They have even been seen in flight from the lounge and kitchen window.
Is the cottage actually within the RSPB bird reserve?
Yes, the small unmanned RSPB visitor centre is about 3 minutes walk from the cottage and is usually the starting point for Ranger led birdwatching walks.
Where can I see local art and crafts and learn about the local culture?
North Uist is a paradise for artists and many of them have made their home here. Details of local galleries and artists are published annually in "Art on the map", a copy of which is provided in the cottage for guests. The museum at Lochmaddy has archives of local history including old photographs. The museum also holds special themed exhibits and has a cafe and a gift shop. The local newspaper "Am Paiper" is available in all local stores and details seasonal events such as festivals, ceilidh's and the unmissable Highland Games every summer. The nearest Visitor Information Centre (open April to October), is in Lochmaddy.
Are there any ancient ruins to explore?
History is everywhere on North Uist. A Viking fort has been excavated at nearby Udal. Some ruins date back to Neolithic times. There are approximately 100 Duns (a stone built fortified settlement with a large Dun being called a Broch) on North Uist alone. Standing stones, wheelhouses, chambered cairns and the ruins of blackhouses and sheilings are plentiful and often marked on Ordnance Survey maps. For those with a special interest in archaeology, reference to specialist text is recommended.
What about a cot and high chair?
The cottage is equipped with one cot and one high chair.
Can I recycle my refuse?
Yes, the cottage has 3 wheelie bins. Black is for refuse, blue is for paper/card and brown is for hard plastic and empty tins. The housekeeper will leave details about which bin is emptied on what day. This information is also printed in the local newspaper “Am Paiper”.
There are bottle banks at Bayhead Shop and also opposite the Co-op at Sollas
Is the internal floor area all on one level?
No, although the cottage is a single storey building, the large lounge is set slightly lower than the rest of the house which creates it’s high ceiling and a sense of space. A stairway with three steps connects the lounge to the rest of the house.
Is the cottage suitable for disabled persons?
No, there are three steps leading from the garden to the front door and three steps from the garden to the back door.
Is there a log burning stove in the cottage?
No, because wood for fuel is scarce on the island and peat is usually used to fuel log burning stoves. Local people rely on peat as a source of fuel and because peat is a finite resource, it would be inappropriate for holidaymakers to contribute to its depletion. Instead of a log burning stove therefore we have oil fired central heating throughout our cottage.