North Uist & Berneray 

 The beautiful Vallay sands at sunset

Kite Surfing

As far as we are concerned, North Uist is kite surfing heaven! Believe it or not, the water really isn't that cold although the air temperature can be a touch chilly if it's cloudy. There are spectacular white beaches all around the island and you can have your choice of waves or flat water in all wind directions. The pick of the beaches from our travels are:

Vallay Sands

 Vallay (Traigh Bhalaigh) is a massive lagoon (about 3kmx3km) which fills up about 2-3 hours either side of high tide. You can use it in most wind directions as you are almost completely surrounded by low lying land although S/SE gets a bit gusty. To get down to the sand, turn right (if coming from Lochmaddy) on the sharp left hand bend in Malacleit and follow the road down past the houses and onto the machair. The water is no more than chest deep most of the way across except where the river runs out. We have had so many great sessions here, it's a really great freestyle spot! There are very few rocks (but there are some!) and the only other thing to watch for is the rip where the river runs into the open sea.

 Traigh Iar

Facing NNW-W, Traigh Iar is next door to Vallay sands but open to the sea so you get some very lovely waves. It's tight at high tide but experienced kitesurfers should be ok. You get to it by turning right (coming from Lochmaddy) at the Co-op in Sollas. Follow the track down towards the beach. Just after you go through the gate, you'll come to a crossroads in the machair tracks - it's obvious which one you need to take if you think about it for a minute or 2! Be careful if it's been very wet as it can get a wee bit boggy in the low lying bits. You used to be able to get to it from the track you use to get to Vallay but this has now been washed away. Keep going until you reach sand. If you like waves you NEED to surf here.


Traigh Ear

Traigh Ear
We waited 4 years for the right conditions to kite at Traigh Ear but it was definitely worth it. You really need a nice, healthy N-NE wind to get the best out of it. Like Vallay, you get a big, flat lagoon for about 2-3 hours either side of high tide and it's also no more than chest deep all the way across. To launch at high tide, you will need to walk out into the water and get your kind kite buddy to launch you from the grass. You get to Traigh Ear by turning right (coming from the east) at the phone box on the corner at Greinetobht. Follow the wee rood past the houses and a couple of hundred yards later, you'll arrive at the wee car park. Don't be tempted to park on the sand if the tide's not in because it will come in right up to the edge of the grass.

Paibeil

Buggying Paible
Waves at Lagan Arnal
The machair track at Paibeil (turn down towards the beach at the phonebox and follow your nose!) brings you out at the right angle point between 2 beaches; Lagan Masgeir which faces W and has relatively flat water and Lagan Arnal (picture right) which faces SSW and is a bit more wavey. This beach is very handy if you're expecting the wind to swing from S to W over the day!


Traigh Hornais

Traigh Hornais


To get to Traigh Hornais (faces NNW), take the third left off the B893 (the road to the Harris ferry and Berneray) which is signposted for the cemetery. Follow the road down past the cemetery, it will turn into a track, continue down the track until you get to the point between Traigh Hornais and Traigh Lingeigh. There are no major waves to speak of here and it's a wee bit choppy but still fun. You can kite all the way over to Orasaigh and beyond if you feel the need and there are plenty of seals to keep you company. Obviously, be respectful if there does happen to be a funeral at the cemetery and wait until it's over to launch your kite.

If there is no wind and you have a snorkel and mask, we'd highly recommend a wee snorkel round the rocky point as there's actually a surprising amount to see.


Baleshare (or Baile Sear in Gaelic)

Baleshare
Baleshare
Baleshare is a flat, sandy island on the west of North Uist and the long, sandy beach on the west side faces SW-W. You get some ok waves but they're generally not as well formed and spaced as they are round at Traigh Iar. Having said that, there are some nice little waves that break at the north end of the beach and there is some very pleasant kite surfing to be had! Whilst there is lovely flat water between Baleshare and North Uist, we kited round there in 2009 and our advice is DON'T GO THERE!!! It's a bugger to get to, there's a fast rip in the channel and the wind is GUSTY, even though the land is low lying. Still, you do get a nice ride down the waves on the way back to the North end. If you want flat water, our advice is go to Vallay. The road to the beach on Baleshare is clearly marked on the OS Landranger map of Benbecula and South Uist (Sheet 22). Turning at the end of the track is a wee bit tight but we managed to get a long wheelbase van round, albeit with some discussion!

  

 Tom speeding on Baleshare - take note, if you will, of how much board is actually touching the water...


 Berneray

 Berneray is a wee island to the north of North Uist that is reached by a causeway. There is a hard, sandy beach (Big Beach, the one in the buggy pictures) that runs for about 5km round the west and north coasts of Berneray and in a nice stiff north-westerly you can go the whole length of it in a buggy. No serious waves to speak of really on the water - a bit of shorebreak with relatively flat water behind but will probably be choppy if the wind is strong. Not the best water state but it's a beautiful beach so worth at least a day's surf if you don't buggy. To get there, turn right (coming from Loch Maddy) just after the quarry - follow the signs for 'Sound of Harris Ferry' . Once you've gone over the causeway, follow the road up to Borve (Borgh) and take the left turn. Follow that road until you get to the wee car park (about 2km). To get closer to the beach, you can drive through the gate on the right at the car park and follow the machair track down to the dunes - don't hassle the cows though! 


If you follow the road on past Borve and the harbour, you'll come to Loch Bhatarsaidh (pictured above and below) which is an east facing beach. It seems to be the place to take your camper van and it's worth remembering that there is a shower in the toilets back down at the harbour if you need it. Please respect the locals and their environment if you are camping here or indeed anywhere on the Western Isles! The beach is mostly sandy but there is a rocky patch to be aware of about two thirds of the way along heading North. When the tide's running, there's also a fast current at the south end of the beach but that's easy enough to avoid.

Berneray looking towards Harris

There are many other fine beaches around North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist so get a map and go wandering!

Getting There & Accommodation

It's a Calmac again! You can get ferries from Oban or Uig on Skye. The ferry from Oban takes about 5 hours and  goes to Lochboisdale on South Uist. It's a lovely ferry ride and you are quite likely to see basking sharks, dolphins and seals among other things. Obviously Uig is a longer drive (depending where you set off from!) but the ferries take just over an hour and go into Lochmaddy on North Uist. The islands of North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay are all joined together by causeways so you can drive up and down to your heart's content! 

There are various B&Bs and hotels on the islands but the easiest  option for Kiters is probably to hire a cottage and the Scottish Tourist Board is the best place to start. We have now stayed at Burnside Croft several times and it really is a lovely spot. The Smiddy is a modernised blackhouse which sleeps 2 self catering or you can stay in Gloria's Burnside Croft B&B next door. There are various pubs and restaurants scattered about, our favourite is Langass Lodge Hotel. It's like the set of Monarch of the Glen and the food is fantastic. Don't be surprised if you have to wait a bit or if they run out of stuff, that's because it's fresh! The Hebridean Smokehouse is also worth a visit if you're into smoked fish!

If you're going camping or self catering, do not feel that you have to do a massive supermarket shop on the mainland before you go. The shops on the islands are very well stocked and really not all that much more expensive. The locals will also look upon you and other tourists much more kindly if you support their economy. There are various very good Co-op shops dotted about and if you can't find what you need in one of those, there is McLennans supermarket in Balevanich on Benbecula if you need any more unusual ingredients. There is a fish market round at Kallin on Grimsay (wee island between North Uist and Benbecula) once a week - the signpost will tell you which day as I can't remember!