Photos Hebrides 2006 South Uist+
Vatersay is now the most southerly inhabited island since Mingulay was abandoned in 1912. Even here there are deserted settlements where only the gable ends of houses remain. The causeway built in 1990 linking it to Barra has helped Vatersay maintain an active population with children able to catch the morning school bus. On the west coast occurred one of the worst shipping disasters of the islands with 353 immigrants bound for Canada drowned. The southern islands are mainly Catholic and fairly relaxed. Barra's main settlement, Castlebay, overlooks a rare medieval castle. The remote St Barr's church on the north of the island houses ancient stones. Nearby extensive sandy beaches attract numerous waders and offshore birds. Eriskay, the setting for Compton McKenzie's 'Whisky Galore', is linked to South Uist by another causeway. From the summits of South Uist's mountains you have a good view of the extensive machair fields stretching the length of the west coast. Farming here in the calcareous sandy soils is strictly regulated to meet the needs of both farmers and wild life. Even in spring there is a profusion of flowers on the machair, in fields, on boggy mountainsides and on sea cliffs. We were always on the lookout for otters though we did not get our first sighting until well in to our stay in Harris.