Berneray: Summit and Sea

A fantastic walk on the island of Bernaray (North Uist) taking in two summits and a magnificent Atlantic beach. Bernaray at the northern end of the Uists is famed for its sandy beaches. On a good day it’s not hard to see why.

  • Distance:  14 km / 8.7 miles
  • Ascent: 200 m / 650 feet
  • Terrain: Beach walking, grassy paths, vehicle tracks
  • Start / finish: Bernerary Community Hall (parking available)

Route Map

route map

Start the walk at the community hall where there is convenient parking. Other starting points are available along the route. Go through the gate and keep to the right hand side of the field. Cross a small burn and aim for a gate in the fence to your right. From the gate a rough path heads up the first summit of Cnoc Bhurigh (85m).

Descend in a north easterly direction aiming for the village and later more specifically, the church. There is no path on this side of the hill so just pick your own way down. From the church walk out to the “main road” and turn left. Follow the road around the island passing a seal viewing point until you reach the Gatliff Youth Hostel at the end of the road. It’s worth taking a few moments at this point to view the remains of thatched houses in the vicinity.

From the hostel continue around the coastline on the grassy machair until you reach the road end at a B&B. Go through a gate with a waymarker post heading up the hillside towards a burial ground. This section of the walk follows the waymarkers all the way to the summit of Ben Shlèibhe. At 93m this is the highest point of the island and is marked with a trig point. From here on a good day, the views across the Sound of Harris are remarkable.

Further waymarkers direct you down the north west side of the hill initially following a fence line. As you lose height the sound of the sea becomes stronger but it is not until you reach the coast that you actually see the vast expanse of white beach that makes up the western shore of Bernerary. From here you have a 5 km walk either along the beach or in the dunes (or a bit of both) down the western seaboard to the southern end of the island.

At the southern end of the beach the dunes become higher but at the end of the beach a gap allows access inland from where you can pick up feint vehicle tracks to reach a small car park next to a hut. From the car park a surfaced road leads back across the fields to the community centre.