A south to north traverse across the hills of Barra’s spine taking in a number of summits including the high point of the island Heabhal.
Distance: 8 km / 5 miles
Ascent: 460 m / 1500 feet
Start: near Castlebay
Facilities: Parking at start point, cafes/toilets in Castlebay, Heathbank Hotel near Northbay, limited bus service on the island.
Other walks in the area: Barra Beaches
There’s something very satisfying about a traverse of the high ground in an area and this walk is no exception. It is rather wet underfoot but most of the walking, although pathless, is on rough grass rather than peat hags or heather which makes it a bit easier than might be expected. As it is an end to end walk you will need to think about transport logistics before starting on the walk. There are a couple of buses each day between Castlebay and Northbay. If you have a car with you it might be worth leaving in the Northbay area and taking the bus to the start of the walk so you can walk back to your car. There are also a few taxis on the island that could be utilised.
Start from the car park at the high point of the road going up the east side of the island (grid reference NL 679 987). A gate takes you on to a feint path on the hillside which leads you to a second gate and the open hillside. From here you can either go straight up the steep south side of the hill passing the Our Lady of the Seas statue or follow a feint pathline round to the north west for a more gentle ascent. An alternative option would be to approach the hill via An Gleann in Castlebay which brings you on to the south west side of the hill.
Whatever way you choose to go it will be a short steep climb but it doesn’t take long to reach the 384m summit. On a clear day the views would be stupendous. On a not so good morning they were still fairly reasonable looking out over a patchwork of land and sea.
After celebrating reaching the highest point of the island, follow a feint grassy path northwards to the un-named 360m point (marked with a wee cairn) and then onwards roughly easterly to Hartabhal (359m).
From Hartabhal the descent northwards into the Beul a’ Bhealaich is a bit steeper and the ground is a bit heathery rather than grassy. Continue northwards ascending to the summit of Grianan (295m). The continuation northwards then takes you into a dip and on to an un-named 263m summit. After this summit there is a more pronounced dip with an old fence running through it. The fence is easily crossed at a broken section next to a wooden marker post for the new long distance walk Hebridean Way.
Ascend on to the final summit of the day, Ben Bhirisig (198m). The ground is now a bit more hummocky and not so easy going but you are nearly finished the walk. From this summit on a clear day you will see the reservoir of Loch an Duin to the north west. Descend towards the loch, picking your way down the steep ground through the rocky bits until you reach a track alongside the loch. Turn left onto the track and follow it out to the road.
Once you meet the road you can turn right and walk to the Northbay junction approximately 1 mile away. 1/2 mile past the junction is the Heathbank Hotel which would make a good finishing point.
View / download this walk from Ordnance Survey.
View / download this walk from Viewranger.
More photographs from the Isle of Barra available on Facebook.
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