Fly to Barra in the Outer Hebrides where you can land on a sparkling sandy beach. Even the terminal building has a seaview and serves homemade scones and fresh coffee to passengers - air travel will never seem the same again. What’s more this small island makes for a perfect escape for a few days with plenty to explore.
Your flight departs from Glasgow with timings varying with the tides! You will be in the air for around an hour. As you reach Barra watch for the sandy beaches revealing themselves below, before you land on the Cockle Strand.
This is largely a Gaelic-speaking community with the hub being the port of Castlebay site of historic Kisimul Castle. Barra boasts myriad species of wildflowers and some stunning coastal scenery including the twin beaches of neighbouring Vatersay, with spectacular views back to Castlebay. Across the sound is the Isle of Eriskay – renowned setting of the novel ‘Whisky Galore’. Much of the film of the same name was set on Barra, though - you may recognise the street in Castlebay.
Originally built as a church and mission house in the mid-nineteenth century, your whitewashed hotel enjoys a fine location overlooking the bay with easy access to both the ferry port and Barra’s unique beachfront airstrip at Cockle Strand. In its previous incarnation as a guest house, it played host to several cast members of the classic 1948 film Whisky Galore before upgrading to hotel status in 1974, whereupon Northbay could boast its first licensed premises since the closure of the old inn decades earlier.
The hotel was extensively renovated recently and now has five comfortable en-suite bedrooms furnished in contemporary style, some with DVD. The cheerful public bar – whose walls are over 3 feet thick – is a pleasant place to sit and observe the fishing activity across the bay at Ardveenish pier, or to while away an evening listening to the friendly locals share their colourful tales of island life. Meals are served in the bar, or you can opt for the quieter dining room, whose menu features tempting island produce with an emphasis on locally landed fresh fish and shellfish.
What to see and do
Take a walk along the sparkling white sands of Cockle Strand and enjoy home-baking at the airport while watching planes landing at low tide – an unforgettable sight. Drive or cycle up to Eoligarry and feast your eyes on the springtime profusion of primroses as you gaze across the sound to Fuday, Eriskay and South Uist in the distance. Or head south to Castlebay, the island capital, and visit Kisimul Castle, restored ancestral home of the clan MacNeil. Stop off at the highly informative Heritage Centre, where you can enjoy coffee and refreshments, before perhaps taking a picnic across the causeway to Vatersay, with its glorious twin beaches.
Take off once more from Cockle Strand and return to Glasgow.