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Eriskay is just one of a group of low-slung, scattered islands and rocky islets which lie off South Uist's toe-like extremity: Lingay, Fiaray, Fuday and Barra – the recitation of their names sounds almost like a song! Eriskay comes from the Norse 'Erisgeidh' or 'Eric's Island'. Perhaps he was a Viking warrior, keen to lay claim to his only little beauty spot, but that's just my personal fantasy! It measures only three miles by two, so it's hard to get lost, especially as the summit of Ben Sciathan affords a panoramic view of the whole island. (A plaque on the triangulation pillar indicates the position of surrounding islands and hills). So this walk allows you to feel like an explorer in a wild and rocky wilderness, while retaining a sense of security! At the same time, it is a place of peace and beauty, curves of shimmering white sands, scattered homesteads, grey rocks and spiky marram grass. It is above all, an island of vibrant colour, turquoise and emerald, amber and amethyst, just name your jewel and you will find it there!
This is a walk of contrasts and as such, is a delight in itself, but there are two points of interesting history with which to feed the imagination!
This is the island where Bonnie Prince Charlie first set his foot upon Scottish soil, or should one say 'sand', since he landed in the bay called Coilleag a Phrionnsa, the Prince's Cockleshell Strand, where you start the walk. It's not too easy to spot from the beach, (we found it by following a line of footprints, but that's not much help as a waymark!), but about halfway along this beach, climb up into the sand-dunes to find a small memorial stone, nestled in the flower-filled machair. It's said that seeds of the pink and white convolvulus, which are not native to the Hebrides, were brought here by the prince. The inscription states that it was erected by the children of Eriskay School to commemorate the Prince's landing here in 1745.
From the top of Ben Sciathan, you may be able to pinpoint Am Politician bar. Keep its location in mind for that end-of-the-day reward and muse upon the fact that it commemorates a famous incident in fairly recent history. In 1941 the SS Politician ran aground close to Eriskay, giving the islanders (canny Scots as they were), the opportunity to 'rescue' its cargo of 20,000 cases of Scotch Whisky – Whisky Galore, in fact! The story was retold many times no doubt in the homes of islanders (where apparently it is not unknown for the odd recalcitrant buried bottle of Scotch to turn up even now), but also in Compton Mackenzie's novel and in the well-known film of the same name.
The Hebrides have an aura of mystery about them. In September, the faint honey smell of the heather-covered moorland pervades everything and the verges are scattered with wildflowers. In the sunshine they are stunning, alive with colour and freshness. However it should be said that 'Scotch mist' is not unknown and while you're unlikely to become seriously lost on this walk, because waymarks are not much help among the hummocks and rocks surrounding Ben Sciathan, it would probably best be attempted on a clear day.
Scotland - Highlands and Islands - Outer Hebrides - The Uists and Barra
Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Great Views, Hills or Fells, Pub, Sea, Wildlife