Sandison's Scotland; Bruce Sandison Is a Journalist, Angler and Author of a String of Best-Selling Books about Scotland's Outdoors. He Lives in Sutherland. Exploring the History of the Magnificent Island of Benbecula

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), January 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sandison's Scotland; Bruce Sandison Is a Journalist, Angler and Author of a String of Best-Selling Books about Scotland's Outdoors. He Lives in Sutherland. Exploring the History of the Magnificent Island of Benbecula


Until recent times, the island of Benbecula was isolated from its near neighbours, North and South Uist, by the North and South Fords. Passage over the shifting sands was both dangerous and difficult.

In 1943, a causeway was built over South Ford - still known today as O'Regan's Bridge, in honour of the priest most active in advocating its construction.

However, 17 years passed before Benbecula was linked to North Uist. In 1960, the Queen Mother opened a route over the North Ford, completing the link. The island's economy was further stimulated by the advent of the rocket-testing range and Ministry of Defence establishment at Balivanich. Of the three islands, Benbecula shows most sign of change.

When my eldest son Blair worked for the MoD, he and I set off one morning to explore the east coast of the island by following Clanranald's Kelp Road to the sea. During the Great War, kelp (seaweed) was the major industry of Benbecula. The potash produced by burning kelp was essential to armaments factories and more than 600 tons were exported each year.

The track ends on a small, sandy beach of a beautiful loch called Scarilode - deep, clear waters surrounded by steep crags and full of responsive, red-spotted little wild brown trout.

Edging round the west shore past a rowan-decked promontory, we found the long finger of Oban Haka pointing to the ruins of a building marked on the map as shieling.

This eastern area of Benbecula was once part of a large farm known as Nunton, owned in the 1920s by Lady Gordon Cathcart, who lived in Bournemouth.

When the islanders who survived the carnage of World War I returned, they expected to find, as promised, a "land fit for heroes to live in". …

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Sandison's Scotland; Bruce Sandison Is a Journalist, Angler and Author of a String of Best-Selling Books about Scotland's Outdoors. He Lives in Sutherland. Exploring the History of the Magnificent Island of Benbecula
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