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GREAT BERNERA

Grid Ref. NB162344

Bernera is some 8 km long by 3 km wide and covers an area of approx 27km2.  It lies in Loach Roag off the West Coast of Lewis and is conected to Lewis by a road bridge which was built in 1953. 

 

Bosta beach on Bernera  

The island is situated in a natrually stunning location with views over to the beaches and cliffs of Uig.

 From higher view points the dramatic  Flannan Isles can be seen (locally known as the seven hunters) they are the locus for the misterious disaperance of three lighthouse keepers in 1900 which became the subject matter of the poem by Wilfried Wilson Gibson Flannan Isle. 

The name Bernera is of Norse origin as are many of its village setelments Kirkibost, Bosta, Croir and Valasay.

The island was the location of the Bernera Riot  where crofters resisted the Highland clearances

The Bernera Riot took place in 1872, and occurred as a reaction to heavy-handed evictions and treatment by the factor of Sir James Matheson Donald Munro. The islanders refused to send their livestock over to Lewis, and were in turn threatened with a military visit. This did not occur, but even more eviction notices were handed out, and the visitors were pelted with clods of earth.

Bernera boasts an Iron age settlement at Bosta beach which has resulted in the building of a replica Iron age house which is open to visitors during the summer. 

 The island also has a Iron age Broch ( Dunn Barraglom) and a Norse Mill.  The island has its own minature Callanish ( Callanish VII) a set of megalith standing stones or Tursachan just above the bridge on the Bernera side.  

The island was owned by  Count Robin de la Lanne Mirrlees who had the honour in 1953 of standing  nearby the royal throne during the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II in Westminster Abby as one of her selected heralds. The sad update to this text is that the Count or Robin as the islanders knew him passed away on Sat 23rd June in Stornoway.  He will be saddly missed by all how knew him.

Great Bernera's population is mainly dependent on lobster  fishing, crofting and tourism. Fertile machair pasture permits sheep and cattle grazing.  

A crab  processing plant was built at Kirkibost  in 1972.  There are still some weavers but this is no longer one of the main industries. Breacleit is home to a small museum  mini-mart & off licence, school, a post office, church, community centre with café, petrol station, fire station and doctor's surgery.

Sea life is especially rich where there is tidal run between the Caolas Bhalasaigh (English: "Valasay Straits/Kyles") and the inner sea-loch  of Tòb Bhalasaigh. There are numerous molluscs, sponges, brittlestars and sea stars   the latter growing noticeably larger in size than normal. Cup Coral, Snakelocks Anemone and Dead Man's Fingers coral, may also be found here. Common fish include Shanny and Butterfish  and Atlantic and Common Seals are regular off-shore visitors.

Great Bernera hosts numerous sea bird species, including gulls, waders and ducks such as Goldeneye  More unusually, a Jack Snipe was observed on the island in 2007.

The local residents are very friendy and welcoming and the local community hall is the center of social activity for coffee shop and periodic functions such as traditional ceilidh nights.

 

 




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