The Isle of Great Bernera, often simply referred to as Bernera, is a small Scottish island connected to Lewis by a bridge. The island has a wonderful beach and an Iron Age village at Bostah, in the northwest. It also has its own museum, where visitors can learn more about its history.
Prior to the 1950s the island was completely disconnected from Lewis and the residents were so keen to build a bridge between the two land masses that they threatened to create a causeway by dynamiting the cliffs on either side. The authorities responded and built the bridge that stands today, which opened in 1953. To inaugurate the bridge a crowd of 4,000 people walked from Lewis to Bernera and the Stornoway Gazette reported “On that day Bernera ceased to be an island and became part of Lewis. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say Lewis ceased to be an island and became part of Bernera”.
In 1962 the island was purchased by Count Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees, a friend of Ian Fleming, who is thought to have been the inspiration for James Bond’s character. Following the Count’s death in 2012, Bernera’s residents held a postal ballot to purchase the island. More than 85% of the island’s population of approximately 250 voted with only 37 individuals voting against the decision. The purchase is yet to be complete* but will close a powerful chapter in Scotland’s history of land ownership.
The island is approximately nine and a half kilometres (six miles) long from north to south and the centre is at Breacleit, the island’s main village, which is named for its geographical feature rather than its steading and is thought to be an ancient settlement.
The east of Bernera is home to much of the island’s fishing fleet. The island was noted for its fishing as early as 1550, and in 1972 a processing plant was built at Kirkibost Pier.
There are some great hiking routes on the island, including a coastal trail that leads to Bostadh, a spot that overlooks the lochs designated as a Special Area of Conservation.
1 week camper van road-trip with Hebridean Campervan Holidays
- Explore the Outer Hebrides 2016/2017
- The Outer Hebrides Guide Book Third Edition
*At time of writing in 2016