Barra and its smaller sister island, Vatersay, are the southernmost of the inhabited Outer Hebrides. Further to the south, and visible from Barra’s highest hill, are the once inhabited islands of Pabbay, Mingulay and Berneray but these have now been abandoned. The same fate nearly came to Vatersay but the construction of the causeway provided the means to maintain the communities there.
Heaval is Barra’s highest point at 384m and is a steep climb out of Castlebay. From its summit the views are to the islands to the south and Uist, Skye, Mull and Coll as well as down on the castle in the bay below.
While the day was bright it was also breezy meaning that it was less than ideal for looking out for insects. However a few butterflies did brave the weather with common blue, grayling and meadow brown spotted. A very few hoverflies were also seen in more sheltered spots and on the flanks of Heaval were a few hardy six-spot burnet moths and a common green grasshopper.
The following day was calmer but wetter, again not an ideal day for insect spotting. We took the bus down to Vatersay for a wander on the quiet sandy beaches and through areas of machair, with their bright mix of wild flowers on the grasslands behind the dunes. Here the wild carrot, dwarfed by the conditions, provided bright circles of white flower clusters with a tiny spot on pink at the centre of each head. A few common blues braved the weather but otherwise the swathes of flowers were largely devoid of pollinating insects.
While the beaches are remote and often empty it’s depressing to see so much plastic waste on the beach, particularly on the Atlantic side.