Distance: 2.25 miles
Time: 1 – 1.5 hrs plus time at top.
Benbecula , which lies between North and South Uist is very flat, more water than land but it has one tiny hill – Rueval – at 127m high which provides a fabulous view over the island’s empty, wild landscape.I have always loved that name – Benbecula – though it is Anglicised from the Gaelic, Beinn na Faoghla, which means the Hill of the Fords. There are ancient sand crossing points at low tide between Benbecula and North and South Uist, at times treacherous and now replaced with stone causeways which ford the great sea inlets.
From the start of this signposted walk (part of the long distance Hebridean Way walking route) we were on its summit in around 30 minutes. The walk starts at not the nicest spot – the Waste Disposal area! – but that is soon left behind as you walk along a good wide track for a short distance to a small dark blue lochan. On the left look out for a small cairn beyond a little quarry, where poles in the moorland indicate the (boggy) track up the hill. Two golden eagles circled above the hill when we reached this spot, a wonderful sight.
Very quickly, the views to South Uist’s mountain range opened up beautifully and by the time we reached the top of the heather -clad slopes, we were bowled over by what we were seeing.This despite the fact that the week before we had been tramping across two high Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet or 913m) in the Southern Highlands. Magnificent though that was, this had an equal grandeur albeit of a different kind.
North Uist’s pyramid hill Eaval rose 1,000 feet out of the water-studded landscape. Skye sat out on the eastern horizon and we could make out the great cliff headlands at Neist Point as well as the flat tops of Macleod’s Tables.
Shapely Beinn Mhor and Hecla (I love that name) on South Uist rose from the moorland.Benbecula’s east coast was a revelation, somewhere not easy to appreciate at all from the main road; before us lay mile after mile of hillocky rock-studded moorland, deep blue lochans and sea inlets, a frenzied landscape with one single road snaking its way through that mini wilderness. I need to get out to explore this area sometime soon; it looks fascinating and remote.
The writer Alasdair Alpin Macgregor counted over 90 freshwater lochs were visible. Our view also took in Rosinish, where Bonnie Prince Charlie escaped after Culloden in 1746, dressed as Flora Macdonald’s maid. To the west lay the flatter land and coastline around the small airport. We could see the surf breaking white against the miles of sands which line the western shores.
We had once again to drop down off the summit and find a comfy spot out of the bitter wind, hunkering down in the heather (always comfortable and soft!). It was sheer delight just to munch on some fruit and chocolate and drink in the vista.
This spot must be extra wonderful at sunset too.Then a retrace of our steps back to the path. Not before, however, we met a group of young people, in their twenties I’d guess, English accents, half sprinting up, who appeared never to have been here before.’This is AMAZING!’ said one young woman who didn’t seem to know where to look next. She was shaking her head – ‘This is incredible!’ There is always a sort of thrill in seeing someone else being bowled over by Scotland, as I am constantly. Her enthusiasm was lovely and I have to say, matched our own for this wonderful little corner of the Western Isles. Rueval , we will be back!