Summer 2022: Uig walks

Walking on Mangersta Cliffs

Gallan Head on the Aird Peninsula

On our first full day in Lewis, a Sunday, we had arranged to meet Simon, a friend and former colleague of John’s who had recently moved to the island. Most places on Lewis don’t open on Sundays, so we headed for the one place we knew we could get lunch, The Edge Café at Gallan Head. This amazing place is run single-handedly by Fiona L’Estrange who cooks everything from scratch when you order, so it’s not for those in a hurry and it’s advisable to arrive soon after opening to get a seat. We had a great lunch, but before that, John and I went for a walk out to the headland.

Gallan Head, the village, is a strange looking place. It’s a hangover from the time it was home to an RAF station which closed in the 1970s, after which it lay derelict for many years. In 2016 a community trust was able to buy the headland, including the area where the camp was, and it is slowly coming back to life. It wasn’t very nice weather when we were up there, but it still had a bleak beauty to it.

Mangersta (Mangurstadh)

After leaving Simon we drove back past our own road end and continued to Mangersta where we did a lovely circular cliff walk – but first we admired the local sense of humour.

A few shots of the walk are shown below, and Mangersta cliff-top also features in the post-header.


Another morning, we drove past Mangersta to the road end at Breinis, currently the full-stop for human habitation in Uig. However, a track leads on for another couple of miles passing three rocky beaches, the ruins of Mealasta, a deserted village whose inhabitants were forced out in 1838, and a pile of rocks thought to be the site of a pre-Reformation nunnery. This would have been quite a bleak place to live, I think.

Uig Sands

After a chilly lunch on one of the little beaches above we drove back to our own area and went for a walk on Uig Sands, a golden contrast to the pebbles of Mealasta.

We detoured onto the road in the hope of a coffee at the Uig Community Centre tearoom, but it was shut for a family wedding. However, outside we made the acquaintance Of Leif Erikson, the first recorded European to set foot on American shores, who spent time in the Outer Hebrides. He stands alongside one of the outsize Lewis Chessmen which are dotted around the area, the originals having been found nearby.

Valtos (Bhaltos) peninsula

Our final Uig walk was around the Valtos peninsula, which juts into Loch Roag (Ròg), mainly on the 6-mile circular road but sometimes on beautiful beaches. (Valtos is a Norse name meaning “sheepfold on the mouth of the river”.) We noted with amusement that our guidebook recommended a clockwise route for “the best views”, while the local map we had purchased recommended an anti-clockwise route for the same reason: we stuck with local advice and set off anti-clockwise from the car park at Tràighe na Cliobhe (Cliff Beach) near the head of the peninsula.

Walking back the way we had driven, the road took us along Loch Sgalleir before sweeping left and climbing above Loch Roag.

At Reef (Riof) we visited An Suileachan, a monument commemorating the land raiders of the early 20th century and celebrating the peninsula’s move to community ownership in 1998. The bench proved to be a good place for a picnic.

To the memory of the men and women who resisted eviction from Reef before being forcibly removed in 1850-51 and their descendants who regained the land in 1921. The land finally came under ownership of the people who live and work on it, through the formation of the Bhaltos Community Trust, in 1998.

A little further round the coast we left the road again to take a rocky path up a narrow valley past the remains of four Norse watermills.

The valley led up to a small, marshy plateau by Loch Barabhat complete with Iron Age fort. From here we turned and retraced our steps down to Reef Beach (also known as Tràighe na Beirigh, or Beach of the Fort).

Between the road and the beach, the wildflowers were out in abundance on the machair. It was also a tad windy as you can see by the flag! And despite the deserted appearance, there was quite a busy campsite here.

Our final detour off the road was down to Valtos Pier where some of the boats seemed beyond redemption.

Finally, we swung back round towards Tràighe na Cliobhe where we had left our car.

The day after this walk, we left Lewis. However, I have missed out two walks from our week’s stay because they took place outwith Uig. Great Bernera and the Butt of Lewis will have to wait for another post.


  1. Fiona L’Estrange sounds like a character from Harry Potter! Good thing there was someplace open on a Sunday.

    Lots of rocks and stunning coastal scenes, something I don’t get here at all (coast, that is; rocks we have).


  2. Looks as action packed a trip as usual. I recognize that cliff name from my rock climbing books, unless there is another Mangersta cliff on some other West Coast Island nearby. Take me an hour to find the relevant guide book to check. Like the quirky signs, very different.


  3. The only island I ever really spent time on was Jura, thus I love your trips to the various islands.I have promised myself if I get the opportunity to get “home” I would do the NC 500 , tour the islands and re- visit all the abbeys that I took the boys to before we left Scotland. Oh and go back to Edinburgh and Greyfriars Bobby. But to be in ” The Dear Green Place” would be a joy.


  4. Wonderful. I was just wondering, do you speak Gaelic? Or just know how to pronounce the placenames? I always guess (Irish racehorse names are quite informative) and am probably wrong.


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