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Berneray


(Bhearnaraigh)

Joined by a causeway to the northern tip of North Uist in the Western Isles, but forming part of the parish of Harris, the island of Berneray (Gael: Eilean Bhearnaraigh) is largely composed of gneiss rock overlain with fertile sandy soil. This is the only inhabited island in the Sound of Harris, with 138 people in 2011. The population fell sharply from 201 in 1961, but has subsequently stabilised at 131 (1971), 133 (1981), 141 (1991) and 136 (2001). With an area of 1010 ha (2496 acres), Berneray rises to a height of 93m (305 feet) at Beinn Shleibhe (Moor Hill) and 85m (278 feet) at Borve Hill. At the centre of the island between the two hills lies the freshwater Loch Bhruist and on the east coast at Borve in the sea loch known as Bays Loch there is a harbour built in the 1980s with EU funding. Settlement is largely concentrated in the east at Borve and Rushgarry (Gael: Ruisigearraidh), with sheep farming and fishing being the main occupations. Berneray, which is associated with the Clan MacLeod and the Harris Estate, was the birthplace of the 'Cape Breton Giant' Angus MacAskill (1825-63) said to be the world's tallest and strongest man of his time. The oldest building on the island is the Gunnery of MacLeod which was the birthplace of the Gaelic scholar Norman MacLeod (1614 - 1705), and notable antiquities include the Chair Stone, a legendary place of execution and the Clach Mhor standing stone built on a site which is associated with St. Columba and St. Maelrubha. HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, spent time living in seclusion with the locals on the island in the late 1980s. Berneray Primary School closed in 2005.

There is a car ferry link with Leverburgh in Harris. The ecology of Berneray benefits from the absence of rabbits.


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