North Uist

Latitude: 57° 40′n / Longitude : 07° 15′w
18 miles east to west : 12 miles north to south

The following photographs appear by kind permission of Susy Macaulay.

By its geographical location the curving chain of the Outer Hebridean islands protects Scotland’s mainland coast from the ferocity of the Atlantic ocean winter storms. However nestling in the Gulf Stream we enjoy a more temperate climate between the months of April and September. The long island in this group is North Uist which is a low-lying island whose coarse rock at over 2000 million years old is amongst the oldest in the world.

Countless outcrops of this sparkling gneiss thrust through and create a patchwork surface over a complex topography of moors, bogland and the many lochans that give North Uist its unique global landscape. The island’s Atlantic west-facing coastline is an almost continuing strand of sand dunes and wildflower-sprinkled grassland called machair which is also noted for its rich diversity of birdlife, whilst the more sheltered east coast is raggedly indented by cliffs and sea lochs.

Sea lochs like Loch nam Madadh were formed after the last Ice Age when rising sea levels flooded low-lying coastal land. These shallow “fjardic” lochs studded with islands and rocky skerries have incredibly convoluted coastlines.

Views from the North Uist roads and shorelines provide ever evolving tantalising glimpses of the loch. However the only way that the unique vastness of this drowned landscape can be fully appreciated is from the air which reveals a pattern of settlements, crofts and much evidence of human habitation that stretches back over some 6000 years.