I’ve been hoping to get out to Vallay (Scottish Gaelic: Bhàlaigh), a now uninhabited tidal island located just off North Uist, for some time. But as access is only possible at low tide I’d never timed it right, or the weather wasn’t good enough, until today. The tide was low and the weather forecast was good, so I decided to go and see how it looked. Having a 4×4 meant I could drive over, which was a bonus! I walked out onto the sand first, to make sure it was safe to cross, there were a couple of wet patches but nothing deep, so I was good to go. It was great fun driving across the sand, and the sun even came out as I was driving.
I was greeted to the island by a herd of friendly Highland cows, now the main inhabitants of the island, although at one time there was a population of nearly sixty people here. I think the cows thought I was there to feed them. When I got back to the car later, there was cow drool all over the windows, so they’d been having a good look in the car too!
After chatting with the cows for a while, I headed off over the fields and dunes to the beach on the northern coast of the island. I found one of the nicest beaches I’ve visited, and I’ve visited many beaches in the islands! The only other footprints of the beach were those of an otter, but unfortunately I didn’t see the otter itself. I had a lovely wander about, taking lots of photographs. I’d love to have explored more, as there are other beaches either side of the one I visited, but I was conscious that I had to be back before the tide started coming in too much.
On the way back to the car I visited the ruin of Valley House, built around 1901-02, the former mansion house of Erskine Beveridge, a Scottish textile manufacturer, historian and photographer. Beveridge spent many summers on the island before his death in 1920, leaving the property to his son, who moved to nearby North Uist until his death in 1944. After this the contents of the house were auctioned off and it has been abandoned ever since. The house is in too bad a state for a proper exploration (especially when I’m on my own on a fairly inaccessible tidal island!), but I walked around the outside and took photographs through the windows. There are also a few other abandoned buildings on the island.
I think Vallay might well be one of my new favourite places; an adventure to get there, beautiful beaches, Highland cows and abandoned mansions – what’s not to love?! I’ll definitely be back, probably with a tent next time, so I can stay longer without worrying about the tide, and hopefully spot that otter.