Yes, you read that title correctly: to reach the island of Great Bernera, right next to the west coast of the Isle of Lewis, you have to drive along a bridge across the Atlantic. Of course, it’s a very small sliver of the ocean, but it’s the ocean all the same.
When I drove over the Atlantic earlier this month, it was a dazzling blue, twinkling under the September sun. The bridge, constructed from pre-stressed steel, was the first of its kind in Europe, built in 1953 after pressure from the residents of Bernera; they had threatened to blow up the cliffs and create their own causeway if one wasn’t provided. It’s narrow, operating on a one-way system where cars going towards Great Bernera wait (patiently) for the cars heading to town. Not that I saw many cars, but still.
Having not been to Bernera for almost two decades – I have a vague memory of a primary school trip taking place at some point in my childhood – I was excited to discover somewhere ‘new.’ Driving on the mostly single-track road was an adventure in itself: ups and downs, sharp corners with no warning signs, blind summits, pot holes, cattle grids, and sheep insisting on their right of way.
At the end of it all was Bosta. To say this beach is stunning would be an understatement. Bosta boasts fine white shell sand and gentle turquoise waves, contrasted with dark rocks and gloriously green grass. It’s small too, which gives it a secluded, almost undiscovered feel. Honestly, I was in shock: how, for all my years living on Lewis, had I managed to miss this beautiful place?
History buffs are in luck at the beach, which is home to a replica Iron Age house. Blink and you might miss it. It’s completely covered in turf, leaving it almost indistinguishable at a distance from the hills that surround it. Set up after an Atlantic storm in the early Nineties unearthed the remains of a Iron Age settlement by the sands, the Iron Age House now shows visitors how early settlers lived off the land.
There’s also an art installation in the shallow water here (which I mistakenly took for a piece of machinery) which aims to draw attention to the effect of global warming on rising sea levels. The Time and Tide Bell, designed by artist Marcus Vergette, creates a range of tones as the Atlantic tide comes in.
I did manage to eventually drag myself away from Bosta and its clear blue waters, passing the Bernera community cafe and museum on the way. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop, but it does give me another excuse to return. With a view like that waiting when you cross the bridge over the Atlantic, who needs an excuse? Great Bernerna might just be home to my new favourite beach…
Have you ever discovered somewhere unexpected close to home, like I did with Bosta in Great Bernera? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!
Mel Ellyris says
Hi Katie! I know, it is so easy to miss something you have so near (especialy with a day job aa you write in your description) !! I lived near Roma for 2 years and managed to ignore Florence just like that. (Shame on me, indeed 😉 but will fix it soon!) Keep on discovering new little hiden places, good luck and thanks for inspiration 🙂 Mel
Katie MacLeod says
Thanks for your lovely comment, Mel 🙂 I know, it’s so easy to overlook places that are right under our noses – even though I’ve lived here for most of life, there’s still a lot on my to-do list. I can imagine it would have been especially difficult in Italy, with so much to see!
Tim Allen says
Thank you for the story and pictures. In recent years I have been able to trace my mother’s ancestral roots to Scotland, and specifically this strip of beach. My grandmother grew up at 16B Tobson, which is now called the Seaview House. My second cousins run the vacation rental and it is with great hope that I someday stand on that very beach where I’m sure my grandmother and her family did so many years ago.
Katie MacLeod says
Hi Tim! That’s such a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it! I really hope you make it out there someday – Bosta is such a beautiful place 🙂
Chrisetta Macleod says
Beautifully written and I wholeheartedly agree with how beautiful and special Bosta and indeed Bernera are..then again I am slightly biased as I was born and brought up here. I lived away for 31 years and moved back home a couple of years ago but no matter where I was, my heart was always here, especially Bosta, it really is a very special place❤️ I hope you manage another visit and find more of our hidden gems, including the Bernera people, happy travels…
Katie MacLeod says
Thanks so much Chrisetta! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, Bosta is very special 🙂 I’ve been back a few times since I wrote this post, too (although unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good as that first time!). I understand what you mean about living away, and your heart always being there – I definitely feel that with Lewis!
Jacci Alexander says
Almost 2 years since I had the fortune of this same experience. How lovely to relive them reading your post Katy.
My memory was a vivid, dramatic storm hitting us. Norman, I think they called him. No sleep was had. The good out weighs the bad. The tide bell tolled around 2am.
We hastily left early morning (having had the experience of the iron age house and walk on the beach the day before).