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!