A three-mile long stretch of sand on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides has been crowned as one of best beaches in Europe.
The island, with a population of around 130 and said to be a favourite of Prince Charles, has won the accolade from travel bible Lonely Planet.
Named the “divine” West Beach on Berneray, it claimed third place in a list of Europe’s top 20 beaches, beating off competition from Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Croatia, Montenegro, Sicily, and Corsica.
Lonely Planet said the selected beaches were “the cream of the European coast”.
READ MORE: Best beaches in Europe
“Out on a limb in the wild North Atlantic, the Outer Hebrides stash away some of Europe’s remotest beaches. Singling one out is tough, but West Beach on the wee isle of Berneray is divine,” said the guide.
“Through dunes and wind-bent machair grasses, you reach this ravishing three-mile expanse of white sand, sliding gently into a turquoise sea. It’s often empty but for seabirds trilling overhead and the occasional porpoise or otter.”
Lonely Planet rated Haukland Beach in Norway as number one and Cala Goloritzè in Sardinia as number two.
For most of us – except the lucky locals on Berneray – reaching any of the beaches on the list is impossible, due to current Covid-19 restrictions. But the route out of lockdown will address when Scots can take foreign holidays again.
Berneray is thought to have been inhabited since the Bronze Age.
A popular stop-off for walkers and cyclists on the “Hebridean Way” route through the Outer Hebrides, the island is around two miles wide and three miles long. As well as tourism, it also relies on fishing and crofting to sustain the local economy.
Prince Charles was so enamoured with the way of life on Berneray that he worked there as a crofter in two five-day stays – the last was in 1991 with TV presenter Selina Scott for the programme A Prince Among Islands.
West Beach, Berneray.#berneray #hebrides #beach #scotland #autumn
Posted by Isle of South Uist on Tuesday, March 3, 2020
He stayed both times with Gloria MacKillop and her late husband, the well-known crofter Donald Alick – known as ‘Splash’ – and even returned to officially open Berneray’s causeway to North Uist in 1999. He still receives an annual letter from islanders updating him on life on Berneray.
The MacKillops became friends with the prince and islanders still send Charles a newsletter.
When Mr MacKillop died in 2009, aged 78, the prince said: “I shall never forget the time I spent with him and his wife on Berneray and the important role he played in the isles.
“People like him are very hard to replace.”
Charles first worked as a crofter on Splash’s land in 1987 in a secret visit.
The prince planted and lifted potatoes, helped with the sheep and planted trees.
Charles told islanders that he found crofting very inspirational and he loved it because it was so close to his own philosophy. He took many of the things he learned on Berneray and used them on his organic farm at Highgrove.
He was so enchanted by the MacKillops naturalness he happily sung in their kitchen, drank a dram or too and even brought them vegetables dripping with dew from his organic garden at Highgrove.
When the MacKillops opened their home as a B&B, the prince was right behind them offering his support and congratulations.
Unfortunately the Prince’s green fingers did not spread to the hundreds of trees he helped plant during his first visit in 1987 – most have died.
Charles loved walking along West Beach and taking in the stunning view. It really was his treasure island.