Mingulay and Berneray
A desired destination during a Scotland cruise is Mingulay. Mingulay is the largest of the Bishop’s Isles in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides archipelago. It is about two and a half miles long by one and a half miles wide, with striking rock stacks, 700-foot cliffs, and a majestic natural arch on the southwest coast. At one time it was home to over 100 people. Today, on a trip to Scotland’s Mingulay Isle you can see two buildings that remain standing as a reminder of the past: a schoolhouse built of the abundant gneiss rock in the 1880s, and a priest’s house built in 1898. Both are moss-covered, crumbling remnants of the village that once existed on the eastern shore of the island. Though uninhabited since 1912, Mingulay is now home to about 500 sheep and tens of thousands of seabirds.
Berneray, or Barra Head, is the southernmost of the Bishop’s Isles, located directly south of Mingulay. It may be most well known for the lighthouse on the southernmost headland, which was built by Robert Stevenson, father of Robert Louis Stevenson, in 1833. It was formerly home to the lighthouse keepers and their wives, but since the lighthouse was automated in 1980, the island has been completely uninhabited. The cliffs of Berneray are not quite so high as those of Mingulay, but at 600 feet they are still impressive.
Most of the land of Mingulay and Berneray is covered by maritime grassland, with some machair and heath. The islands are breeding sites for many species of seabirds—you’ll have the chance to discover about 110,000 pairs total during your cruise of Scotland. Some of these species include razorbills, little auks, gulls, puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, shags, and fulmars. The two islands have been designated a Special Protection Area since 1994.