Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Island 323 - Orasaigh, Traigh Mor, Barra, Outer Hebrides

Barra and Vatersay have 3 islands called Orasaigh.  The name means "tidal island".  However I only managed to visit the Orasaigh on the north east side of Barra near the airport runway on the beach at Traigh Mhor.  The Orasaigh on the north east side of Vatersay was not accessible at low tide on the day I visited - there was still a stretch of water separating it from Vatersay.   The Orasaigh to the south of Castlebay would have been accessible but I didn't want to risk the scramble over 50 metres of seaweed covered rocks.  That Orasaigh looks as though it was once joined to Barra by a bridge or causeway but the middle section has long since disappeared.

The Orasaigh which I did visit is an oval shaped island about 900 metres from east to west and 500 metres from north to south and which rises to a height of 38 metres above sea level.  It is separated from Barra by a stretch of water known as Caolas Orasaigh at high tide and about 300 metres of silver sand beach at low tide.  The sand is obviously firm, as there were several vehicles out on it and several people cockle picking.  There was a shallow stream to cross.  

The island didn't seem to be grazed when I visited in mid June 2016.  Wildflowers were in abundance: yellow iris, orchids, bog asphodel, milkwort, butterwort, buttercups, kidney vetch, birds foot trefoil, thrift, thyme, cotton-grass  and tormentil.  The top of the island had some heather but the rest of the island is covered in rough grass.

Looking north up the west coast

Looking south west towards the airport

Barra from Orasaigh across Caolas Orasaigh

Small cairn on the top of Orasaigh

Natural standing stone on the top of the island looking north west towards Barra

Cockle pickers out on Traigh Mhor

 I presume this beacon is some kind of navigation light for the airport

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