• Circular walk: 4 miles
  • what3words address for parking: ///claims.easy.shrug. There is a small car park beside the church and close to the historical ruins.
  • GPX File

This is a short walk – or two very short walks!

Before setting off we visited the ancient ruins of the monastic settlement. There’s not a lot left but the ruins are very picturesque. The visitouterhebrides website describes the historic site thus:

“We do not know when the first chapel was built at Tobha Mòr, but a stone slab incised with a outlined cross may suggest a Christian presence here before the 9th century.

Later, a series of chapels and parish churches were built, and the remains of four of them can be seen today. The earliest may be no earlier than c. 1200 AD, but their character is reminiscent of early Irish Celtic monastic sites. The name Tobha comes from an Old Norse word meaning mound, and may refer to the artificial mound below Caibeal Chlann ‘ic Ailein.

The remains of four or five churches and chapels survive at Tobha Mòr:

1. Caibeal Dubhail (Dugall’s Chapel). A charming, tiny chapel of Irish type which had a steeply-pitched stone roof, and a door with sloping jambs, unusually in the east wall.
2. St Mary’s church (Teampall Mòr). This was the parish church of South Uist, probably built in the later 13th century.
3. Caibeal Dhiarmaid (St Dermot’s Chapel). This church predated Teampall Mòr, possibly of the earlier 13th century, and appears to have been much altered during its use.
4. Caibeal Chlann ‘ic Ailein (Clan Ranald chapel). This occupies the highest (and oldest) ground. Originally a chapel with an eastern doorway similar to Caibeal Dubhail, but
later a nave was added (now lost) with moulded chancel arch of 12th or early 13th century date. John of Moidart (Eoin Muidearach) left funds to rebuild the chapel, in
which he was buried in 1574, incorporating the fine armorial panel now in Kildonan Museum.

Another chapel, Caibeal Colla, was demolished shortly before 1866, now occupied by the burial enclosure Cabeal na Sagairt. Another burial enclosure, Cabeal na Mhinister, was built around 1700 for Flora Macdonald’s grandfather.”

We followed the track down to the sea by the bridge then walked northwards along the beach. A few hundred yards beyond the rocks there is a track on the right through the dunes to a gate and just to the right of the gate is a footpath along the top of the dunes between two fences. The path is eventually blocked by low barbed wire (!), step over it carefully and turn to the left where a wider track continues parallel to the dunes. After a little while another track forks to the right and takes you back onto the dunes. At the end of this is the bridge over the river where the beach walk began.

Over the bridge is a picnic table; a good place to stop and maybe have a bite to eat as well as watch the bird life.

We then continued south on a track through the dunes and machair, eventually coming down to the beach for our return just before the track joins a road. The Hebridean Way continues south-west from here (there’s a finger sign on the road) and so it would be easy to extend your walk at this point. We walked back on the beach, which was wide, beautiful and completely deserted.

This was a short walk (and easy to extend) but very satisfying; lots of oyster catchers to entertain us as well as other birds. The machair was also lovely, especially on the second part of the walk to the south.

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