Three-mile long Hebridean beach named one of the best in Europe
A three-mile long stretch of sand on a Hebridean island with a population of around 130 has been crowned one of Europe's best beaches by a global travel bible.
Lonely Planet has named the "divine" West Beach on the Isle of Berneray in a list of Europe's top 20.
It claimed third place rated ahead of beaches in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Croatia, Montenegro, Sicily, and Corsica.
Lonely Planet said the selected beaches were “the cream of the European coast.”
It describes West Beach a "ravishing three-mile expanse of white sand, sliding gently into a turquoise sea" which is often deserted apart from seabirds, porpoises and otters.
Lonely Planet, which rated Haukland Beach in Norway as number one and Cala Goloritzè in Sardinia as number two, has also told readers that the Outer Hebrides "stash away” some of Europe's remotest beaches.
Berneray, which has been linked to North Uist by a causeway since 1998, 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.
Lonely Planet’s article states: “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.
"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."
Eilidh Carr, owner of the Coralbox Gift Shop on Berneray, said: The West Beach is my favourite spot in the world and I never tire of visiting it.
"Each walk I go on the weather, colours of the sea and views are different each time.
"From stormy winter walks in force nine to summer strolls at sunset, it’s the best place to visit. You can walk for miles and miles and not meet anyone else apart from an otter or oystercatcher.
"Last summer I started swimming during the sunny summer days or for sunsets. It’s a magical place to watch the sun set while swimming in the turquoise blue water.”
Mairi Thomson, Outer Hebrides Tourism development officer, said: “We are absolutely delighted that West Beach in Berneray has been chosen by Lonely Planet.
"It’s a truly amazing pristine white sandy beach with turquoise sea. This gem is a wee bit off the beaten track and often missed by visitors.
"Very often it is Luskentyre Beach in Harris that wins the accolades, but West Beach is a worthy winner.
"We have around 100 beaches and they’re all very special. You really get the feeling of getting away from the business of life – even the horizontal rain and gale force winds can’t take their magic away.”
A spokesman for VisitScotland said: The recognition that West Beach on Berneray is one of the best in Europe, chosen by a worldwide trusted travel publisher, is fantastic news. It keeps attention on Scotland as a must-visit travel destination and provides continued inspiration for the time when it is safe for fellow travellers to visit."