Ruabhal (Rueval) is the high point on Benbecula, the island which sits between North and South Uist and links them via a series of causeways. It’s 8 miles long and about 5 miles at its widest. Although small, the island is the main administrative area for the Uists. This is mainly because of the large military base here, although the military presence has been scaled down in recent years. Most people live on the west side and the main village is Balivanich which hosts the airport as well as a bank, post office, souvenir shop, bakery and restaurant. Further south along the west coast is Liniclate which has a large sports complex adjoined to the secondary school. There is a swimming pool, sauna, gym and games hall as well as an outdoor sporting area. The complex also contains the island’s library, theatre and museum as well as a large cafeteria.
But back to Ruabhal. Sunday dawned a bit hazy and breezy but still a fine day. I drove to the town dump just off the main A865 to park. The turnoff is easy to find as there is a brown sign pointing the way to the Rueval footpath.
From the dump a clear, wide track led towards Loch Ba Una. This path can be followed all the way to the far side of the island to Roisinis from where Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald set sail for Skye.
About midway past the loch I left the main path to turn to the left up the side of the mountain and in the direction of Ruabhal. The path is distinct and there are wooden posts acting as waymarkers alongside the first part. The waymarkers stop near a fence and the path gets a bit fainter, but it’s still easy to see where to go. Basically just head for the big lump straight in front of you.
Although steep, particularly near the top, this was not a strenuous walk. The walking book I’m using says it is a four mile round trip, but I doubt this. It took me 45 minutes to walk to the top and I went slowly, stopping every few metres to gasp at the ever-widening view. Descending I took it easy and used my poles as I could feel my knee joints creaking, but even so, it only took 30 minutes.
The view at the top is breathtaking. There is a trig point and a couple of cairns. Even though it was hazy and I couldn’t see any distant islands (no chance of seeing St Kilda today), I could still see far more than I could take in. The island is covered with lochs and lochans and seems to consist more of water than land. It was difficult to tell which bits of land were actually Benbecula, just separated by a loch, and which bits were different islands and islets separated by the narrow channels that run between them. I could also see how spreadout the majority of houses were and how few there were in total. I spent quite a while at the top, forgetting all about the wind, just gazing at the 360 degree view.