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We watched the airwaves over Eaval

We watched the airwaves over Eaval

Postby nigheandonn » Fri Aug 31, 2018 10:18 pm

Route description: Eaval (Eabhal), North Uist

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Eaval (North Uist)

Date walked: 19/07/2018

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I had caused some consternation by phoning the bus company (from the summit of Crogarry Mor, the first place I had reception) and requesting the 11am bus to Saighdinis, as this was a thing which had never happened to them before - but after a bit of rummaging about it was agreed that the bus was actually in the timetable, and that this was the right day for it, and it would happen.

So I wasn’t surprised when it was the daughter who turned up at Lochmaddy pier, as she generally seemed to keep the rest in order - she said was good for her dad to be reminded what he had in the timetable, in case it happened again while she was on holiday, but that it had never been asked for since they took over from the postbus - and she took me in the front seat with her, so on the way down I learnt all about the bus company, and the island schools, and I can’t remember what else, but it was good fun.

Before I set off along the path towards the hill I headed back up the road a little bit to look for the sculpture here - I thought it was a very nice windblown tree, but apparently it's the flight of geese from the local lochs.

Roadend sculpture

Eaval is quite easy to get to in one sense - there's a nice clear path all the way to the foot - and not at all easy to get to in another, because a great unwieldy loch lies in the way, so that you have to skirt away round to the left, passing the little hill of Burrabhal.

Burrabhal behind the loch

Not far from the start of the path you cross the outflow of the loch on stepping stones - this can apparently be quite wild at times, but it was being very well behaved when I got there.

The outflow

Looking to the north, it's obviously only half a mile or so to another rocky hill - which it is if you can fly, or maybe swim, but otherwise it's about 13 miles around, because those are the slopes of South Lee, on the other side of Loch Euphort, which almost cuts the island in half. It's a good illusion, because Eaval and the Lees are so obviously the same kind of rock - even when you can see the water, there are so many lochs scattered about that it's not always obvious what is the sea.

Li a' Deas

The path is narrow, and winding, and occasionally boggy even in this dry summer, but it's lovely walking all the same - the way to the foot of the hill is a lovely walk in its own right, and would be even better a few weeks later with more of the heather in bloom.

The path towards Eaval

The next bay of the loch had a long sandy shore, making it look oddly like a sea loch, despite the absence of seaweed - I was confused enough at one point to taste it to make sure! I must have missed the place where I should have left the beach, because I ended up scrambling up a messy bank to reach the path a bit further on.

Sandy shore

The little path wound on up the side of the hill, a bit more faintly - the walk description describes it as petering out, but this never happened, although I lost it once or twice thinking that it had ended, and then found it again somewhere else.

The views to the north were striking from the beginning - Burrabhal and the Lees once again looking all the same, with Loch Obasaraigh visible and Loch Euphort hidden, and a scattering of small lochs further south.

Burrabhal and the Lees

Despite the rocky appearance of the hill from a distance the path is over short grass, just picking its way between small outcrops.

A path through rocks

I was climbing above all the North Uist hills, with Crogarry Mor and Beinn Mhor beside the Berneray road also in view to the north.

Hills to the north

Where I met an expanse of sloping rock I walked up over it and on that way, but this was apparently the wrong idea, because the path had wound off to the side while I wasn't looking, and I just had to go back over and pick it up again. I think if I had known there was a path all the way up I would have been able to follow it all the way, but because I expected it to run out there were a couple of times when I thought it had done so.


The trig point in its shelter appeared in front of me before I expected it - it’s always nice when that happens.

The trig point

With the wind still blowing more or less from the south I’d been sheltered on the way up, but on the top it was so windy that although standing up was perfectly possible, standing still really wasn’t!

Eaval summit

Looking over the long line of Loch Euphort towards Maireabhal in the north west the land was strewn with lochs - the ‘flatlands to the east’ of the song that brought me here.

Little lochs

Over to the west there was plenty of water in the North Ford - it was striking from up here the difference between sea water, lying over white sand, particularly in the west, and fresh water lying over dark peat.

The north ford

Down to the south there was a surprising number of houses visible in Grimsay, and then the hills of South Uist rising beyond Benbecula and a scatter of smaller islands.

Grimsay and South Uist

Out to the east MacLeod’s Tables on Skye stood out clearly, and then a shape which from its size and position had to be Rum, although the cloud was making it look not at all jagged.


Up to the north the Harris hills stood up behind the two Lees, still clearly part of the same landscape, although you could now see the water in between.

The Lees and Harris

Glorious as it all was, it wasn’t a very comfortable place to stay - I tucked myself into the wind shelter and ate my Harris pie, which was very tasty, but the view from there, although good, was the familiar northern one, and there didn’t seem to be much use in lingering longer.

I'd considered a descent to the other side, down to the road at Cladach Carinish, although I was a bit unsure about finding the way, but with the wind pushing me back I didn't even think about it, and just dropped bck down the way I'd come.

Down was fairly quick - although once again I followed a more or less continuous path, losing it once and finding it again, only to discover at a junction that it was a different path from the one I’d followed on the way up, so there are at least two.

The wind was blowing quite wildly down here as well now, whipping the water of the loch into streaks and waves.

Wind on the loch

The path seemed longer on the way back - still a nice winding route, but less of a voyage of discovery. When the houses of Saighdinis come back into view it’s tantalisingly over an arm of the loch, and there’s still quite a way to go, over the outflow (still running gently) before they appear directly ahead.


It’s an easy walk out to the main road but a long one, along the side of the loch - mainly enlivened by sightings of deer, near some ruined buildings, and then again just after the odd bend in the road where Saighdinis becomes Locheport.


About a mile from the main road are the quite substantial remains of buildings by an old pier - obviously something went on here in the past, but I haven't been able to find out what it was.

Old pier

Not far after that was another landmark I was looking out for - the first photo shows the east coast of North Uist, as represented by the head of Loch Euphort, and the second, taken from the same point, is the west coast, at Oban a’ Chlachain - much less than a quarter of a mile apart, although there’s still quite a bit of the island to the south beyond the narrow point.

The east coast

The west coast

I arrived at the main road with about 15 minutes to spare, but no spare energy for walking along to Clachan, although it was only about half a mile away - instead I just sat down to wait for the bus where I was, and refused to be caught out by the fact that it was the white bus (which I had heard about but not yet seen), which came flying up, looking a bit like a builder’s van.

A lovely walk - the only ‘proper’ hillwalk with a path and a standard route on the island, I think - and yet I can’t help feel that Eaval is wasted on being climbed, because from everywhere else on the island, Eaval is the best thing in the view!

By the time I got back to Bernernay it was just as cold and windy and a bit more wet, and we all declined to walk down to the quiz and had a lazy evening in the hostel instead.
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Re: We watched the airwaves over Eaval

Postby malky_c » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:33 pm

Another favourite of mine :D . It's true that you don't see this hill in any of the views from it, but I think it does put you right in the middle of the seawater / freshwater / land maze, which you don't get quite as much of further west. Top of my list of hills to go up again, but will face stiff competition from the Lees next time I'm there.
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Re: We watched the airwaves over Eaval

Postby nigheandonn » Fri Sep 07, 2018 7:45 pm

Yes, that's a fair point. I didn't see as much of the southern view as I would have liked, because the wind was blowing hard from the south all the time!

The Lees are definitely top of my list for the next time, but I wouldn't mind trying Eaval from Cladach Carinish at some point.
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Re: We watched the airwaves over Eaval

Postby zatapathique » Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:00 am

I know a Runrig quote when I read it - nice report! I have never been to the Outer Hebrides, but they are on my list of must dos, and not only because of my relation to Runrig.
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