Location: Barra, Mingulay and St Kilda


Mingulay (Norse for Big island) Size 4km x 2.5km. Area 640ha. Population in 1900 was approximately 150.

"I began working for the National Trust for Scotland in 2010 as the ranger for the Barra Head islands. These consist of the three most southern islands of the Outer Hebrides - Berneray, Mingulay and Pabbay.

"Mingulay is perhaps the most important of the three islands as it is the largest and was the most populated until all three islands were abandoned in the early 20th century. Most of the population moved north to Barra and Vatersay and a large proportion of the present-day population on both these islands can claim an ancestral link to Mingulay. They also feel a very strong emotive tie to the island.

"One of the most satisfying aspects of my job with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) is helping visitors arriving on Mingulay whose ancestors originated from there and who are eager to find the remains of the dwellings where their forebearers lived. It can be a very emotional experience for them and as the island hasn’t changed greatly since the people left it is not too difficult for them to imagine what life would have been like when the island was inhabited.

"We have quite good records of who stayed where in most of the buildings, so locating the family home is usually possible. Some of these visitors can have travelled considerable distances, e.g., from Australia, America and Canada in search of their ancestral roots. For a long time, I used to think that I was one of the very few people on Barra who didn’t have and ancestral link to Mingulay. However, in 2016, a local historian (who was convinced that I must have some link due to my apparent affinity with the island!) did some research and discovered that I did in fact have a tie. A great-great-great-great grandmother, Catherine MacDonald, was born on Mingulay, where she lived with her parents and family until 1824, when she moved to Barra and married.

"Being able to locate and visit the remains of the building where she was brought up, and which would have been home to her predecessors, is a very spiritual and moving experience. As stated before, there have been no major changes to the landscape since the island was abandoned, so it is quite easy to visualise what the house and surrounding area would have been like in her time. I have since taken my own children and grandchildren to visit Catherine’s home and I feel that it has given them a sense of belonging and association to this beautiful island."

As told by Jonathan Grant, NTS ranger for Mingulay, Pabbay and Berneray

More information on visiting the area can be found here.