The Legend of Whisky Galore

The SS Politician sank off the Scottish Island of Eriskay in 1941 and eight years later the film Whisky Galore recounted the story of how the locals raced to retrive the ship's liquid cargo, hiding the bottles before the excise men could find them.

But the wreck of the ship that became the inspiration for one of Britain's best-loved films was carrying something far more valuable. Official files released recently by the Public Records Office show that it was not just spirits that disappeared - but a substantial sum of hard cash.

In all, there were nearly 290,000 ten-shilling notes, which would be worth the equivalent of several million pounds at today's prices In April 1941 Captain E. Lauriston, who was in charge of the salvage operation noted that there were reports of banknotes from the wreck turning up on Benbecula.

The Crown Agents were not concerned, noting in a memorandum : "the local police service is in no doubt on a very, very small scale but the nature of the place and its surroundings should tend to reduce the chances of serious loss through the notes being presented and paid."

The following month, however, an empty cash case was found abandoned in the hold of the ship. By June of that year the notes, were turning up in bank branches as far away as Liverpool. By mid July, 168 had been tendered in Jamacia and 141 in Britain.

By 1958, the Crown Agents reported that 211,267 notes had been recovered by the salvage company or Scottish police and had been destroyed.

A further 2,329 had been presented in banks in England, Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland, Malta, Canada, the United States and Jamacia, of which only 1,509 were thought to have been presented in good faith. But that still left 76,404 notes which were never accounted for and whose fate remains unknown.

From a high vantage point you will be amazed by the vast amount of lochs, large and small, held fast by rolling moorlands.  The serrated coastline to the north of Loch nam Madadh (Lochmaddy) is balanced by the smoother tidal sand flats of the Valley Strand and those that surround the island of Baile Sear (Baleshare).  On the west side of North Uist lie the fertile machair lands, based on sand made, not from granulated stone, but from countless millions of shells ground down by the interminable washing of the Atlantic breakers.

The road system in North Uist is very simple.  A circular road begins and ends at Lochmaddy, where the Tourist Information Centre is located.  But take the turn-offs to Loch Portain and to Port nan Long where you can take the new causeway to Berneray.  Use, too, the other turn-offs from the main road to savour the many crofting townships on the west side of the island.

Be prepared to come face to face with the pre-history of North Uist, for there is ample evidence here of the distant past.  Examples include the Dun on Loch Carabhat, the Red Smithy of Baleshare Island and St Peters Cross just south of the impressive Scolpaig Bay completely covered by a sandstorm.  Recent excavations indicate continuous human habitation for nearly 4000 years.  If your interest lies more in wildlife, you will find a visit to the Balranald Nature Reserve at Hogha Gearraidh (Hougharry) most rewarding.  The reserve was created to safeguard the breeding habitat of the Red-Necked Phalarope, though many other species make good use of the wet lands here.

Berneray is a small island located in the sound of Harris. This quiet sleepy island can be reached from North Uist by crossing a linking causeway. The construction of the causeway included for a harbour to be built which is used by the Sound of Harris ferry to link the island to Leverburgh in South Harris.

Leaving North Uist the road touches on the island of Griomasaigh (Grimsay), where a side road to the left goes to Na Ceallan (Kallin) Harbour.  Here a plaque gives information about an important element in the economy of the Outer Hebrides - the fishing industry.

With some forty percent of the unpolluted waters of the British Isles located in the seas around the Outer Hebrides, it is not surprising that the quality of the fish caught and farmed here commands a high premium and is appreciated in the quality restaurants of Europe.

South Uist is the second largest island in the western isles chain.  It's eastern side is moorland and hilly with the twin peaks of Ben Mhor and Hecla rising to over 600 metres.  The western side of South Uist is largely fertile machair land and is also where most of the island's crofting townships are to be found.  The island's main road from Iochdar at the northern end of the island to Ludag in the south is about 25 miles (40km). 

 Two places of interest are Flora MacDonald's birthplace, off the main road before the turn off to Gerraidh Bhailteas (Milton) and the ruins of Ormacleit Castle.  This ruin exudes a rather muted atmosphere but it is still able to excite that sense of past which sets the imagination running.  Also in the same area you may be able to see a Golden Eagle down from the heights of Ben Mhor to patrol the machair for rabbits.  Lochboisdale is the ferry terminal for the island, connecting with Oban on the mainland and Castlebay in Barra.  In its heyday it was a major herring port, crammed to the brim with fish salesmen, fishermen and herring gutters.  Today, Lochboisdale quietly reflects those boom days but comes quickly to life when the car ferry berths.  There is also a Tourist Information Point here.        The end of the main road is at Pol a Charra (Pollacher), but if you take a left hand turn before Pollacher it will take you to the new causeway at Ludag, from where you can cross to the island of Eriskay.  At Ludag there is another information plaque giving details of both Bonnie Prince Charlie and the SS Politician (Immortalised in the film Whisky Galore) with its precious cargo of Whisky.








There is something magical about the Uists and its environment.

Maybe it's the sense of romance as you walk along the many white sand beaches or paddle by the edge of a turquoise ocean.

Could it be the sense of adventure you feel as you view endless horizons that beckon to be explored? Whatever it is that makes the Uists feel so special, these islands will more than satisfy your wanderlust. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Berneray lies in the Sound of Harris in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) of Scotland. It is a small island (roughly 2 miles by 3), rich in wildlife and history.


Exploring Berneray : Sùil air Beàrnaraigh

Despite being a relatively small island, there is a lot to do. Consequently, many visitors extend their stay to explore the island more, or to participate in some of the local events.


Welcome to Shell bay...

Proprietor: Allan Buchanan
Address: Liniclate
Isle of Benbecula
Western Isles
Telephone: 01870 602447
Fax: 01870 602194
Flights: Book flights now

Unit type Price No of units
Holiday home
£160 Self catering
Motor home
£12 Self catering
Tent pitch
£5 - £6 Self catering
Touring pitch
£5 - £6 Self catering

Set in a beautiful location within 5 minutes walk to sandy beaches, Liniclate Community School with leisure facilities & cafeteria and local Hotel.

This family run Caravan and Camping Park is in an ideal place for touring the Southern Isles.