Welcome to Benbecula
Benbecula in Gaelic is Beinn na Faoghla which means Mountain of the Ford. This is a very apt name for the island and it's solitary hill, Rueval, which is in fact a stepping stone between North and South Uist. The islands are connected by a series of causeways but once upon a time crossing to the Uists would mean fording the dangerous stretches of tidal sands.
Balivanich is also known by it's Gaelic name, Baile a' Mhanaich which means 'town of the monks'. This refers back to the 6th century when there was a monastery here and the ruins of Columba's Church can be found just south of the village. Balivanich is the main administrative centre on the island and here can be found a Post Office, hospital, primary school and several shops and cafes. The hamlet of Lionacleit is the home of the Uists' main secondary school, which also doubles as a community centre containing a swimming pool, cafeteria, sports facilities, a small museum and a library.
Benbecula has a long military history An airfield to the north, built during World War II, became the control centre for the Hebrides rocket range, established during the Cold War and is now Benbecula Airport, An army base was established here in 1958 and is one of the main employers on the island as it is the headquarters for those who service the South Uist missile testing range. The airport was upgraded during 2001 and early 2002 in preparation for the Eurofighter Typhoon test programme. During the tests in April 2002, the £16 billion aircraft fired an Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile on the Hebrides test range, the first of this type of missile to be fired from a Eurofighter.