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Gaelic name Orasaigh
Norse name Örfirisey[1]
Meaning of name "tidal island"
Orosay is located in Outer Hebrides
Orosay shown within the Outer Hebrides
OS grid reference NF712060
Coordinates 57°01′41″N 7°25′14″W / 57.028056°N 7.420556°W / 57.028056; -7.420556
Physical geography
Island group Barra
Area 38 hectares (94 acres)[2]
Highest elevation 38 metres (125 ft)
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country Scotland
Council area Western Isles
Population Uninhabited
References [3]

Orosay (Scottish Gaelic: Orasaigh) is a small tidal island in Traigh Mhòr on the north east coast of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It is about 30 hectares (74 acres) in extent and the highest point is 38 metres (125 ft).

Orosay from the air, with the narrows of Caolas Orasaigh in the foreground and Gighay and Hellisay beyond.

Geography and etymology[edit]

Inland, the nearest settlement is Eoligarry, separated from the island by the strait of Caolas Orasaigh (English: "Sound of Orosay").[4] The smaller beach of Tràigh Cille-bharra ("the beach of the church of Barra") lies to the north. The islands of Fuday, Greanamul, Gighay and Hellisay lie further offshore in the Sound of Barra.[3] The name "Orosay" is a variant of "Oronsay", from the Old Norse for "tidal" or "ebb island",[1] found commonly in the Hebrides. For example, there are two other small Orosay/Orosaighs surrounding Barra alone. One is at grid reference NL665970 at the south eastern approaches to Castle Bay and the second at grid reference NL641971 in Caolas Bhatarsaigh east of the causeway.[3]


The writer Compton Mackenzie lived on Barra nearby and is buried at Cille Bharra, opposite the island.[5][6] There is no record of Orosay itself ever having been permanently inhabited.

Beach runway[edit]

Orosay and the "runway" at Barra airport

Barra's airport uses Traigh Mhòr ("big beach"), also known as Cockle Strand, as a runway.[4] Planes can only land and take off at low tide, and the timetable varies with the tides. Reputedly, this is the only airport in the world to have scheduled flights landing on a beach. The aircraft currently in operation on Barra is the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, flown by Loganair on services to Glasgow and Benbecula. Traigh Mhòr also provides commercial cockle harvesting.[7]

In the 1970s concern was expressed about the progressive deepening of Caolas Orasaigh as a possible cause of increased ponding of water on the beach runway at low tide. The problem does not, however, appear to have been serious and apparently no action was taken.[8]

Orosay in literature[edit]

Julian Barnes's short story "Marriage Lines" (collected in Pulse (2011)) is set entirely on Orosay.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Watson (2004) p. 505.
  2. ^ Rick Livingstone’s Tables of the Islands of Scotland (pdf) Argyll Yacht Charters. Retrieved 12 Dec 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. Retrieved 21 August 2013. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Orosay, Sound of" Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 17 August 2009.
  5. ^ Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. p. 221. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7. 
  6. ^ "Cille Bharra". Undiscovered Scotland. Retrieved 18 August 2009. 
  7. ^ "Barra Airport". Highlands and Islands Airports Limited. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Ritchie, W. (1971) Commissioned Report No. 047: The beaches of Barra and the Uists. A survey of the beach, dune and machair areas of Barra, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray. SNH/Countryside Commission for Scotland. Retrieved 17 August 2009. pp 71-72.

Coordinates: 57°1′41″N 7°25′14″W / 57.02806°N 7.42056°W / 57.02806; -7.42056