Lochboisdale (or Loch Baghasdail) is built on a headland projecting into the well sheltered Loch Baghasdail. It is best known as the terminus of the ferry to Castlebay on Barra and to Oban; and as a result is the main gateway to South Uist.
Little seems to have happened here until the herring boom in the latter half of the 1800s, when it developed as an important fishing station. Perhaps the most significant development was the building of a steamer pier in 1880, and two years later it was followed by the Lochboisdale Hotel, impressively sited on the hillside overlooking the harbour and loch.
The village itself slowly developed into what you see today. The mission church overlooking the harbour was built in 1905 and has more recently undergone major refurbishment. A new school was built in Lochboisdale in 1909. At the time only English could be used in Western Isles' schools. It had been worse: until 1889 only English-speaking Protestant teachers were employed in Gaelic-speaking, Catholic South Uist's schools!
Other developments were also under way. A notable resident of the area in the 1930s was Margaret Fay Shaw, the American author and musicologist who did much to record the songs and folklore of South Uist. By the 1950s Daliburgh, west of Lochboisdale, had acquired a school, a hospital, and South Uist's main power station, run on diesel.
By 1953 steamers connected Lochboisdale with Oban, Castlebay, Mallaig and with Lochmaddy in North Uist: an indication that overland transport in the Uists was still difficult. Although Lochmaddy in North Uist was served by ferries capable of carrying vehicles from 1963, Lochboisdale had to continue with a steamer service until the arrival of the roll-on, roll-off MV Iona in 1974. Today the Oban-Castlebay-Lochboisdale service is provided by the MV Clansman and the MV Lord of the Isles.
Today's Lochboisdale is focused very much on its ferry terminus. In recent years the buildings overlooking the harbour have been redeveloped and now present an attractive white-harled face to the world. Nearby is the new Tourist Information Centre and a bank.
If you are arriving or departing by sea (and most visitors to Lochboisdale are doing one or the other) keep a look out on the south side of the mouth of Loch Baghasdail for the island of Calvay or Calbhaigh. It is home to an automatic lighthouse and to the remains of Caisteal Calvay, a castle dating back to the 1200s. This was one of Bonnie Prince Charlie's (many) hiding places in 1746, but the castle was already a ruin by then. Though once reached by a causeway, the island is now only accessible by boat.
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