The road network on Barra is fairly simple: a loop round the island with two main spurs, one to the south leading via a causeway to Vatersay, and one to the north leading to the Eriskay Ferry, the airport, and Eoligarry. You can think of Northbay as the scattered community that starts where the northern spur road leaves the loop, and extends to the east from there.
Northbay has traditionally been home to Barra's second most important harbour after Castlebay. Evidence of this remains on view with the small fishing vessels moored up at the head of the loch, almost under the protective shadow of St Barrs Church.
In recent years Northbay has become much more important to Barra's fishing industry with the building, on the north side of the loch at Aird Mhidhinis, of a purpose-built fishing quay. It would perhaps be fair to say that this is more attractive from a distance than close up: but then it wasn't designed to be pretty. If you do visit, be careful of the fairly intensive movement of articulated lorries and the fork lift trucks loading them with the day's catch.
North of Aird Mhidhinis the next promontory on this heavily indented piece of coast is Ardmhor. Until a few years ago only the western end of this was occupied, but in recent years the road has been extended east to a new terminal to serve the Barra to Eriskay ferry across the Sound of Barra. This remains a magnificent area in which to spot wildlife and birds, and the statue outside the ferry waiting room of two otters chasing a fish celebrates this well. The waiting room is home to a cafe, open 363 days per year, ideal for those waiting to cross to Eriskay: or for anyone else in this part of the island.
To see the rest of what we loosely call Northbay you need to head east from St Barrs Church and the old harbour. The first landmark to look out for is the Heathbank Hotel, on your right. This offers excellent food at lunch times and in the evenings, and provides a supremely comfortable base from which to explore the island for those wanting a good standard of accommodation.
A little further on, a left turn along a minor road from a junction in Bogach leads you through a scatter of settlement to the rocky coastline of North Bay once more. There are some excellent viewpoints here, giving extensive views across the north-east part of Barra to the mountains in the centre of the island; north to Barra Airport; and east across the jumble of islands and deeply indented lochs that make this the most complex part of the island.
Back on the main loop road around Barra - the A888 - the road heads south then south-west towards Castlebay. Not far south from Bogach it loops past Northbay House, once a school, while further on the route gives some superb views south over Earsairidh towards Vatersay.