The view from Rueval
The view from Rueval

There are two Ruevals in the Uists; one on South Uist and one on Benbecula. This walk refers to the Benbecula Rueval. which is really the only hill of any significance on the entire island. Aside from the fact that its a really enjoyable walk if the weather is good, and you have the option of climbing to the top of Rueval for great views, this walk is worth taking for its historic associations.

For you are following in the very footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie; taking the route to the coast that the prince took when he made his famous escape 'over the seas to Skye', aided by Flora MacDonald.

This is the only signposted walk I'm aware of on Benbecula (though to be fair there is only one sign, after that you are left to your own devices). That sign is at the waste transfer station on the A865. Turn off at the sign and follow the access road through a gate and east to a parking area by the waste transfer area. Follow the dirt road east towards Rueval, which is fairly obvious about a half-mile ahead of you.

The road skirts the southern foot of Rueval, and you have two choices. You can follow a track up the hill to the top of Rueval or continue along the level road. The route to the top is fairly straightforward, and not terribly difficult, though as usual there are boggy patches. A word of warning; the wind at the top can be quite strong! However, the compensation for your exertion and facing up to the wind is a quite wonderful panoramic view taking in both North and South Uist.

It is claimed that you can see 90 lochs from the top of Rueval. I didn't count them all, but I wouldn't doubt the figure! Looking east, you can see the trail that snakes across the land below you, all the way to the coast at Rossinish, where Bonnie Prince Charlie waited for the ship that took him to Skye and eventual safety.

You can descend the eastern slope of Rueval and rejoin the trail, though the going is steep, and the path non-existent in places, so please take care. The path continues on through a gate and then forks, with a secondary track going right. Stay on the main path and go through several sheep fields, which can be boggy in places. The way is generally level and the going is easy, but my goodness the views to North Uist are simply stunning.

The trail ends at the start of the Rossinish headland, at a point marked on OS maps as 'Ford'. Well, that's one way of looking at it; I'd call it a bog, and unless you bring rubber boots or the water level is exceptionally low, that will be the end of your walk. If you are lucky in your choice of waterproof footwear, you can extend the walk across the headland to the point where Bonnie Prince Charlie embarked. Otherwise, there's nothing for it but to turn around and retrace your steps back to the beginning of the walk.

The total distance is about 7 miles, more or less, and it took me about four hours, with an ascent of Rueval. If the weather is fine, it's a wonderful walk, easy enough for a family with children. For me, its the perfect combination of wonderful scenery and a romantic sense of going back in time, following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Enjoy!