Vallay House, North Uist
Not so much a case of there being nothing to see here, as there being (almost) no way of getting here. Vallay House lies abandoned on a tiny island off an island off the far northwest of Scotland, only accessible by land at particular times when the tide recedes. It is a rather eerie experience stepping out across somewhere that the sea has just momentarily revealed, knowing that it’ll eventually come back.
This wasn’t helped by a local telling me the ominous sounding tale of a woman who was making her away across the sands to Vallay Island one day when the mists descended. She apparently wandered round and round in circles, unable to make her way back to the shore, getting more and more lost until the tides crept back and she was drowned.
Vallay House was the creation of Erskine Beveridge, the head of a successful linen company based in the town of Dunfermline in Fife in the nineteenth century. Beveridge was known as not only an industrialist but an antiquarian with a passion for photography. Armed with his tripod and weighty box camera, he wandered Scotland recording the country’s landscapes and buildings, documenting its vanishing edges.
Beveridge was particularly enamoured with North Uist and visited here on holiday many times. Then around 1901-02, he commissioned the building of Vallay House to provide a more permanent base for his trips to the edge of the world. After Beveridge’s death in 1920, his son George inherited the house. Living alone here obviously got to George, as he turned to the drink, selling off the family silver in order to fund his habit. Tragedy struck in 1944 when George, undoubtedly after a few too many bevvies, drowned whilst attempting to cross one of the island’s causeways.