"BARRA, one of the Hebrides, or Western Isles, forming, with a numerous cluster of smaller islands, a parish in the county of Inverness, Scotland. They lie at the southern extremity of the long chain, and between 40 and 50 miles from Ardnamurchan Point, the nearest part of the mainland. The islands composing the parish are, besides Barra, Fuday or Fudia, Helesay, Watersay, Sandera, Pabba, Mingala, and Bernera, with several others. Barra belonged formerly to the Macneils, who had a castle at Chisamel Bay, remains of which still exist. In 1840 it was sold to Colonel Gordon, of Cluny. This island is about 8 miles in length from N. to S., and has an average breadth of from 3 to 4 miles. A narrow and very low neck of land connects the northern with the southern part of the island. The soil is poor, and ill-cultivated. Black cattle and sheep are pastured on the hills. A fishery is carried on in large boats of singular form, built by the islanders. Limpets, cockles, and other shell-fish exist in enormous quantities, and form a valuable resource in times of scarcity. The ground gradually rises from the north and east sides of the island, attaining near Chisamel Bay an elevation of 2,000 feet, and forming a rocky coast on the south. The island has a good harbour. The language spoken by the people is pure Gaelic. The living is in the presbytery of Uist, value £166, and in the gift of the crown. Besides the parish kirk, there are two other places of worship, one of which belongs to the Roman Catholics. The island contains several circles of stones, and other remains of antiquity. Barra Head is a lofty rock on the southernmost of the islands, on which there is a fine lighthouse, with a revolving light, 680 feet above the level of the sea, and visible to a distance of 33 miles. The area of Barra Island is variously estimated at from 16,000 to 22,000 acres."
Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)