Great Bernera (Scottish Gaelic: Bearnaraigh Mòr), often known just as Bernera (Gaelic: Bearnaraigh) is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With an area of just of 21 km2 (8.2 sq.mi) it is the thirty-fourth largest Scottish island.
Great Bernera lies in Loch Roag on the north-west coast of Lewis and is linked to it by a road bridge. Built in 1953, the bridge was the first pre-stressed concrete bridge in Europe. The main settlement on the island is Breaclete (Gaelic: Breacleit).
The island's name is Norse in origin as are many other names in the district, implying extensive Norse settlement.
The most common name on Great Bernera is MacDonald (MacDhòmhnaill or Dòmhnallach), and these are said to be descended from a watchman of the MacAulays of Uig, who gave him the island in return for his services.
The Bernera Riot took place in 1872, and occurred as a reaction to heavy-handed evictions and treatment by the factor of Sir James Matheson, Donald Munro. The islanders refused to send their livestock over to Lewis, and were in turn threatened with a military visit. This did not occur, but even more eviction notices were handed out, and the visitors were pelted with clods of earth.
The island is roughly 8 km long by 3 km wide, the length being oriented from north west to south east. The coast is much indented and there are also numerous fresh water bodies such as Loch Barabhat, Loch Breacleit and Loch Niosabhat. The highest point is an un-named eminence in the north east near the settlement of Corthair that reaches 80 metres. There are deposits of muscovite and tremolite asbestos. An example of a rock of tremolite on muscovite from Great Bernera is shown in the photograph to the right.
Sea life is especially rich where there is tidal run between the Caolas Bhalasaigh (English: "Valasay Straits/Kyles") and the inner sea-loch of Tòb Bhalasaigh. There are numerous molluscs, sponges, brittlestars and starfish, the latter growing noticeably larger in size than normal. Cup Coral, Snakelocks Anemone and Dead Man's Fingers coral, may also be found here. Common fish include Shanny and Butterfish and Atlantic and Common Seals are regular off-shore visitors.
Great Bernera's population is mainly dependent on lobster fishing, crofting and tourism. Fertile machair pasture permits sheep and cattle grazing. A processing plant was built at Kirkibost in 1972. There are still some weavers but this is no longer one of the main industries. Breacleit is home to a small museum, mini-mart & off licence, school, a post office, church, community centre with café, petrol station, fire station and doctor's surgery.
Communications were much improved during the 20th century. The first telephone was installed on Lewis in 1897 and outlying villages were slowly connected. Great Bernera was the last exchange to link to Lewis with a single wire circuit and an earth return. The bridge to the island from Lewis was built in 1953. It is said to be the first one of pre-stressed concrete in Europe. It was constructed after the islanders threatened to dynamite the hillside to create a causeway of their own making.
In 2003 the island residents were considering a feasibility study into bringing the island into community ownership, a process that has been successfully completed by the islanders of Gigha and Eigg. However, the laird is apparently popular locally and has said he is unwilling to sell.