List of Outer Hebrides

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A map of the island chain of the Outer Hebrides that lie to the west with numerous other islands—the Inner Hebrides—closer to the mainland of Scotland in the east.
The Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides (in orange) lie to the west with the Inner Hebrides closer to the mainland of Scotland in the east.
Still blue water in the foreground with numerous small coloured boats along a harbour and buildings against a blue sky in the background
The harbour, Stornoway

The Outer Hebrides is a chain of more than 100 islands and small skerries located about 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of mainland Scotland. There are 15 inhabited islands in this archipelago, which is also known as the Western Isles and archaically as the Long Isle (Scottish Gaelic: An t-Eilean Fada).[Note 1]

Lewis and Harris is the largest island in Scotland and the third largest in the British Isles, after Great Britain and Ireland.[2] It incorporates Lewis in the north and Harris in the south, both of which are frequently referred to as individual islands, although they are joined by a land border.[Note 2] The largest settlement in Lewis and in the Outer Hebrides is Stornoway.

To the south across the Sound of Harris lie the Uists and Benbecula, which were joined by a series of causeways constructed between 1940 and 1960 to improve transport links.[4] Further south are Barra and the smaller Barra Isles, whose southernmost extremity is Barra Head. There are other outliers with cultural links to the Outer Hebrides that are not part of the archipelago itself. These include the St Kilda group, which are quite distinct geologically and no longer inhabited,[5] Sula Sgeir and North Rona to the north and isolated Rockall, which is 367 kilometres (228 mi) to the west of North Uist.[Note 3]

The islands of Scotland's west coast are known collectively as the Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides are separated from the Inner Hebrides by The Minch to the north and the Sea of the Hebrides to the south. The Outer Hebrides are administered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and had a population of 26,502 in 2001.[7] The Outer Hebrides have historically been a strong Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) speaking area. Despite recent declines, in the 2001 census more than 50% of the resident population in each island was able to speak Gaelic, for an overall total of 15,842 speakers throughout the archipelago.[8] The modern economy centres on tourism, crofting, fishing, and weaving, the latter of which includes the manufacture of Harris tweed. The archipelago is exposed to wind and tide, and there are numerous lighthouses as an aid to navigation.[9]

The definition of an island used in this list is that it is "land that is surrounded by seawater on a daily basis, but not necessarily at all stages of the tide, excluding human devices such as bridges and causeways".[Note 4]

Inhabited islands[edit]

 The ruins of a double-walled circular stone tower on top of a green hillock with a blue sky in the background
The ruins of Dun Carloway Iron Age broch
 Four gold-coloured chess pieces sit on a glass shelf with a red wall in the background. All four pieces are seated and wear crowns. Two of the pieces are larger and have beards, the other two are female figures.
Two kings and two queens from the Lewis chessmen
 A large stone statue of a tall and slender woman by a field. The woman has long hair and wears a hat and carries a child on her shoulders.
Our Lady of the Isles, South Uist

The inhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides had a total population of 26,502 in 2001[7] and 27,684 at the time of the 2011 census.[10]

The highest peaks of the islands have names deriving from both Gaelic and Old Norse indicating the historical importance of these two cultures. The archeological record for the period of Viking domination during the Early Historic period is however very limited, the Lewis chessmen being an exception.

In addition to the North Ford (Oitir Mhòr) and South Ford causeways that connect North and South Uist, Benbecula and the northern of the two Grimsays in the southern part of the island chain, several other islands are now connected by causeways and bridges. Great Bernera and Scalpay have bridge connections to Lewis and Harris respectively, Baleshare and Berneray are linked to North Uist, Eriskay to South Uist, Flodaigh, Fraoch-eilean and the southern Grimsay to Benbecula, and Vatersay is connected to Barra by a causeway.[4][11][12] This means that all of the inhabited islands are now connected to at least one other island by a land transport route.

IslandGaelic nameGroup[Note 5]Area (ha)[13]Population[10]Highest point[14]Height (m)[Note 6]
BaleshareAm Baile SearUists and Benbecula9105812
BenbeculaBeinn nam FadhlaUists and Benbecula8,2031,303Ruaval124
BernerayBeàrnaraighUists and Benbecula1,010138Beinn Shleibhe93
EriskayÈirisgeighUists and Benbecula703143Ben Scrien185
FlodaighFlodaighUists and Benbecula1457[Note 7]20
Fraoch-eileanFraoch-eileanUists and Benbecula55[15]?[Note 8]Cnoc Mor11
Great BerneraBeàrnaraigh MòrLewis (Loch Ròg)2,12225287
Grimsay (North)[Note 9]GriomasaighUists and Benbecula83316922
Grimsay (South)[Note 10]GriomasaighUists and Benbecula1172020
Lewis and HarrisLeòdhas agus na Hearadh[3]Lewis and Harris217,89821,031Clisham799
North UistUibhist a TuathUists and Benbecula30,3051,254Eaval347
ScalpaySgalpaigh na HearadhHarris653291Beinn Scorabhaig104
South UistUibhist a DeasUists and Benbecula32,0261,754Beinn Mhòr620
VatersayBhatarsaighBarra96090Theiseabhal Mòr190

Ensay, Kisimul Castle and Eilean na Cille are "included in the NRS statistical geography for inhabited islands but had no usual residents at the time of either the 2001 or 2011 censuses".[10]

Uninhabited islands[edit]

A small white building is barely visible on top of dark and imposing cliffs with deep blue water at their base.
The lighthouse atop the cliffs of Sloc na Bèiste, Barra Head
 A small concrete pillar sits amongst long grass. There is a body of water in the background.
Cnoc Bhàrr on Ceann Iar is the highest point of the Monach Islands at only 19 metres (62 ft). Shillay can be seen in the distance.
A grass-covered driveway leads between two stone pillars with orange lichen on their pyramid-shaped tops. Beyond is a stone building with ruined outhouses and green hills with a blue sky in the background
Ruins of the old school house, Mingulay
A small blue sailing dinghy lies in an aquamarine body of water next to a rocky shore underneath light blue skies. Three people are swimming off the stern of the boat next to a red buoy.
Hintinish Bay, Hellisay in summer
A large, dark green island seen from above is surrounded by smaller islands in a dark blue body of water. Wispy clouds partially obscure the view.
Barra from space. Eriskay is to the north at the top, with Fiaraidh, Fuday, Orosay, Gighay and Hellisay further south in the Sound of Barra. Sandray and Vatersay are to the south of Barra itself.
Two dark green areas of land are separated from one another by a shallow and narrow strait. There are small islands in the distance under white clouds.
Orosay from the air, with Gighay and Hellisay beyond.

This is a list of islands with an area greater than 25 hectares (approximately 37 acres). Records for the last date of settlement for the smaller uninhabited islands are incomplete, but most of the islands listed here would have been inhabited at some point during the Neolithic, Iron Age, Early Historic or Norse periods.

In common with the other main island chains of Scotland many of the more remote islands were abandoned during the 19th and 20th centuries, in some cases after continuous habitation since the prehistoric period. This process involved a transition from these places being perceived as relatively self-sufficient agricultural economies[16] to a view becoming held by both island residents and outsiders alike that the more remote islands lacked the essential services of a modern industrial economy.[17]

Some of the islands continue to contribute to modern culture. The "Mingulay Boat Song", although evocative of island life, was written after the abandonment of the island in 1938[18] and Taransay hosted the BBC television series ‘’Castaway 2000’’. Others have played a part in Scottish history. On 4 May 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie hid on Eilean Liubhaird with some of his men for four days whilst Royal Navy vessels patrolled the Minch. They camped under a sail stretched over a "low pitiful hut" while it rained torrentially.[19]

The difficulties of definition are considerable in some cases. For example, Haswell-Smith (2004) treats Eileanan Iasgaich[Note 11] as a single island of 50 ha, although during high tides it becomes several tidal islets—none of which is ever connected to the "mainland" of South Uist. Despite its name Eilean an Taighe (English: "house island") in the Shiant Isles does not qualify for inclusion as it is connected to Garbh Eilean by a natural isthmus.

IslandGaelic nameGroup[Note 12]Area (ha)[20]Last inhabited[Note 13]Highest point[14]Height (m)[Note 14]
Barra Head or BernerayBeàrnaraigh Cheann BharraighBarra Isles2041980Sotan193
BorerayBoraraighNorth Uist1981960sMullach Mòr56
CalbhaighCalbhaighSouth Uist[Note 15]26[15]Unknown10
CeabhaighCeabhaighLewis (Loch Ròg) 25[15]Unknown20
Ceallasaigh BeagCeallasaigh BeagLoch Maddy55[15]Unknown10
Ceallasaigh MòrCeallasaigh MòrLoch Maddy55[15]Unknown10
Ceann EarAn Ceann EarMonach Islands2031931–3317
Ceann IarAn Ceann IarMonach Islands1541931–33Cnoc Bharr19
Eilean Chaluim ChilleEilean Chaluim ChilleLewis (Loch Erisort)85Post-16th centuryCreag Mhor43
Eilean ChearstaidhEilean ChearstaighLewis (Loch Ròg)77No census records37
Eileanan IasgaichEileanan IasgaichSouth Uist50No census records20
Eilean LiubhairdEilean LiubhairdLewis (Loch Sealg)125Early 19th century76
Eilean MhealastaEilean MhealastaLewis (Park)1241823Cnoc Àrd77
Eilean MhuireEilean MhuireShiant Isles 30[15]18th century90
EnsayEasaighSound of Harris186197149
FiaraidhFiaraighSound of Barra41No record of habitation30
FlodaighFlodaighLewis (Loch Ròg) 39[15]182748
Flodaigh MòrFlodaigh MòrNorth Uist58No census records28
Flodday[Note 16]FlodaighBarra Isles35Inhabitation unlikely43
Flodday[Note 17]FlodaighSound of Barra40185141
Fuaigh BeagFuaigh BeagLewis (Loch Ròg) 35[15]182748
Fuaigh MòrFuaigh MòrLewis (Loch Ròg)841840s[Note 18]Mullach na Beinne67
FudayFuideighSound of Barra2321901Mullach Neacail89
FuiayFuidheighSound of Barra84Mid-19th century107
Garbh EileanGarbh EileanShiant Isles1431901Mullach Buidhe160
GighayGioghaighSound of Barra96Early 19th centuryMullach a' Chàrnain95
GroaighGroaighSound of Harris28[15]Unknown26
HellisayTheiliseighSound of Barra1421890Beinn a' Chàrnain72
HermetrayTheàrnatraighSound of Harris721840sCompass Knoll35
KillegrayCeileagraighSound of Harris1761970s45
KirkibostEilean ChirceboistNorth Uist205Unknown10
LingeighLingeighBarra Isles27Inhabitation unlikely83
Little BerneraBeàrnaraigh BeagLewis (Loch Ròg)1381861Tordal41
MingulayMiùghalaighBarra Isles6401912Càrnan273
MuldoanichMaol DòmhnaichBarra Isles78No census recordsMaol Dòmhnaich153
OrosayOrasaighSound of Barrac. 30[12]Unknown38
OronsayOrasaighNorth Uist8519th century25
PabbayPabaighBarra Isles2501911–20An Tobha171
PabbayPabaighHarris8201970s[Note 19]Beinn a' Chàrnain196
Pabaigh MòrPabaigh MòrLewis (Loch Ròg)1011827Beinn Mhòr68
RonayRònaighNorth Uist5631920sBeinn á Charnain115
SandraySanndraighBarra Isles3851934Carn Ghaltair207
ScarpAn SgarpHarris1,0451971Sròn Romul308
Seaforth IslandEilean ShìophoirtLewis (Loch Seaforth)273No record of habitation217
SgeotasaighSgeotasaighHarris (East Loch Tarbert)49192157
SibhinisSibhinisMonach Islands28Unknown15
ShillaySiolaighNorth Uist47No evidence of habitation79
Soay MorSòdhaigh MòrHarris451890s37
StromayStròmaigh[Note 20]Sound of Harris66Unknown16
Stockinish IslandEilean StocainisHarris49No record of habitation44
StuleyStulaighSouth Uist4519th century?[Note 21]40
SursaighSursaighSound of Harris30[15]Unknown27
TahayTaghaighSound of Harris531850s65
TaransayTarasaighHarris1,4751974Ben Raah267
TorogaighTorogaighSound of Harris28[15]Unknown13
VacsayBhacasaighLewis (Loch Ròg)41186934
VallayBhàlaighNorth Uist26019th century?Ceann Uachdarach38
WiayFuidheighBenbecula3751901Beinn a' Tuath102

The Eileanan Chearabhaigh are a complex group of islets off the east coast of Benbecula, the area of which changes as the tides rise and fall. The total area is circa 49 hectares[15] and largest part that might be considered to be a genuine island is circa 32 hectares.[27]

Smaller islets and skerries[edit]

Smaller islands, tidal islets only separated at higher stages of the tide, and skerries that are only exposed at lower stages of the tide pepper the North Atlantic surrounding the main islands. This is a continuing list of these smaller Outer Hebridean islands.[12]

Many of them are obscure and few have ever been inhabited. Nonetheless, some have a significant degree of notability. The islet on which Kisimul Castle stands is the ancient seat of Clan MacNeil and Shillay in the Monach Isles had a manned lighthouse until 1942.[28] The tiny Beasts of Holm of the east coast of Lewis were the site of the sinking of the Iolaire during the first few hours of 1919,[29] one of the worst maritime disasters in United Kingdom waters during the 20th century. Calvay in the Sound of Barra provided the inspiration for Compton MacKenzie's 1947 novel Whiskey Galore after the SS Politician ran aground there with a cargo of whisky. Unusually for an island without permanent inhabitation, Eilean na Cille (NF847459) is connected to Grimsay (south) by a causeway.

Various Gaelic names are used repeatedly. The suffix ay or aigh or aidh is generally from the Norse øy meaning "island". Eilean (plural: eileanan) also means "island". Beag and mòr (also bheag and mhòr) mean "little" and "big" and are often found together. Sgeir is "skerry" and often refers to a rock or rocks that lie submerged at high tide. Dubh is "black", dearg is "red" and glas means "grey" or "green". Orasaigh is from the Norse Örfirirsey meaning "tidal" or "ebb island".[30]

Smaller islands grouped geographically:

Barra and the Barra Isles[edit]

A green hill ends in dark brown cliffs over blue water.
The western cliffs of Mingulay with the stack of Arnamuil at centre

Sound of Barra[edit]

South Uist[edit]

Grey hills back green moors beyond a grey body of water. A small island is separated from the cliffs of the shore by a deep chasm.
Beinn Mhòr and Thacla in the distance and Dùn Othail and Nicholson's Leap in the foreground


Islands in Loch Uisgebhagh. Bearran is at top right, Orasaigh, middle right and the peninsula of Meanais at top left. Eilean nan Each, Maragaidh Beag and Maragaidh Mòr are in the distance.

North Uist[edit]

A rocky shoreline on a cloudy day. The outline of a building is just visible at left.
Haskeir Lighthouse, with Haskeir Eagach in the distance
An indistinct image from space of brown and green islands in dark blue water.
North Uist and surrounding islands. The Monach Isles are at left, Pabbay in the Sound of Harris is at top centre, Loch Maddy and narrow Loch Euphort at right

Monach Isles[edit]

A tall, conical grey tower with outbuildings sits in a green field. A second small, white tower is in the background.
The lighthouse on Shillay

Sound of Harris[edit]

West Harris[edit]

East Harris[edit]

Shiant Isles[edit]


A narrow metal bridge crosses a steep gorge
The bridge connecting Dùn Èistean to Lewis
A black and white image of a twin-masted motor yacht with a funnel afloat with no sails set.
Admiralty yacht HMS Iolaire, sunk with the loss of 205 lives on the Beasts of Holm skerries near the entrance to Stornoway harbour in 1919.[29]

South west coast[edit]

Ceann Loch Resort to Aird Dhrolaige: Liongam, Staca Liath

Loch Ròg[edit]

North west coast[edit]

East Coast[edit]

A map of the chain of islands that form the Outer Hebrides with the largest island of Lewis to the north. The Butt of Lewis lies at the northern tip of this island.
A map of the chain of islands that form the Outer Hebrides with the largest island of Lewis to the north. The Butt of Lewis lies at the northern tip of this island.
The location of the Butt of Lewis

Small archipelagos[edit]

There are various small archipelagos within the Outer Hebrides. These include:

Barra Isles (or Bishop's Isles)South of Barra
Flannan Isles32 kilometres (20 mi) west of Lewis
Monach Islands9 kilometres (5.6 mi) west of North Uist
Shiant Isles7 kilometres (4.3 mi) southeast of Harris

The St Kilda group is 64 kilometres (40 mi) west-northwest of North Uist.

See also[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

General references
  1. ^ Murray (1973) notes that "Western Isles" has tended to mean "Outer Hebrides" since the creation of the Na h-Eileanan an Iar or Western Isles parliamentary constituency in 1918. The phrase can also be used to refer to the Hebrides in general. Murray also notes that "Gneiss Islands"—a reference to the underlying geology – is another name used to refer to the Outer Hebrides but that its use is "confined to books".[1]
  2. ^ The island does not have a common name in either English or Gaelic and is referred to as "Lewis and Harris", "Lewis with Harris", "Harris with Lewis" etc.[3]
  3. ^ Aird an Runair, North Uist approximately Mean High Water Springs ETRS89 57°36'10.42010"N 7°32'56.63226"W, grid reference NF 68686,70560. Distance to Rockall approximately 366.966 km (228.022 mi / 198.146 nmi).[6]
  4. ^ Other definitions are used in the Scottish context. For example the General Register Office for Scotland define an island as "a mass of land surrounded by water, separate from the Scottish mainland" but although they include islands linked by bridges etc. this is not clear from this definition. Haswell-Smith (2004) uses "an Island is a piece of land or group of pieces of land which is entirely surrounded by water at Lowest Astronomical Tide and to which there is no permanent means of dry access". This is widely agreed to be unhelpful as it consciously excludes bridged islands.
  5. ^ Geographically, the inhabited islands can easily be separated into those that are or surround Lewis and Harris, The Uists and Benbecula, and Barra.
  6. ^ The Ordnance Survey maps mark the height above sea level of a high point on most islands, but in a small number of cases, this may not be the highest point.[12]
  7. ^ The 2001 and 2011 censuses refer to the island by its anglified name of Flodda.
  8. ^ This island is at (grid reference NF860580) and the evidence of both Ordnance Survey maps and photographs (e.g. "Houses on Seana Bhaile" Geograph. Retrieved 10 August 2009) indicates a resident population. There is even a name, "Seana Bhaile" for the main settlement. However, neither the census nor the main reference work (Haswell-Smith 2004) refer to the island at all. Its population is presumably included in nearby Grimsay by the census.
  9. ^ There are two inhabited islands called "Grimsay" or Griomasaigh that are joined to Benbecula by a road causeway, one to the north at grid reference NF855572 and one to the south east at grid reference NF831473.
  10. ^ See above note.
  11. ^ Eileanan Iasgaich is at grid reference NF785186.
  12. ^ Geographically, these islands can be separated into those surrounding Lewis and Harris, North and South Uist, Benbecula, and Barra—plus those that are members of the smaller archipelagos of the Barra Isles, the Flannan Isles, the Monach Isles, and the Shiant Islands. There is also a complex group that lies between North Uist and Harris in the Sound of Harris.
  13. ^ Indicates the last known date of permanent, year round settlement.[21]
  14. ^ Note that the Ordnance Survey maps mark the height above sea level of a high point on most islands, but in a small number of cases, this may not be the highest point.[12]
  15. ^ Calbhaigh is a tidal islet in Loch Eynort, not to be confused with Calvay or Calbhaigh in Loch Boisdale, both of which are also off South Uist.
  16. ^ There are two "Flodday"s near Barra. One is in the Barra Isles at grid reference NL612924, the other in the Sound of Barra to the north at grid reference NF751022.
  17. ^ See above note.
  18. ^ It is said that the Clearances here were of a particularly brutal nature.[22]
  19. ^ Pabbay had a population of about 100 in the early 19th century but was cleared in 1846 and by 1868 there was only a single shepherd living there.[23]
  20. ^ The gaelic name is Stromaigh in the Gazetteer for Scotland and the English name "Stromay" is used both here and by the JNCC. The Ordnance Survey calls the island Sròmaigh but this is not used in other sources. It is connected to North Uist at all but the highest stages of the tide and a JNCC report describes it as "the low 'island' of Stromay".[24][25]
  21. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) writes "old lazybeds and a few scattered shieling ruins show that Stuley was probably yet another place where people who were considered of less importance than sheep fought to survive."[26]
  1. ^ Murray (1973) p. 32.
  2. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 262.
  3. ^ a b Thompson (1968) p. 13.
  4. ^ a b "Fleet Histories" Caledonian MacBrayne. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  5. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 313–331 lists these islands in "Section 9: The Atlantic Outliers".
  6. ^ Admiralty Chart NE Atlantic (1) Reykjanes Ridge & Rockall Plateau. Chart C6566. (2009) Imray, Laurie, Norie & Wilson. St Ives.
  7. ^ a b General Register Office for Scotland (2003).
  8. ^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain 1901–2001 Gaelic in the Census, PowerPoint Presentation made available via Linguae Celticae. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  9. ^ "Lighthouse Library" Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 14 July 2007.
  10. ^ a b c National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  11. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 205–253.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Get-a-map". Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 1–15 August 2009.
  13. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 206 save those indicated with a separate footnote.
  14. ^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) and Ordnance Survey maps. Blanks indicate that no name is recorded for this eminence.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Rick Livingstone’s Tables of the Islands of Scotland" (pdf) Argyll Yacht Charters. Retrieved 12 Dec 2011.
  16. ^ See for example Hunter (2000) pp. 152–158.
  17. ^ See for example Maclean (1977) Chapter 10: "Arcady Despoiled" pp. 125–35.
  18. ^ "Mingulay Boat Song" Cantaria. Retrieved 26 December 2006.
  19. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 282–83.
  20. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) and Ordnance Survey maps for islands <40 ha (100 acres) unless otherwise stated.
  21. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) unless otherwise stated.
  22. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 306.
  23. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 268.
  24. ^ "Stromay (Stromaigh)" Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  25. ^ "Loch Maddy – Sound of Harris Coastline" (PDF) Geological Conservation Review 28 Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  26. ^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 234.
  27. ^ Estimate from Ordnance Survey Maps.
  28. ^ "Monach Light". Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 2007-12-08. 
  29. ^ a b Thompson (1968) p. 76.
  30. ^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) various pages.