Hebrides (/ˈhɛbrɪdiːz/; Scottish Gaelic: Innse Gall,
pronounced [ĩːʃə gau̯l̪ˠ]; Old Norse: Suðreyjar) compose
a widespread and diverse archipelago off the west coast of mainland
Scotland. There are two main groups: the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
These islands have a long history of occupation dating back to the
Mesolithic, and the culture of the residents has been affected by the
successive influences of Celtic, Norse, and English-speaking peoples.
This diversity is reflected in the names given to the islands, which
are derived from the languages that have been spoken there in historic
and perhaps prehistoric times.
Hebrides are the source of much of
Scottish Gaelic literature
Scottish Gaelic literature and
Gaelic music. Today the economy of the islands is dependent on
crofting, fishing, tourism, the oil industry, and renewable energy.
Hebrides have lower biodiversity than mainland Scotland, but there
is a significant presence of seals and seabirds.
1 Geology, geography and climate
2.2 Celtic era
2.3 Norwegian control
2.4 Scottish control
2.5 Early British era
3 Modern economy
4 Media and the arts
4.4 Influence on visitors
6.1 Outer Hebrides
6.2 Inner Hebrides
6.3 Uninhabited islands
7 Natural history
8 See also
9 References and footnotes
9.3 General references
10 External links
Geology, geography and climate
Caledonian MacBrayne ferry
MV Hebrides leaving
Lochmaddy for Skye
Main articles: List of
Inner Hebrides and List of Outer Hebrides
Hebrides have a diverse geology ranging in age from Precambrian
strata that are amongst the oldest rocks in Europe to Paleogene
igneous intrusions.[Note 1] Raised shore platforms in the
Hebrides are identified as strandflats formed possibly in Pliocene
times and later modified by the Quaternary glaciations.
Hebrides can be divided into two main groups, separated from one
another by the Minch to the north and the
Sea of the Hebrides
Sea of the Hebrides to the
Inner Hebrides lie closer to mainland
Scotland and include
Islay, Jura, Skye, Mull, Raasay,
Staffa and the Small Isles. There are
36 inhabited islands in this group. The
Outer Hebrides are 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. The main islands include Barra, Benbecula,
Berneray, Harris, Lewis, North Uist, South Uist, and St Kilda. In
total, the islands have an area of approximately 7,200 square
kilometres (2,800 sq mi) and a population of 44,759.
A complication is that there are various descriptions of the scope of
the Hebrides. The Collins Encyclopedia of
Scotland describes the Inner
Hebrides as lying "east of the Minch", which would include any and all
offshore islands. There are various islands that lie in the sea lochs
such as Eilean Bàn and
Eilean Donan that might not ordinarily be
described as "Hebridean", but no formal definitions exist.
In the past, the
Outer Hebrides were often referred to as the Long
Isle (Scottish Gaelic: An t-Eilean Fada). Today, they are also known
as the Western Isles, although this phrase can also be used to refer
Hebrides in general.[Note 2]
Hebrides have a cool temperate climate that is remarkably mild and
steady for such a northerly latitude, due to the influence of the Gulf
Stream. In the
Outer Hebrides the average temperature for the year is
6 °C (44 °F) in January and 14 °C (57 °F) in
summer. The average annual rainfall in
Lewis is 1,100 millimetres
(43 in) and sunshine hours range from 1,100 – 1,200 per annum
(13%). The summer days are relatively long, and May to August is the
Main articles: Inner Hebrides, Outer Hebrides, and History of the
Callanish stone circle
Hebrides were settled during the
Mesolithic era around
6500 BC or earlier, after the climatic conditions improved enough
to sustain human settlement. Occupation at a site on
Rùm is dated to
8590 ±95 uncorrected radiocarbon years BP, which is amongst the
oldest evidence of occupation in Scotland. There are many
examples of structures from the
Neolithic period, the finest example
being the standing stones at Callanish, dating to the 3rd millennium
BC. Cladh Hallan, a
Bronze Age settlement on
South Uist is the
only site in the UK where prehistoric mummies have been found.
Main article: Dál Riata
In 55 BC, the Greek historian
Diodorus Siculus wrote that there
was an island called
Hyperborea (which means "beyond the North Wind"),
where a round temple stood from which the moon appeared only a little
distance above the earth every 19 years. This may have been a
reference to the stone circle at Callanish.
A traveller called Demetrius of Tarsus related to
Plutarch the tale of
an expedition to the west coast of
Scotland in or shortly before AD
83. He stated it was a gloomy journey amongst uninhabited islands, but
he had visited one which was the retreat of holy men. He mentioned
neither the druids nor the name of the island.
The first written records of native life begin in the 6th century AD,
when the founding of the kingdom of
Dál Riata took place. This
encompassed roughly what is now
Argyll and Bute
Argyll and Bute and
County Antrim in Ireland. The figure of
large in any history of Dál Riata, and his founding of a monastery on
Iona ensured that the kingdom would be of great importance in the
spread of Christianity in northern Britain. However,
Iona was far from
unique. Lismore in the territory of the Cenél Loairn, was
sufficiently important for the death of its abbots to be recorded with
some frequency and many smaller sites, such as on Eigg, Hinba, and
Tiree, are known from the annals.
North of Dál Riata, the Inner and
Outer Hebrides were nominally under
Pictish control, although the historical record is sparse. Hunter
(2000) states that in relation to King Bridei I of the
Picts in the
sixth century: "As for Shetland, Orkney,
Skye and the Western Isles,
their inhabitants, most of whom appear to have been Pictish in culture
and speech at this time, are likely to have regarded Bridei as a
fairly distant presence.”
Kingdom of the Isles
Kingdom of the Isles about the year 1100
Main article: Kingdom of the Isles
Viking raids began on Scottish shores towards the end of the 8th
century and the
Hebrides came under Norse control and settlement
during the ensuing decades, especially following the success of Harald
Fairhair at the
Battle of Hafrsfjord
Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. In the Western
Ketill Flatnose may have been the dominant figure of the mid 9th
century, by which time he had amassed a substantial island realm and
made a variety of alliances with other Norse leaders. These
princelings nominally owed allegiance to the Norwegian crown, although
in practice the latter's control was fairly limited. Norse control
Hebrides was formalised in 1098 when Edgar of
signed the islands over to Magnus III of Norway. The Scottish
acceptance of Magnus III as King of the Isles came after the Norwegian
king had conquered Orkney, the
Hebrides and the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man in a swift
campaign earlier the same year, directed against the local Norwegian
leaders of the various island petty kingdoms. By capturing the islands
Magnus imposed a more direct royal control, although at a price. His
skald Bjorn Cripplehand recorded that in
Lewis "fire played high in
the heaven" as "flame spouted from the houses" and that in the Uists
"the king dyed his sword red in blood".[Note 3]
Hebrides were now part of the Kingdom of the Isles, whose rulers
were themselves vassals of the Kings of Norway. This situation lasted
until the partitioning of the Western Isles in 1156, at which time the
Outer Hebrides remained under Norwegian control while the Inner
Hebrides broke out under Somerled, the
Norse-Gael kinsman of the Manx
Following the ill-fated 1263 expedition of Haakon IV of Norway, the
Outer Hebrides and the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man were yielded to the Kingdom of
Scotland as a result of the 1266 Treaty of Perth. Although their
contribution to the islands can still be found in personal and place
names, the archaeological record of the Norse period is very limited.
The best known find is the
Lewis chessmen, which date from the mid
Kisimul Castle, the ancient seat of Clan MacNeil, Castlebay, Barra
As the Norse era drew to a close, the Norse-speaking princes were
gradually replaced by Gaelic-speaking clan chiefs including the
Lewis and Harris,
Clan Donald and MacNeil of
Barra.[Note 4] This transition did little to relieve the
islands of internecine strife although by the early 14th century the
MacDonald Lords of the Isles, based on Islay, were in theory these
chiefs' feudal superiors and managed to exert some control.
The Lords of the Isles ruled the
Inner Hebrides as well as part of the
Western Highlands as subjects of the King of Scots until John
MacDonald, fourth Lord of the Isles, squandered the family's powerful
position. A rebellion by his nephew, Alexander of Lochalsh provoked an
exasperated James IV to forfeit the family's lands in 1493.
In 1598, King James VI authorised some "Gentleman Adventurers" from
Fife to civilise the "most barbarous Isle of Lewis". Initially
successful, the colonists were driven out by local forces commanded by
Murdoch and Neil MacLeod, who based their forces on
Bearasaigh in Loch
Ròg. The colonists tried again in 1605 with the same result, but a
third attempt in 1607 was more successful and in due course Stornoway
became a Burgh of Barony. By this time,
Lewis was held by the
Kintail (later the Earls of Seaforth), who pursued a
more enlightened approach, investing in fishing in particular. The
Seaforths' royalist inclinations led to
Lewis becoming garrisoned
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Wars of the Three Kingdoms by Cromwell's troops, who
destroyed the old castle in Stornoway.
Early British era
Clachan Bridge between the mainland of
Great Britain and
Seil, also known as the "Bridge across the Atlantic", was built in
With the implementation of the
Treaty of Union
Treaty of Union in 1707, the Hebrides
became part of the new Kingdom of Great Britain, but the clans'
loyalties to a distant monarch were not strong. A considerable number
of islesmen "came out" in support of the Jacobite
Earl of Mar
Earl of Mar in the
"15" and again in the 1745 rising including Macleod of
MacLea of Lismore. The aftermath of the decisive Battle of
Culloden, which effectively ended Jacobite hopes of a Stuart
restoration, was widely felt. The British government's strategy
was to estrange the clan chiefs from their kinsmen and turn their
descendants into English-speaking landlords whose main concern was the
revenues their estates brought rather than the welfare of those who
lived on them. This may have brought peace to the islands, but in
the following century it came at a terrible price. In the wake of the
rebellion, the clan system was broken up and islands of the Hebrides
became a series of landed estates.
The early 19th century was a time of improvement and population
growth. Roads and quays were built; the slate industry became a
significant employer on
Easdale and surrounding islands; and the
construction of the Crinan and Caledonian canals and other engineering
works such as Telford's "Bridge across the Atlantic" improved
transport and access. However, in the mid-19th century, the
inhabitants of many parts of the
Hebrides were devastated by the
Clearances, which destroyed communities throughout the Highlands and
Islands as the human populations were evicted and replaced with sheep
farms. The position was exacerbated by the failure of the islands'
kelp industry that thrived from the 18th century until the end of the
Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and large scale emigration became
As Iain Mac Fhearchair, a Gaelic poet from South Uist, wrote for his
countrymen who were obliged to leave the
Hebrides in the late 18th
century, emigration was the only alternative to "sinking into slavery"
Gaels had been unfairly dispossessed by rapacious
landlords. In the 1880s, the "Battle of the Braes" involved a
demonstration against unfair land regulation and eviction, stimulating
the calling of the Napier Commission. Disturbances continued until the
passing of the 1886 Crofters' Act.
Sea-filled slate quarries on
Seil (foreground) and
Easdale in the
For those who remained, new economic opportunities emerged through the
export of cattle, commercial fishing and tourism. Nonetheless
emigration and military service became the choice of many and the
archipelago's populations continued to dwindle throughout the late
19th century and for much of the 20th century. Lengthy periods
of continuous occupation notwithstanding, many of the smaller islands
There were, however, continuing gradual economic improvements, among
the most visible of which was the replacement of the traditional
thatched blackhouse with accommodation of a more modern design and
with the assistance of
Highlands and Islands
Highlands and Islands Enterprise many of the
islands' populations have begun to increase after decades of
decline. The discovery of substantial deposits of
North Sea oil
North Sea oil in
1965 and the renewables sector have contributed to a degree of
economic stability in recent decades. For example, the
Arnish yard has
had a chequered history but has been a significant employer in both
the oil and renewables industries.
The widespread immigration of mainlanders, particularly non-Gaelic
speakers, has been a subject of controversy.
Media and the arts
Entrance to Fingal's Cave, Staffa
Many contemporary Gaelic musicians have roots in the Hebrides,
Julie Fowlis (North Uist), Catherine-Ann MacPhee
Kathleen MacInnes (South Uist), and
Ishbel MacAskill (Lewis).
All of these singers have repertoire based on the Hebridean tradition,
such as puirt à beul and òrain luaidh (waulking songs). This
tradition includes many songs composed by little-known or anonymous
poets before 1800, such as "Fear a' bhàta", "Ailein duinn" and
"Alasdair mhic Cholla Ghasda". Several of Runrig's songs are inspired
by the archipelago; Calum and Ruaraidh Dòmhnallach were raised on
North Uist and Donnie Munro on Skye.
The Gaelic poet
Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair
Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair spent much of his
life in the
Hebrides and often referred to them in his poetry,
including in An Airce and Birlinn Chlann Raghnaill. The best known
Gaelic poet of her era, Màiri Mhòr nan Òran (Mary MacPherson,
1821–98), embodied the spirit of the land agitation of the 1870s and
1880s. This, and her powerful evocation of the Hebrides—she was from
Skye—has made her among the most enduring Gaelic poets. Allan
MacDonald (1859–1905), who spent his adult life on
Eriskay and South
Uist, composed hymns and verse in honour of the Blessed Virgin, the
Christ Child, and the Eucharist. In his secular poetry, MacDonald
praised the beauty of
Eriskay and its people. In his verse drama,
Parlamaid nan Cailleach (The Old Wives' Parliament), he lampooned the
gossiping of his female parishioners and local marriage
In the 20th century,
Murdo Macfarlane of
Lewis wrote Cànan nan
Gàidheal, a well-known poem about the Gaelic revival in the Outer
Hebrides. Sorley MacLean, the most respected 20th-century Gaelic
writer, was born and raised on Raasay, where he set his best known
poem, Hallaig, about the devastating effect of the Highland
Clearances. Aonghas Phàdraig Caimbeul, described by MacLean as
"one of the few really significant living poets in Scotland, writing
in any language" (West Highland Free Press, October 1992), and
whose Scottish Gaelic-language novel, An Oidhche Mus do Sheòl Sinn,
was voted in the Top Ten of the 100 Best-Ever Books from Scotland, was
raised on South Uist.
The area around the Inaccessible Pinnacle of
Sgurr Dearg of Skye
provided the setting for the
Scottish Gaelic feature film Seachd: The
Inaccessible Pinnacle (2006). The script was written by the actor,
novelist, and poet Aonghas Phàdraig Chaimbeul, who also starred in
An Drochaid, an hour-long documentary in Scottish Gaelic, was made for
BBC Alba documenting the battle to remove tolls from the Skye
Influence on visitors
J.M. Barrie's Marie Rose contains references to Harris inspired by a
holiday visit to
Amhuinnsuidhe Castle and he wrote a screenplay for
the 1924 film adaptation of Peter Pan whilst on Eilean
The Hebrides, also known as Fingal's Cave, is a famous overture
Felix Mendelssohn while residing on these islands, while
Granville Bantock composed the Hebridean Symphony.
Enya's song "Ebudæ" from
Shepherd Moons is named for the Hebrides
The 1973 British horror film The Wicker Man is set on the fictional
Hebridean island of Summerisle.
The 2011 British romantic comedy The Decoy Bride is set on the
Hebrides island of Hegg.
Geographic distribution of Gaelic speakers in
The residents of the
Hebrides have spoken a variety of different
languages during the long period of human occupation.
It is assumed that Pictish must once have predominated in the northern
Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. The Scottish Gaelic
language arrived via
Ireland due to the growing influence of the
Dál Riata from the 6th century AD onwards, and became the
dominant language of the southern
Hebrides at that time. For a
few centuries, the military might of the Gall-Ghàidheil meant that
Old Norse was prevalent in the Hebrides. North of Ardnamurchan, the
place names that existed prior to the 9th century have been all but
Old Norse name for the
Hebrides during the Viking
occupation was Suðreyjar, which means "Southern Isles"; in contrast
to the Norðreyjar, or "Northern Isles" of
Orkney and Shetland.
South of Ardnamurchan, Gaelic place names are more common, and
after the 13th century, Gaelic became the main language of the entire
Hebridean archipelago. Due to Scots and English being favoured in
government and the educational system, the
Hebrides have been in a
state of diglossia since at least the 17th century. The Highland
Clearances of the 19th century accelerated the language shift away
from Scottish Gaelic, as did increased migration and the continuing
lower status of Gaelic speakers. Nevertheless, as late as the end
of the 19th century, there were significant populations of monolingual
Gaelic speakers, and the
Hebrides still contain the highest
percentages of Gaelic speakers in Scotland. This is especially true of
the Outer Hebrides, where a slim majority speak the language.
Scottish Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, is based on
Ironically, given the status of the Western Isles as the last
Gaelic-speaking stronghold in Scotland, the Gaelic language name for
the islands – Innse Gall – means "isles of the foreigners"; from
the time when they were under Norse colonisation.
The earliest written references that have survived relating to the
islands were made by
Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, where he
states that there are 30 Hebudes, and makes a separate reference to
Dumna, which Watson (1926) concludes is unequivocally the Outer
Hebrides. Writing about 80 years later, in 140-150 AD, Ptolemy,
drawing on the earlier naval expeditions of Agricola, writes that
there are five Ebudes (possibly meaning the Inner Hebrides) and
Dumna. Later texts in classical Latin, by writers such as
Solinus, use the forms Hebudes and Hæbudes.
The name Ebudes recorded by
Ptolemy may be pre-Celtic.
Ptolemy's Epidion, the use of the "p" hinting at a Brythonic or
Pictish tribal name, Epidii, although the root is not Gaelic.
Woolf (2012) has suggested that Ebudes may be "an Irish attempt to
reproduce the word
Epidii phonetically rather than by translating it"
and that the tribe's name may come from the root epos meaning
"horse". Watson (1926) also notes the possible relationship
between Ebudes and the ancient Irish
Ulaid tribal name Ibdaig and the
personal name of a king Iubdán recorded in the Silva Gadelica.
The names of other individual islands reflect their complex linguistic
history. The majority are Norse or Gaelic but the roots of several
Hebrides may have a pre-Celtic origin. Adomnán, the 7th
century abbot of Iona, records
Colonsay as Colosus and
Ethica, both of which may be pre-Celtic names. The etymology of
Skye is complex and may also include a pre-Celtic root.
Old Norse and although various suggestions have been made
as to a Norse meaning (such as "song house") the name is not of
Gaelic origin and the Norse credentials are questionable.
The earliest comprehensive written list of Hebridean island names was
undertaken by Donald Monro in 1549, which in some cases also provides
the earliest written form of the island name. The derivations of all
of the inhabited islands of the
Hebrides and some of the larger
uninhabited ones are listed below.
Lewis and Harris is the largest island in
Scotland and the third
largest in the British Isles, after
Great Britain and Ireland. It
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. Remarkably, the island does not have a common
name in either English or Gaelic and is referred to as "
Lewis with Harris", "Harris with Lewis" etc. For this reason
it is treated as two separate islands below. The derivation of
Lewis may be pre-Celtic (see above) and the origin of Harris is no
less problematic. In the Ravenna Cosmography, Erimon may refer to
Harris (or possibly the
Outer Hebrides as a whole). This word may
derive from the Ancient Greek: ἐρῆμος (erimos "desert".
The origin of
Uist (Old Norse: Ívist) is similarly unclear.
Modern Gaelic name
Peighinn nam Fadhla
pennyland of the fords
Beinn nam Fadhla
"little mountain of the ford" or "herdsman's mountain"
Ptolemy's Adru. In
Old Norse (and in modern Icelandic), a Hérað is a
type of administrative district. Alternatives are the Norse
haerri, meaning "hills" and Gaelic na h-airdibh meaning "the
Ptolemy's Limnu is literally "marshy". The Norse Ljoðhús may mean
"song house" — see above.
Uibhist a Tuath
"Uist" may possibly be "corn island" or "west"
Scalpay of Harray
Sgalpaigh na Hearadh
Uibhist a Deas
See North Uist
fathers' island, priest island, glove island, wavy island
There are various examples of Inner Hebridean island names that were
originally Gaelic but have become completely replaced. For example,
Adomnán records Sainea, Elena, Ommon and Oideacha in the Inner
Hebrides, which names must have passed out of usage in the Norse era
and whose locations are not clear. One of the complexities is
that an island may have had a Celtic name, which was replaced by a
similar-sounding Norse name, but then reverted to an essentially
Gaelic name with a Norse "øy" or "ey" ending. See for example
Modern Gaelic name
Possibly from Old Irish cana, meaning "wolf-whelp" or Norse kneøy -
Possibly from Gaelic coll - a hazel
Norse for "Columba's island"
Eas is "waterfall" in Gaelic and dale is the Norse for "valley".
However the combination seems inappropriate for this small island.
Also known as Ellenabeich - "island of the birches"
Also called Eilean Nimban More - "island of the powerful women" until
the 16th century.
Eilean dà Mhèinn
island of Donnán
Adomnán records the pre-Norse Gaelic name of Airthrago - the
"good island" or "God island"
Various including the Norse Gjáey - "island of the geo" or "cleft",
or "Gydha's isle".
"The good-man's island", or "God-man's island"
Isle of Ewe
Old Irish: eo - "yew"
I Chaluim Chille !Ì Chaluim Chille
Adomnán uses Ioua insula which became "Iona" through
Various - see above
Norse: Jurøy - udder island
Norse: ciarrøy - "brushwood island" or "copse island"
An t-Eilean Luinn
Norse: lyng - heather island or pre-Celtic
Gaelic long is also "ship"
Eilean nam Muc
isle of pigs
Eilean nam Muc
Eilean nam Muc-mhara- "whale island". John of Fordun recorded it as
Helantmok - "isle of swine".
Ptolemy as Malaios possibly meaning "lofty isle".
In Norse times it became Mýl.
Norse: "Oran's island"
roe deer island
Rossøy - "horse island"
Hraunøy or Rònøy
Norse or Gaelic/Norse
"rough island" or "seal island"
Various including Norse rõm-øy for "wide island" or Gaelic ì-dhruim
- "isle of the ridge"
Norse: "ship island"
Gaelic: sealg - "hunting island"
Possibly "sea island"
Gaelic sidhean - "fairy"
Possibly "winged isle"
An t-Eilean Sgitheanach
Numerous - see above
island of the haven
Brythonic: Thanaros, the thunder god
Norse: Tirvist of unknown meaning and numerous Gaelic versions, some
with a possible meaning of "land of corn"
Dhu Heartach Lighthouse, During Construction by Sam Bough
The names of uninhabited islands follow the same general patterns as
the inhabited islands. The following are the ten largest in the
Hebrides and their outliers.
The etymology of St Kilda, a small archipelago west of the Outer
Hebrides, and its main island Hirta, is very complex. No saint is
known by the name of Kilda, and various theories have been proposed
for the word's origin, which dates from the late 16th century.
Haswell-Smith (2004) notes that the full name "St Kilda" first appears
on a Dutch map dated 1666, and that it may have been derived from
Norse sunt kelda ("sweet wellwater") or from a mistaken Dutch
assumption that the spring Tobar Childa was dedicated to a saint.
(Tobar Childa is a tautological placename, consisting of the Gaelic
and Norse words for well, i.e. "well well"). The origin of the
Gaelic for "Hirta"—Hiort, Hirt, or Irt—which long pre-dates
the use of "St Kilda", is similarly open to interpretation. Watson
(1926) offers the Old Irish hirt, a word meaning "death", possibly
relating to the dangerous seas. Maclean (1977), drawing on an
Icelandic saga describing an early 13th-century voyage to
mentions a visit to the islands of Hirtir, speculates that the shape
Hirta resembles a stag, hirtir being "stags" in Norse.
The etymology of small islands may be no less complex. In relation to
Dubh Artach, R. L. Stevenson believed that "black and dismal" was a
translation of the name, noting that "as usual, in Gaelic, it is not
the only one."
"barren" or "stony"
Possibly Old Irish
Numerous - see above
"Main hill island". Murray (1973) states that the name
“appropriately means Bird Island”.
Possibly "house island"
In some respects the
Hebrides lack biodiversity in comparison to
mainland Britain; for example, there are only half as many mammalian
species. However, these islands provide breeding grounds for many
important seabird species including the world's largest colony of
northern gannets. Avian life includes the corncrake, red-throated
diver, rock dove, kittiwake, tystie, Atlantic puffin, goldeneye,
golden eagle and white-tailed sea eagle. The last named was
Rùm in 1975 and has successfully spread to various
neighbouring islands, including Mull. There is a small population
of red-billed chough concentrated on the islands of
Red deer are common on the hills and the grey seal and common seal are
present around the coasts of Scotland. Colonies of seals are found on
Oronsay and the Treshnish Isles. The rich freshwater streams
contain brown trout,
Atlantic salmon and water shrew.
Offshore, minke whales, Killer whales, basking sharks, porpoises and
dolphins are among the sealife that can be seen.
The open landscapes of Benbecula
Heather moor containing ling, bell heather, cross-leaved heath, bog
myrtle and fescues is abundant and there is a diversity of Arctic and
alpine plants including Alpine pearlwort and mossy cyphal.
Loch Druidibeg on
South Uist is a national nature reserve owned and
managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. The reserve covers 1,677
hectares across the whole range of local habitats. Over 200
species of flowering plants have been recorded on the reserve, some of
which are nationally scarce.
South Uist is considered the best
place in the UK for the aquatic plant slender naiad, which is a
European Protected Species.
Hedgehogs are not native to the Outer Hebrides—they were introduced
in the 1970s to reduce garden pests—and their spread poses a threat
to the eggs of ground nesting wading birds. In 2003, Scottish Natural
Heritage undertook culls of hedgehogs in the area although these were
halted in 2007 due to protests; trapped animals were instead relocated
to the mainland.
Scottish island names
Geology of Scotland
Timeline of prehistoric Scotland
Fauna of Scotland
Languages of Scotland
Goidelic substrate hypothesis
Insular Celtic languages
Lewis Awakening (Religious Revival)
References and footnotes
^ Rollinson (1997) states that the oldest rocks in Europe have been
found "near Gruinard Bay" on the Scottish mainland. Gillen (2003) p.
44 indicates the oldest rocks in Europe are found "in the Northwest
Highlands and Outer Hebrides". McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John &
Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The
Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. p. 93 state of the Lewisian
gneiss bedrock of much of the
Outer Hebrides that "these rocks are
amongst the oldest to be found anywhere on the planet". Other
non-geological sources sometimes claim the rocks of
Lewis and Harris
are "the oldest in Britain", meaning that they are the oldest deposits
of large bedrock. As Rollinson makes clear they are not the location
of the oldest small outcrop.
^ 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. 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".
^ Thompson (1968) provides a more literal translation: "Fire played in
the fig-trees of Liodhus; it mounted up to heaven. Far and wide the
people were driven to flight. The fire gushed out of the houses".
^ The transitional relationships between Norse and Gaelic-speaking
rulers are complex. The Gall-Ghàidhels who dominated much of the
Irish Sea region and western
Scotland at this time were of joint
Gaelic and Scandinavian origin. When
Somerled wrested the southern
Inner Hebrides from Godred the Black in 1156, this was the beginnings
of a break with nominal Norse rule in the Hebrides. Godred remained
the ruler of Mann and the Outer Hebrides, but two years later
Somerled's invasion of the former caused him to flee to Norway. Norse
control was further weakened in the ensuring century, but the Hebrides
were not formally ceded by Norway until 1266. The transitions
from one language to another are also complex. For example, many
Scandinavian sources from this period of time typically refer to
individuals as having a Scandinavian first name and a Gaelic
^ 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
^ See above note.
^ Rollinson, Hugh (September 1997). "Britain's oldest rocks" Geology
Today. 13 no. 5 pp. 185-190.
^ Gillen, Con (2003).
Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden.
Terra Publishing. Pages 44 and 142.
^ Dawson, Alastrair G.; Dawson, Sue; Cooper, J. Andew G.; Gemmell,
Alastair; Bates, Richard (2013). "A
Pliocene age and origin for the
strandflat of the Western Isles of Scotland: a speculative
hypothesis". Geological Magazine. 150 (2): 360–366.
access-date= requires url= (help)
^ a b General Register Office for
Scotland (28 November 2003)
Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. (pdf)
Retrieved 22 January 2011. Archived 22 November 2011 at the Wayback
^ Keay & Keay (1994) p. 507.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica (1978) states:
Hebrides – group of
islands of the west coast of
Scotland extending in an arc between
55.35 and 58.30 N and 5.26 and 8.40 W." This includes Gigha, St Kilda
and everything up to
Cape Wrath – although not North Rona.
^ Murray (1973) p. 32.
^ Thompson (1968) pp. 24–26
^ Edwards, Kevin J. and Whittington, Graeme "Vegetation Change" in
Edwards & Ralston (2003) p. 70
^ Edwards, Kevin J., and Mithen, Steven (Feb., 1995) "The Colonization
of the Hebridean Islands of Western Scotland: Evidence from the
Palynological and Archaeological Records," World Archaeology. 26. No.
3. p. 348. Retrieved 20 April 2008.
^ Li, Martin (2005) Adventure Guide to Scotland. Hunter Publishing. p.
^ "Mummification in
Bronze Age Britain" BBC History. Retrieved 11
Prehistoric Village at Cladh Hallan". University of Sheffield.
Retrieved 21 February 2008.
^ See for example Haycock, David Boyd. "Much Greater, Than Commonly
Imagined." Archived 26 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine. The
Newton Project. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
^ Moffat, Alistair (2005) Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland
Before History. London. Thames & Hudson. pp. 239-40.
^ Nieke, Margaret R. "Secular Society from the Iron Age to Dál Riata
and the Kingdom of Scots" in Omand (2006) p. 60
^ Lynch (2007) pp. 161 162
^ Clancy, Thomas Owen "Church institutions: early medieval" in Lynch
^ a b Hunter (2000) pp. 44, 49
^ Hunter (2000) p. 74
^ Rotary Club (1995) p. 12
^ Hunter (2000) p. 78
^ a b Hunter (2000) p. 102
^ Thompson (1968) p 39
^ "The Kingdom of Mann and the Isles" thevikingworld.com Retrieved 6
^ Hunter (2000) pp. 109-111
^ Thompson (1968) p. 37
^ Thompson (1968) p. 39
^ Rotary Club (1995) pp. 27, 30
^ Gregory (1881) pp. 13-15, 20-21
^ Downham (2007) pp. 174-75.
^ Gammeltoft, Peder "Scandinavian Naming-Systems in the Hebrides: A
Way of Understanding how the Scandinavians were in Contact with Gaels
and Picts?" in Ballin Smith et al (2007) p. 480
^ Hunter (2000) pp. 127, 166
^ Oram, Richard "The Lordship of the Isles: 1336–1545" in Omand
(2006) pp. 135–38
^ a b Rotary Club (1995) pp. 12-13
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 312
^ Thompson (1968) pp. 41-42
^ Murray (1977) p. 121
^ "Dunvegan" Archived 4 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
castlescotland.net Retrieved 17 January 2011.
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clanmclea.co.uk. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
^ "The Battle of Culloden" BBC. Retrieved 16 January 2011.
^ a b Hunter (2000) pp. 195–96, 204–06
^ Hunter (2000) pp. 207–08
^ Duncan, P. J. "The Industries of Argyll: Tradition and Improvement"
in Omand (2006) pp. 152-53
^ Hunter (2000) p. 212
^ Hunter (2000) pp. 247, 262
^ Duncan, P. J. "The Industries of Argyll: Tradition and Improvement"
in Omand (2006) pp. 157–58
^ Hunter (2000) p. 280
^ Newton, Michael. "
Highland Clearances Part 3". The Virtual Gael.
Retrieved 7 January 2017.
^ Hunter (2000) pp. 308-23
^ Hunter (2000) p. 292
^ Hunter (2000) p. 343
^ Duncan, P. J. "The Industries of Argyll: Tradition and Improvement"
in Omand (2006) p. 169
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 47, 87
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 57, 99
^ "Blackhouses" Archived 19 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine..
isle-of-lewis.com Retrieved 17 January 2011.
^ "Yard wins biggest wind tower job". BBC News Online. 10 December
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^ Emily McEwan-Fujita - Academia.edu. "Ideology, Affect and
Socialization in Language Shift and Revitalization: The Experiences of
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^ Charles Jedrej; Mark Nuttall (1996). White Settlers:
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^ "Julie Fowlis". Thistle and Shamrock. NPR. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 10
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^ "Donnie Munro: Biography" Archived 30 May 2014 at the Wayback
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^ John Lorne Campbell, "Canna: The Story of a Hebridean Island,"
Oxford University Press, 1984, pages 104–105.
^ J. MacDonald, "Gaelic literature" in M. Lynch, ed., The Oxford
Companion to Scottish History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001),
ISBN 0-19-211696-7, pp. 255-7.
^ "Làrach nam Bàrd". BBC Alba.
^ MacLean, Sorley (1954) Hallaig. Gairm magazine. Translation by
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^ a b "
Angus Peter Campbell Aonghas Phadraig Caimbeul -
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^ "An Drochaid / The Bridge Rising". Media Co-op. January 2013.
Retrieved 25 January 2017.
^ "An Drochaid". BBC Alba. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
^ "Famous Visitors to the Islands - Luchd-tadhail Ainmeil" Culture
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^ Thomson, Gordon (28 May 2009) "The house where Big Brother was born"
New Statesman. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
^ Bold, Alan (29 December 1983) The Making of Orwell's 1984The Glasgow
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^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 130
^ "Translations for Shepherd Moons". pathname.com. Retrieved 20 May
^ "The various versions of The Wicker Man". Steve Philips. Retrieved
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^ The Decoy Bride on IMDb
^ Watson (1994) p. 65
^ Armit, Ian "The Iron Age" in Omand (2006) p. 57
^ a b c Woolf, Alex "The Age of the Sea-Kings: 900-1300" in Omand
(2006) p. 95
^ Brown, James (1892) "Place-names of Scotland" p. 4 ebooksread.com.
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^ a b Duwe, Kurt C. "Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic) Local Studies".
^ Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2004) "1901–2001 Gaelic in the Census"
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^ "A' Cholaiste". UHI. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
^ Hunter (2000) p. 104
^ Breeze, David J. "The ancient geography of Scotland" in Smith and
Banks (2002) pp. 11-13
^ Watson (1926) pp. 40–41
^ a b c d e Watson (1994) p. 38
^ Louis Deroy & Marianne Mulon (1992) Dictionnaire de noms de
lieux, Paris: Le Robert, article "Hébrides"
^ a b Watson (1994) p. 37
^ Watson (1994) p. 45
^ a b c d e f g h Gammeltoft, Peder "Scandinavian Naming-Systems in
Hebrides - A Way of Understanding how the Scandinavians were in
Gaels and Picts?" in Ballin Smith et al (2007) p. 487
^ Woolf, Alex (2012) Ancient Kindred?
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^ a b c Watson (1994) p. 85-86
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 80
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 262.
^ Thompson (1968) p. 13.
^ a b "The Roman Map of Britain Maiona (Erimon) 7 Lougis Erimon Isles
of Harris and Lewis,
Outer Hebrides " Archived 27 November 2013 at the
Wayback Machine. romanmap.com. Retrieved 1 February 2011.
^ Megaw, J.V. S. and SIMPSON, D.A. (1960) "A short cist burial on
North Uist and some notes on the prehistory of the Outer Isles in the
second millennium BC" (pdf) p. 72 Proc Soc Antiq Scot.
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^ a b c d e f g Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 236
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 17
^ a b Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 19
^ a b Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 46
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 50
^ a b c d e f Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 218
^ a b Mac an Tàilleir (2003)
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 116
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 117
^ Watson (1994) p. 93
^ Gammeltoft (2010) pp. 482, 486
^ a b c Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 143
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 118
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 31
^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 52
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 38
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^ Watson (1994) p. 85
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 134
^ a b c Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 105
^ Watson (1994) p. 77
^ Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar, § 328, line 8 Retrieved 2 February
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^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 32
^ a b Gillies (1906) p. 129. "Gometra, from N., is gottr + madr + ey."
^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) pp. 58-59
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 185
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^ Mac an Tàilleir (2003) p. 102
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^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 195
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^ Buchanan (1983) Pages 2–6.
^ Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 314–25.
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Orkney Island-Names – A
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Hebrides.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hebrides.
Hebrides/Western Isles Guide
National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE (selection of
archive films about the Hebrides)
"Hebrides, The". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.).
Inhabited islands of the Hebrides
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Coordinates: 57°50′N 7°00′W / 57.833°N 7.000°W /