Outer Hebrides Coast Guide
The Outer Hebrides is a group of around 30 islands that lie in a crescent shape, forty miles to the west of the Scottish mainland. These islands are also known as The Western Isles in Scotland. There are six main islands on which most of the population of 26,500 live, these are; Barra, South Uist, Benbecular, North Uist, Harris and The Isle of Lewis. Lewis is the largest island, being around 60 miles long and 25 miles wide.
Out of a total population of around 26,500, some 16,800 live on the Isle of Lewis, the next most populated island is Harris, with 3600 people, followed by South Uist with 1800 people. In total 15 of the islands in the archipelago are inhabited. The largest town on the islands is Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, which is regarded by some as the capital of the Hebrides. Several of the southern islands, South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist are connected by road bridge and Harris and Lewis also have a road link. There are also numerous inter-island ferries that link the to the other islands. The Outer Hebrides are separated from the mainland by two deep channels called The Minch and The Little Minch.
The most usual way of getting to the Outer Hebrides is by ferry and there are numerous options available to the traveller. Go to Ullapool for a ferry directly to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Ferries also run from Harris to Uig on the Isle of Skye and then you may proceed by road to the mainland at the Kyle of Lochalsh. There are ferry connections from the southern islands of South Uist and Barra to Mallaig and Oban on the Scottish mainland. In addition to the ferries there are also regular flights from Stornoway to Glasgow and Edinburgh and also Inverness and Aberdeen. An inter-island service is operated to Benbecula to the south.
Much of the Island of Lewis is moorland with uplands rising to 2600 feet in the south of the island. Peat is still cut from the moors as it has been for thousands of years. The peat is used as fuel in the cold winter months. There are numerous sea lochs that penetrate deep into the island and provide safe havens for the fishing fleet. Crofting and tourism are the other main industries of the island. There are many standing stones on Lewis and throughout the Hebrides dating from the Iron Age.
Harris is referred to as an island but is actually part of the Isle of Lewis. The geography of Harris is similar to that of Lewis, moorland with numerous sea and inland lochs. Harris tweed is produced on the island and exported around the world.
North Uist is a small flat island with an interior of peat bogs and low hills, there are also many small lochs or lochans as they are known locally. The main town is called Lochmaddy and is a fishing port. Ferries run from the port to UIG on the Isle of Skye. North Uist has some spectacular beaches with white sand and is also known for its nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. The island is connected by causeway to Benbecula to the south, Berneray to the north and Baleshare to the east.
Benbecula lies a few miles to the south of North Uist and is connected by road causeway; it is also connected to South Uist by causeway also. Surprisingly the island has a busy airport, with daily flights to Glasgow, Inverness, Stornoway and Barra.
Places to visit in the Outer Hebrides
Lews Castle - is a 19th century castle which is now a museum - Stornoway
Callanish Stones - a stone circle located at Callanish on the west coast of Lewis
Island Cruising - Kilda Cruises Heather Lea Tarbert Isle of Harris HS3 3BG Tel: 01859 502060
Island Cruising - Island Cruising 1 Erista Uig Isle of Lewis HS2 9JG Tel: 01851 672381
Fishing - both fresh and sea water fishing = ask around for providers.
Map of the Outer Hebrides
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