The - Western Isles - Outer Hebrides

Western Isles Map

The Western isles are a beautiful set of islands and a haven for wildlife, wildflowers, lovely golden sandy beaches and last but not least - peace and tranquility. Learn more about The Western Isles from facts about population - information about the land and the people and cultures of The Western Isles, also The History of the Western Isles - The Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris

The Western Isles, also known as the ' Outer hebrides' are a chain of islands some 30 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland. 

The Outer Hebrides sit North of the Inner Hebrides, and comprise of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, The Flannan Islands, St Kilda, Eriskay and other small islands.
Western Isles Deer

The Western Isles

The Western Isles, also known as the ' Outer hebrides' are a chain of islands some 30 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland. The main islands are - from north to south - Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. The Outer Hebrides sit North of the Inner Hebrides, and comprise of Lewis, Harris, North Uist, South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, The Flannan Islands, St Kilda, Eriskay and other small islands.

The northern part of the Western Isles - known as Lewis, which is not an isle on its own, but is joined to Harris in the south. Between the two, is a range of mountains. The Isle of Lewis is the larges and most northern island of the Outer Hebrides.

The northern part of the island is largely flat, with much peat land, but has some gorgeous beaches on its coastline edges.

The south part of the island has dramatic scenery, with remote hills around Uig and the Pairc peninsula. The beautiful hills of the Isle of Lewis are rugged and spectacular.

The main town on Lewis, Stornoway is a significant port and about a third of the population - some 9000 people live in and around the town. Lovely beaches, great wildlife, stunning moorland, birds, rocks, crags, lochs, lochans, machair & wild flowers.The islands have an extensive coastline, approximately 2,500km in length, and there are many sea lochs, bays and inlets


The Western Isles have a marine climate dominated by ‘North Atlantic Drift’, with only slight temperature changes throughout the year. Winters are rarely cold and snow is almost non existent.

Climatically the dominant features are wind and rain, December being the wettest month of the year.

In contrast to the winters, when the days are quite short, in the summer the actual daylight hours are extremely long with lots of daylight with barely two hours of darkness midsummer due to the northerly latitude of the Islands.


The Western Isles are accessed from mainland Scotland by ferries and airplanes.

There are ferries from Uig on The Isle of Skye to Tarbert on The Isle of Harris, also from mainland Scotland, Ullapool to Stornoway and from Oban to Barra and Oban to South Uist

There are airports at Stornoway in Lewis, Benbecula and Barra. with flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness on the Scottish mainland and inter island flights to Barra and Benbecula.

The Western Isles has a good bus service. Many of the smaller islands are linked by road causeways and bridges, which have been built over a period of time.

Western Isles Birds

The Western Isles birds are very beautiful - there are birds which can be seen all over Scotland and The UK.

There are birds which breed on The Western Isles and also birds just passing through, which spend particular months of the year here before continuing their passages to other countries.

One of the most beautiful of all the birds, the Golden Eagle, the magnificent bird of prey is often to be seen soaring high in the Western Isles skies.

, as indeed are the white tailed sea eagles which are larger than the golden eagles.

The Outer Hebrides has some fufty odd islands, some are indeed free of predators like for instance brown rats, which makes these islands internationally renowned for the breeding colonies of birds.

There are large colonies of puffins on the famous St Kilda Island and also on the Shiants.


Western Isles - Wildflowers

The flora and wildflowers are just stunning - as is the scenery of the islands. The Hebrides has a great diversity of wild flowers - from the yellow flag irises - to the lovely orchids , some of which are specific to The Western isles.

All the year round The Western Isles is displaying for us splendid flora from groundcover plants - to the white water lilies that are native to the western isles

The beaches are often backed by Machair, a Gaelic word describing a low lying fertile plain, providing one of the rarest habitats in Europe for plants and wildlife. Particular areas of the Western Isles - have their own machair - that is made up of all different

types of flowers - sometimes some of the species being only specific to that particular region.

The patchwork of machair becomes a riot of colour during the summer , when plants like corn marigold, wild pansy, thyme and orchids come into bloom.

Western Isles - Wildlife

The Islands contain some of Europe’s most outstanding wildlife and habitats The craggy cliffs are teeming with breeding sea birds and the shores are home to one of the densest populations of otters in North West Europe who live and hunt in the many of the Lochs.

With a rich and varied marine resource, the Minch is home to the Minke Whale, Bottled Nosed Dolphins, Basking Sharks and many others. There are of course many red deer on The Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris, which have adapted well to the rough peat and moor land.The Hebrides is also a very popular place for anglers who fish for wild salmon. Throughout the islands, the adult salmon return in the summer months. Click Here to see Western Isles Hebridean Wildlife.....
Western Isles - Otters
These beautiful creatures really do look magnificent against the backdrop of the beautiful hebridean scenery. Inquisitive, playful semi aquatic mammals - can be seen playing around the shorelines of The Isle of Harris and The Isle of Lewis - in various places throughout the Western Isles. Otters - Western Isles
Western Isles Seals
The Outer Hebrides is also home to one of the two major Grey Seal concentrations in Scotland - and over 40% of the world population.

There are also Common deals ( in fact 10% of the European population) to be seen all over the Islands. Watching seals is a great pastime. Western Isles Seals

Western Isles Red Deer
Red deer can be seen on the hills all over the Western Isles especially along the Huisinis Rd - Harris It is said that if there were wolves in Scotland then the number of red deer would be reduced dramatically as they would be a key target. That really would be a shame.Red Deer - Western Isles Wildlife
Western Isles Butterflies
The Hebrides sees a great many pretty butterflies and moths. There are seventeen different butterfly species that have been seen in and around tHe Western Isles, including, Common Blue, The Small Tortioseshell, The Meadow brown, painted lady and others Butterflies of The Hebrides
Western Isles Insects
The Western isles is a great place to watch insects and creepy crawlies. You can get observe the insects behaviour - like this burying beetle which has the curious habit of burying dead birds, mice, shrews, voles by digging the earth away beneath them.
Insects Western Isles
History of the Western Isles
The Western Isles have been inhabited for over 6000 years. The Vikings invaded in the 9th century and today many place names are of Norse origin.

Gaelic and English are both spoken. The Isle of Lewis and The Isle of Harris still retain some of their history and culture going back over 6000 years. The history of the Islands covers quite a bit of hardship over the times, when the islanders have fought with great determination to carve out their future.

Historically Lewis and Harris have gone their separate ways, despite the existence of the common clan surname Macleod. - however today they are more united with the Western isles Council - the Comhairle nan Eilean Star, playing a great role in their present day

Callanish Stones

One of the things that The Western Isles are famous for - is the Callanish Stones - a worthy rival to Stonehenge - in fact these stones are older than Stonehenge.

Calanais comprises a late Neolithic stone ring and associated lines of standing stones.. Callanish has three sets of stone circles all within a few miles of each other - the main being a ring of large stones about 12 metres in diameter encloses a huge monolith at its centre.

Charcoal samples were taken in the 1980's and subjected to radio-carbon dating in America which showed that these stones were erected between 2900 and 2600BC. Up till the 80,s previous estimates of how old they were - were really only educated guesses

The Harris Tweed Industry
The Harris Tweed industry has always played an important role in the islands culture, industry and history. By its legal definition - the cloth must be woven on the islands. For centuries the islanders of Lewis,and Harris have woven the cloth the world knows as Harris Tweed, Clo Mhor
or in Gaelic - 'The big cloth'. The raw material, wool, being produced locally and part of it would have been used in its natural uncoloured state, the rest is dyed. When much of mainland Scotland turned to mechanisation of the cloth" industry -

The Isle of Harris - (and Lewis) retained the traditional methods of creating this luxury cloth.

Today however machine-spinning and vat dyeing have been slowly trying to replace the hand methods. Recently extensive renovation and investment has taken place in the Mill at Shawbost , Lewis and the industry lives on.

The luxurious fabric from the Outer Hebrides has proved popular with leading British fashion designers over the past 20 years, including Vivienne Westwood, and is worn by celebrities such as Madonna and Gywneth Paltrow.
Harris Tweed - MBE for Luskentyre Weaver

A weaver who lives and works at Luskentyre - Donald John MacKay, in 2011 was given the MBE for services to the Harris Tweed Industry. Nike had been looking for a way to update their trainers and after seeing swatches of the Harris Tweed ordered immediately and many of the Islands weavers were put to work, to help meet the demand.

Mr Mackay has been weaving for over forty years. Over the past 21 years, he and his wife Maureen have been independently producing the tweed, trading under the name Luskentyre Harris Tweed.
Herring Girls
The Herring Girls of Stornoway
Part of The Islands history envelopes and centres around the fishing industry which over the years has been of great importance.
The Herring Girls played a major role in the fishing industry. The girls were really "hardy" and have contributed greatly to The Islands history

Western Isles Beaches
There are many long sandy beaches, where the golden sand is mixed with the white of crushed shells.

There are many lovely beaches - which are unspoilt with golden and white silky sand. Some of the most dramatic beaches in the world are in The Hebrides.

Huisinis beach, Luskentyre Beach. Borve, Horgabost, Seilebost, Garry, Traigh Mhor, Bosta, Uig, Reef Beach, Vhaltos, Mangersta many more.
Western Isles Beaches
Bosta Iron Age House
The village first came to light after gales in 1993 exposed it. At Bosta on the northern end of Great Bernera was a network of 9 stone buildings all connected by tunnels. It is the most completely preserved late-Iron Age village ever found in this country.
The University Edinburgh worked for months with the assistance of Historic Scotland to reveal a Norse settlement - which had actually been built over earlier Iron Age houses..
Bosta Iron Age Replica House
Northton Medieval Chapel
Rubh An Teampaill Medieval Chapel at Northton - Isle of Harris - built on the site of an Iron Age Broch.

Also findings point to the fact that this is the only place in the Outer Hebrides known to have been occupied continually since the Mesolthic period, 9000 years ago!

Lovely Isle of Harris walk - three and a half miles of beautiful views, several beaches and also views towards Scarista, One of the best Harris walks
Northton medieval Chapel
The Golden Road
The Golden Road winds and twists through the East Coast of Harris - sometimes called The Bays because of its miniature fjords. The road - a single track road that connects all the tiny hamlets who have either Viking or Gaelic names.

The scenery is spectacular encompassing what is sometimes described as a 'lunar' landscape, with rock that shines in the sun and beautiful lochs and inlets where seals bask
Golden Riad - Isle of Harris
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