The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Siar), also traditionally known as the Outer Isles, comprise an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the stormy stretch of water known as the Minch and the Little Minch. Most communities in the Outer Hebrides use the Scottish Gaelic language.
The islands form one of 32 unitary council regions in Scotland, originally called Western Isles, although Na h-Eileanan Siar has now gained acceptance as the official name. The council has its base in Stornoway on Lewis. Before 1975, some of the islands formed part of Inverness-shire and some part of Ross and Cromarty. Western Isles constitutes a Lieutenancy Area.
Main island group
The main islands form an archipelago, which with their smaller surrounding islands are sometimes known poetically as the Long Isle. The major islands include:Lewis and Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. South of Barra lie the Barra Isles, including Mingulay and Vatersay.
A large number of small islands surround the main islands. They include:
Small islands and island groups pepper the North Atlantic surrounding the main island group:
To the east lie the Shiant Islands, located in the Minch.
To the north lie North Rona and Sula Sgeir, two small and remote islands. Not often included as part of the Outer Hebrides, they nevertheless come under the administration of the Western Isles district.
Ferry services operate on the following routes:
Other ferries operate between some of the islands.