The Outer Hebrides is also known as the Western Isles and is located off the North West coast of Scotland, United Kingdom. The Outer Hebrides consists of a chain of approximately 119 islands with 14 of these being inhabited. The main islands are Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, and Barra and Vatersay. In total the Outer Hebrides measures approximately 130 miles from the Butt of Lewis in the north, to the south of Barra and Vatersay.
The Outer Hebrides is one of the most sparsely populated areas in Scotland, with nine people per square kilometre compared with the Scottish average of 68. At the last census in 2011 the population of the Outer Hebrides stood at 27,684. Lewis is the largest island where over 70% of the population are located. Stornoway, on Lewis, is the main town in the chain with it being the most populous settlement though there are no ‘urban’ areas within the Outer Hebrides with a population of over 10,000. Other key towns include Tarbert in Harris, Lochmaddy in North Uist, Balivanich in Benbecula, Lochboisdale in South Uist and Castlebay in Barra.
White and golden sandy beaches against turquoise seas can be found on the islands coasts and attract many to marvel in the outstanding and blissful scenery. Gaelic is spoken as a second language in many parts of the islands and the connections to natural, cultural, creative and archaeological heritage can be seen throughout the chain. The crofting (which is a smaller operation than farming) and fishing industries play a part in the locals heritage with many continuing to pursue careers in the industries though many other small creative and innovative businesses do exist in the fragile environment and economy.
The islands can be accessed by air and sea from mainland Scotland. Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) provide ferry sailings to four of the islands sea ports from Ullapool, Isle of Skye and Oban and both Loganair and Flybe provide air services to three different airports throughout the islands from Glasgow, Inverness and Edinburgh. Eastern Airways also provide flights between Stornoway from Aberdeen.
Whilst there are 7 main islands both Lewis and Harris are connected by land, as are North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay, and also Barra and Vatersay. Air (flybe) and ferry (Calmac) inter-island connections allow travel between each island group.
For further information on the Outer Hebrides please visit the local visitor information services at www.visitscotland.com/destinations-maps/outer-hebrides/ and www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk