About the Hebrides
The Western Isles are an archipelago of islands lying 55km off the west coast of mainland Scotland sitting at a latitude of 58 00 N and a longitude of 8 00 W in the north Atlantic Ocean. The Western Isles are also known as the ‘Outer Hebrides’. The ‘Inner Hebrides’ being a second collection of islands located between the Outer Hebrides and the Scottish mainland. Unusually, there are no corresponding Eastern Isles.
The largest island in the Western Isles is Lewis and Harris. Although connected by a narrow strip of land, they are often referred to as the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris and to many they are considered as separate as if they were two distinct islands. Moving down the Western Isles (southwards) from Lewis and Harris, the main islands are; Taransay, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Eriskay, Barra, Vatersay, Sandray, Pabbay and Mingulay. There are also scores of even smaller islands scattered in and around these larger ones.
The word Hebrides is thought to have originated from a misprint of the word ‘Hebudes’. This was the name by which ‘the islands west of the coast of Scotland’ were known to Ptolemy, the 2nd century Egyptian astronomer and mathematician. The name ‘Hebudes’ is itself considered to be a corruption of the Norse word ‘Havbredey’, meaning ‘Isles on the edge of the sea’. The name is certainly apt with the most northerly point on the Western Isles, the Butt of Lewis also representing the most northwesterly point in the whole of Europe.