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Hebrides, the

Hebrides, the (hĕbˈrĭdēz), Western Isles, or Western Islands, group of more than 50 islands, W and NW Scotland. Less than a fifth of the islands are inhabited. The Outer Hebrides (sometimes also referred to as the Long Island) are separated from the mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the straits of Minch and Little Minch and by the Sea of the Hebrides; they extend for 130 mi (209 km) from the Butt of Lewis on Lewis and Harris to Barra Head island. Other islands are North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra, the Flannan Islands (Seven Hunters), and Saint Kilda (or Hirta). The Outer Hebrides comprise the council area of Western Isles. The Inner Hebrides include the islands of Skye, Raasay, Rum, Eigg, Coll, Tiree, Staffa, Iona, Mull, Scarba, Colonsay, Oronsay, Jura, and Islay. They are divided between the Highland and Argyll and Bute council areas. The climate is mild, the scenery is beautiful, and there are prehistoric and ancient historical remains and geological structures. Fishing, crop raising, sheep grazing, manufacturing of tweeds and other woolens, quarrying (slate), and catering to tourists are the chief means of livelihood.

The original Celtic inhabitants, converted to Christianity by St. Columba (6th cent.), were conquered by the Norwegians (starting in the 8th cent.). They held the Southern Islands, as they called them, until 1266. From that time the islands were formally held by the Scottish crown but were in fact ruled by various Scottish chieftains, with the Macdonalds asserting absolute rule after 1346 as lords of the isles. In the mid-18th cent. the Hebrides were incorporated into Scotland. The tales of Sir Walter Scott did much to make the islands famous. Emigration from the overpopulated islands occurred in the 20th cent., especially to Canada.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an archipelago, part of Great Britain, in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Scotland and comprising approximately 500 islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. Total area, 7,500 sq km.

The Outer Hebrides are separated from the Inner Hebrides by the straits of The Minch and the Little Minch and by the Sea of the Hebrides. The Inner Hebrides include the islands of Skye, Mull, Islay, Jura, and Rum. The terrain consists mainly of rugged hilly and low mountain country (200-600 m), typically of Cenozoic effusive rock. On the islands of Skye and Mull individual cone-shaped peaks rise above the volcanic plateaus—for example, in the Cuillin Hills on Skye, which reach 1,009 m. In the Outer Hebrides, which include the islands of Lewis, North Uist, South Uist, and Barra, socle lowlands predominate (100-150 m), consisting primarily of Archaean rock (mostly gneiss). In some places there are small massifs rising to a height of 799 m and often containing Paleozoic intrusions. There are many traces of the Pleistocene glaciation, such as troughs, cirques and boulder belts. The islands have a damp maritime climate with average July temperatures of 12°-14° C and average January temperatures of 4°-6° C; annual precipitation is between 1,000 and 2,000 mm. The meadow soils consist of coarse humic and peaty turf. Steep, bare slopes are the rule, but now and then birch groves and heath may be seen, and peat bogs cover the gentler slopes. The population is engaged mainly in fishing and cattle breeding. Tweed manufacture and the tourist industry are also important.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.