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Lewis and Harris

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lewis and Harris
Gaelic nameLeòdhas is na Hearadh
Norse nameLjóðhús ok Hérað
Meaning of nameOld Norse: "Poet's House" + Hérað = "a type of administrative district"
Satellite photograph of Lewis and Harris

Satellite photograph of Lewis and Harris
Lewis and Harris is located in Outer Hebrides
Lewis and Harris
Lewis and Harris
Lewis and Harris shown within the Outer Hebrides
OS grid referenceNB240256
Coordinates58°15′00″N 6°40′01″W / 58.25°N 6.667°W / 58.25; -6.667
Physical geography
Island groupOuter Hebrides
Area217,898 hectares (841 sq mi)[1]
Area rank1 [2]
Highest elevationClisham 799 metres (2,621 ft)
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Council areaComhairle nan Eilean Siar
Population rank1 [2]
Population density9.65/km2 (25.0/sq mi)[1][3]
Largest settlementStornoway

Lewis and Harris (Scottish Gaelic: Leòdhas agus na Hearadh) is a Scottish island in the Outer Hebrides. It is the largest island in Scotland and the third largest in the British Isles, after Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

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The northern part of the island is called Lewis, the southern is Harris and both are frequently referred to as if they were separate islands. The boundary between Lewis and Harris is where the island narrows between Loch Resort (Reasort, opposite Scarp) on the west and Loch Seaforth (Shìophoirt) on the east[7] (north of the more obvious isthmus at Tarbert).

The island does not have a one-word name in either English or Scottish Gaelic, and is referred to as 'Lewis and Harris', 'Lewis with Harris', 'Harris with Lewis' etc.[8] Rarely used is the collective name of "the Long Island" (Scottish Gaelic: an t-Eilean Fada),[7] although that epithet is sometimes applied to the entire Outer Hebrides, including the Uists and Barra.[9]

Most of Harris is very hilly, with more than thirty peaks above 1,000 ft (300 m);[7] the highest peak, Clisham, is a Corbett.[10] Harris has an area of 841 square miles (2,178 km2) – slightly under 1% of the area of Great Britain. It is 24 miles (39 km) from the nearest point of the mainland, from which it is separated by the Minch.

Lewis is comparatively flat, save in the south-east, where Ben More reaches 1,874 ft (571 m), and in the south-west, where Mealasbhal 1,885 ft (575 m) is the highest point.[7] Lewis contains the deepest lake on any offshore island in the British Isles, Loch Suaineabhal, which has a maximum depth of 66.7m (226 feet) and an overall mean depth of 32m (108 feet).

Until 1975, Lewis belonged to the county of Ross and Cromarty and Harris to Inverness-shire.[7] The entire island group is now administered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Western Isles Council.

Nearby smaller islands

Other nearby inhabited islands in the Lewis and Harris group are Beàrnaraigh (Great Bernera) and Sgalpaigh (Scalpay). Tarasaigh (Taransay) and An Sgarp (Scarp), now uninhabited, are islands close to the shore of Harris. On the map to the right of this page, the islands of North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist are coloured red (the thinner red strip to the south) as if they were part of Lewis/Harris - the red strip shows the entire Western Isles, or Outer Hebrides. Lewis/Harris are actually one island, which causes confusion for many at first acquaintance, Harris being the portion of land just south of Tarbert where the sea comes in somewhat, but there is still a continuous land joint between Lewis (to the North) and Harris (to the South) there. North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist are three distinct islands but connected by a road in the sea (causeway). Barra is another island just to the south of South Uist. The islands on the archipelago together - Lewis/Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra - are known both as the Outer Hebrides, but also (especially to locals, and in political circles) as the Western Isles.


Lewis/Harris is the most populous of the Scottish islands, and had just over 20,500 residents in 2011,[3] a rise of 5.6% from the 2001 census total of 19,918.[11] Stornoway is the main town of the island, and the civil parish of Stornoway, including the town and various nearby villages, has a population of about 12,000.[12]

Transport links

Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh) has ferry links to Ullapool and air services to Benbecula, Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh. An Tairbeart (Tarbert) is the ferry terminal in Harris with connections to Skye and North Uist. However the main ferry to North Uist uses the terminal at Leverburgh (An t-Òb).


The island is the ancestral homeland of the Highland Clan MacLeod, with those individuals on Harris being referred to as from the clan MacLeod of Harris or MacLeod of MacLeod, and those on Lewis being referred to as from the clan MacLeod of Lewis.[citation needed]

Lewis is also the ancestral home of Clan Morrison.

The Lewis chessmen is a famous collection of 12th-century chess pieces, carved from walrus ivory and mostly in the form of human figures, which were discovered in Uig in 1831.


A major industry on the island is the production of Harris tweed fabric, which is handmade on the island; by law only fabric produced in the Outer Hebrides can be called Harris tweed.[13]

In literature

The Lewis Trilogy of novels (The Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chessmen) by Peter May, is set on Lewis and Harris.

See also


  1. ^ a b Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 262
  2. ^ a b Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands over 20 ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
  3. ^ a b c National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  4. ^ Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
  5. ^ Ordnance Survey
  6. ^ Jón A. Hjaltalín; Goudie, G.; Anderson, J. (Ed.) (1893). The Orkneyinga saga (1981 ed.). Edinburgh: Mercat Press. ISBN 978-0-901824-25-7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ a b c d e Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lewis-with-Harris" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 525–526.
  8. ^ Thompson, Francis (1968). Harris and Lewis, Outer Hebrides. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-4260-2.
  9. ^ Murray, W.H. (1966). The Hebrides. London: Heinemann. p. 2. OCLC 4998389.
  10. ^ Johnstone et al (1990) pp. 240–43
  11. ^ General Register Office for Scotland (28 November 2003) Scotland's Census 2001 – Occasional Paper No 10: Statistics for Inhabited Islands. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  12. ^ "Scrol". Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-08-17.
  13. ^ "Harris Tweed". Archived from the original on 2013-03-08.


  • Johnstone, Scott; Brown, Hamish; and Bennet, Donald (1990) The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills. Edinburgh. Scottish Mountaineering Trust.

ISBN 0-907521-29-0

External links

This page was last edited on 19 October 2019, at 17:00
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