The Western Isles, or Na h-Eileanan an Iar in Gaelic – also known as the Outer Hebrides – are a 130-mile-long string of islands lying off the northwest coast of Scotland. There are 119 islands in total, of which the five main inhabited islands are Lewis and Harris (two parts of a single island, although often described as if they are separate islands), North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Barra. The middle three (referred to collectively as ‘Uist’ by locals) are connected by road-bearing causeways.
The ferry crossing from Ullapool or Uig to the Western Isles marks an important cultural divide – more than a third of Scotland’s registered crofts are in the Outer Hebrides, and no less than 60% of the population are Gaelic speakers.
If your time is limited, head straight for the west coast of Lewis with its prehistoric sites, preserved blackhouses and beautiful beaches.