The Outer Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles (Scottish Gaelic: ' (:nə ˈhelanən ˈʃiəɾ)), ''Innse Gall'' ("islands of the strangers") or the Long Island, is an island chain off the west coast of mainland Scotland. The islands are geographically coextensive with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, one of the 32 unitary council areas of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides. Scottish Gaelic is the predominant spoken language, although in a few areas English speakers form a majority.
Most of the islands have a bedrock formed from ancient metamorphic rocks and the climate is mild and oceanic. The 15 inhabited islands have a total population of 27,400〔 and there are more than 50 substantial uninhabited islands. From Barra Head to the Butt of Lewis is roughly .
There are various important prehistoric structures, many of which pre-date the first written references to the islands by Roman and Greek authors. The Western Isles became part of the Norse kingdom of the ''Suðreyjar'', which lasted for over 400 years until sovereignty was transferred to Scotland by the Treaty of Perth in 1266. Control of the islands was then held by clan chiefs, principal of whom were the MacLeods, MacDonalds, Mackenzies and MacNeils. The Highland Clearances of the 19th century had a devastating effect on many communities and it is only in recent years that population levels have ceased to decline. Much of the land is now under local control and commercial activity is based on tourism, crofting, fishing, and weaving.
Sea transport is crucial and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Scotland. Modern navigation systems now minimise the dangers but in the past the stormy seas have claimed many ships. Religion, music and sport are important aspects of local culture, and there are numerous designated conservation areas to protect the natural environment.
== Geography ==
(詳細はLewis and Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra. Lewis and Harris has an area of 〔Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 289〕 and is the largest island in Scotland and the third largest in the British Isles, after Great Britain and Ireland.〔Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 262〕 It incorporates Lewis in the north and Harris in the south, both of which are frequently referred to as individual islands, although they are joined by a land border. The island does not have a common name in either English or Gaelic and is referred to as "Lewis and Harris", "Lewis with Harris", "Harris with Lewis" etc.〔Thompson (1968) p. 13〕
The largest islands are deeply indented by arms of the sea such as Loch Ròg, Loch Seaforth and Loch nam Madadh. There are also more than 7,500 freshwater lochs in the Outer Hebrides, about 24% of the total for the whole of Scotland.〔("Botanical survey of Scottish freshwater lochs" ) SNH Information and Advisory Note Number 4. Retrieved 1 January 2010.〕 North and South Uist and Lewis in particular have landscapes with a high percentage of freshwater and a maze and complexity of loch shapes. Harris has fewer large bodies of water but innumerable small lochans. Loch Langavat on Lewis is long, and has several large islands in its midst, including Eilean Mòr. Although Loch Suaineabhal has only 25% of the Langavat's surface area it has a mean depth of and is the most voluminous on the island.〔Murray and Pullar (1910) ("Lochs of Lewis" ) Page 216, Volume II, Part II. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 21 December 2009.〕 Of Loch Sgadabhagh on North Uist it has been said that "there is probably no other loch in Britain which approaches Loch Scadavay in irregularity and complexity of outline."〔Murray and Pullar (1910) ("Lochs of North Uist" ) Page 188, Volume II, Part II. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 20 December 2009.〕 Loch Bì is South Uist's largest loch and at long it all but cuts the island in two.〔
Much of the western coastline of the islands is machair, a fertile low-lying dune pastureland.〔Murray (1966) pp. 171, 198〕 Lewis is comparatively flat, and largely consists of treeless moors of blanket peat. The highest eminence is Mealisval at in the south west. Most of Harris is mountainous, with large areas of exposed rock and Clisham, the archipelago's only Corbett, reaches in height.〔〔 North and South Uist and Benbecula, (sometimes collectively referred to as The Uists) have sandy beaches and wide cultivated areas of machair to the west and virtually uninhabited mountainous areas to the east. The highest peak here is Beinn Mhòr at .〔Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 236–45〕 The Uists and their immediate outliers have a combined area of . This includes the Uists themselves and the islands that link to them by causeways and bridges.〔Haswell-Smith (2004) p. 206〕 Barra is in extent and has a rugged interior, surrounded by machair and extensive beaches.〔Rotary Club (1995) p. 106〕〔Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 218–22〕
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