Earth : Europe : Britain and Ireland : United Kingdom : Scotland : Hebrides : Outer Hebrides
Towns and villages
The Outer Hebrides (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Siar) are a fascinating destination. The scenery is beautiful. The landscape is rocky and mountainous, but also lush and verdant - due in no small part to the large amounts of rain which tend to fall. It is easy to find a quiet peaceful spot.
Religion still plays an important part in many people’s lives. On the islands north of Benbecula, this is often in the form of Protestant Free Presbyterian Churches. As a result, the Sabbath (Sunday) is respected, so you are unlikely to find shops etc open on a Sunday. Activities happening on a Sunday are often opposed locally. In contrast, the islands south of Benbecula are mainly Catholic, and many businesses typically open after midday on a Sunday. Benbecula is half-Protestant and half-Catholic, and one can still find businesses open on a Sunday here.
The main languages are Gaelic (Gàidhlig) and English, with Gaelic being the dominant native language outside Stornoway. However, outside the home Gaelic is mainly used as a social and cultural language. Virtually all Gaelic speakers over the age of 5 speak English to a near-native fluency.
Most modern maps and road signs show the local place names in Gaelic with the English name shown below, usually in a smaller and often illegible font. However, the bus timetables will exclusively use the English names. Locals will use the English names when speaking English.
Caledonian MacBrayne  is the national ferry service. Citylink coaches generally connect with the ferries on the mainland.
All of the above ferry services are irregular, often operating once per day or less. Check the timetables carefully before departing.
In the Outer Hebrides, there are airports in Stornoway (Lewis), Benbecula and Barra. These airports provide direct flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. The airport in Barra is one of the most spectacular in the world, with planes landing on a three-mile beach at low tide, but this does mean that the flight times vary with the tide.
There are good bus services during the day Mon - Sat, but little in the evening and no buses on a Sunday.
Many of the islands are linked by road causeways and bridges, which have progressively been built over the last 50 years or so. Most recently, causeways have been built to Eriskay from South Uist, and to Berneray from North Uist.
The Outer Hebrides are popular for cycle tourists, generally taking around a week to cycle from Barra to Stornoway.
There are many fine sandy beaches, mainly on the Western shores of the islands.
Historic Scotland Properties: