The British Isles is a group of islands off the northwest coast of Europe, consisting
of Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland), Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Orkney
and Shetland islands, the Isle of Man, and many other islands that are included in various
counties, such as the Isle of Wight, Scilly Isles, Lundy Island, and the Inner and Outer
Hebrides. The islands are divided from Europe by the North Sea, Strait of Dover, and the
English Channel, and face the Atlantic to the west.
Welsh Ynys Môn - island; Sir Ynys M ôn - authority
Island and unitary authority off the northwest coast of Wales.
Area 720 sq. km / 278 sq. miles;. It is separated from the mainland by the Menai Strait,
which is crossed by the Britannia tubular railway bridge and Telford's suspension bridge,
originally built between 1819 and 1826 but rebuilt since. The administrative centre is
Llangefni; the largest town is Holyhead.
It is a
holiday resort with rich fauna, notably bird life, and flora, many buildings and relics of
historic interest, and a beautiful coastline. Sheep farming and agriculture are the main
occupations, and Anglesey was the ancient granary of Wales. It now also has industries
such as the manufacture of toys and electrical goods, and bromine extraction from the sea.
The port of Holyhead, on the adjoining Holy Island, has an aluminium smelting plant and a
ferry service to Ireland. Other towns are Beaumaris and Amlwch, 10 km / 6 miles west of
which is Wylfa nuclear power station. The island is 34 km / 21 miles long by 31 km / 19
miles broad. Lead, copper, and zinc were once mined here.
Anglesey is home to the longest place name in the UK.
(St Mary's church in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool of St
Tysillio's church, by the red cave),
Large island in the Firth of Clyde, lying between the Kintyre peninsula and the
mainland of North Ayrshire, Scotland, area 427 sq. km / 165 sq. miles; population (1991)
4,474. The economy is largely service based, with tourism and craft industries, such as
knitwear. Other industries include whisky distilling and food processing. The island,
which is mountainous to the north and undulating to the south, is a popular holiday
resort. The chief town is Brodick.
Arran is the largest island in the Firth of Clyde, and is 32.5 km / 20 miles long and 17
km / 11 miles broad at its widest part. The highest point is Goat Fell
(874 m / 2,868 ft). Machrie Moor dates from the Bronze Age (3000- 4000 years ago) and has
stone circles, single stones, hut circles, and burial cists. Drumadoon Point is the site
of an Iron Age fort.
The shoreline that encircles the coast of Arran forms a low platform, which rises abruptly
to the high peaks in the north and northeast. Much of the
southern half of the island is forested. There are red deer in the wilder hilly district,
and grouse, wild geese, and duck. The geology of Arran is of
particular interest, as within its comparatively confined limits the distinct sections of
several geological formations can be observed. The oldest part of Brodick Castle dates
from the 13th century. Other Arran villages include Lamlash, which possesses a fine
natural harbour, and Whiting Bay. Car ferries link Brodick and Ardrossan on the mainland
and Lochranza and Claonaig (Kintyre); in summer there is also a ferry link between Brodick
and Rothesay (Bute).
Welsh Ynys Enlli
Welsh `island of the currents´
Island in Gwynedd, off the coast of northwest Wales. It is a former pilgrimage centre, and
has a 6th-century ruined abbey. It is sometimes called the island of 20,000 graves, as
that number of saints are reputed to be buried here.
About 3 km / 1.9 miles long and 1.6 km / 1 miles wide, it is only accessible on the
southeast side where there is a small, well-sheltered harbour. According to legend,
Bardsey (or Bards' Ey, the Isle of Bards) was the last retreat of Welsh bards. The abbey
was suppressed by Henry VIII.
Numerous graves lined with stone, a large building said to have been the abbot's lodge,
and a ruined chapel or oratory are the only remains. It is a Site of Special Scientific
Interest and has a bird and field observatory.
Southern island of the larger Outer Hebrides, Scotland, part of the Western Isles
unitary council area; area 90 sq. km / 35 sq. miles. It is separated from South Uist by
the Sound of Barra. The main town is Castlebay. The main economies are fishing and
Scheduled air services land at low tide on the beach at Traigh Mhor in the north. Car
ferries sail from Castlebay to and from Oban, Lochboisdale on South Uist, and Mallaig on
the mainland. The medieval Kisimul Castle, once home of the piratical clan McNeil, is
situated on a rock off Castlebay. The novelist Compton Mackenzie is buried at St Barr's
or Beinn na Faoghla
Island of the Outer Hebrides in Western Isles unitary authority, Scotland, about 25 km /
16 miles west of Skye. It lies between North and South Uist, with causeway links, and
covers an area of about 9,200 sq. km / 3,552 sq. miles. An airport is located at
Balivanich (or Baile a Mhanaich).
The highest point is Rueval, barely 124 m / 406 ft above sea level. Numerous lochan
(inland waters) provide freshwater fishing. Crofting (a form of subsistence farming) is
the main occupation of the islanders, and a large military base administers a rocket range
on South Uist.
Group of islands in the English Channel, off the northwest coast of France; they are a
possession of the British crown. They comprise the islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney,
Great and Little Sark, with the lesser Herm, Brechou, Jethou, and Lihou.
Area: 194 sq. km / 75 sq. miles
Features: very mild climate, productive soil; financially the islands are a tax haven
Industries: farming, fishing, and tourism; flowers, early potatoes, tomatoes, butterflies,
and dairy cattle are exported
Famous people: Lillie Langtry
Government: the main islands have their own parliaments and laws. Unless specially
signified, the Channel Islands are not bound by British acts of Parliament, though the
British government is responsible for defence and external relations
Originally under the duchy of Normandy, they are the only part still held by Britain. The
islands came under the same rule as England 1066, and are dependent territories of the
British crown. Germany occupied the islands June 1940-May 1945, the only British soil to
be occupied by the
Germans during World War II.
Largest of the Channel Islands; capital St Helier; area 117 sq. km / 45 sq. miles;
population (1991) 58,900. It is governed by a lieutenant governor
representing the English crown and an assembly. Jersey cattle were originally bred here.
Jersey gave its name to a woollen garment
The island was occupied 1940-45 by German forces. Jersey zoo (founded 1959 by Gerald
Durrell) is engaged in breeding some of the world's
Second largest of the Channel Islands ; area 63 sq. km / 24.3 sq. miles; population (1991)
58,900. The capital is St Peter Port. Products include electronics, tomatoes, flowers, and
butterflies; from 1975 it has been a major financial centre. Guernsey cattle, which are a
distinctive pale fawn colour and give rich, creamy milk, originated here.
The island has no jury system; instead, it has a Royal Court with 12 jurats (full-time
unpaid jurors appointed by an electoral college) with no legal training. This system dates
from Norman times. Jurats cannot be challenged or replaced.
Third largest of the Channel Islands, with its capital at St Anne's; area 8 sq. km / 3 sq.
miles; population (1991) 2,300. It gives its name to a breed of cattle, better known as
the Guernsey. It exports early potatoes.
One of the Channel Islands, 10 km / 6 miles E of Guernsey; area 5 sq. km / 2 sq. miles;
population (1991) 575.
There is no town or village. It is divided into Great and Little Sark, linked by an
isthmus, and is of great natural beauty. The Seigneurie of Sark was established by
Elizabeth I, the ruler being known as Seigneur / Dame, and has its own parliament, the
There is no income tax, divorce and cars are forbidden, and immigration is controlled.
One of the smallest of the Channel Islands; area 1.3 sq. km / 0.5 sq. miles. It is a
holiday resort, separated from Guernsey, some 6 km / 4 miles distant, by the Little Russel
Passage. Herm is administratively part of Guernsey. Tourism and dairy farming are the
island's main industries.
The island has prehistoric remains, and a beach where a great diversity of shells can be
One of the smallest of the Channel Islands, within the bailiwick of Guernsey; area 0.18
sq. km / .069 sq. miles. An almost circular hump-shaped mass of granite, it lies 6 km / 4
miles west of St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey, and is separated from the island of
Herm to its northwest by a narrow passage.
Small island of the Inner Hebrides, in Argyll and Bute unitary authority, Scotland,
extending 19 km / 12 miles in length, 16 km / 10 miles west of mainland Ardnamurchan Point
and 2 km / 1 miles north of Tiree. Its terrain is low and rocky, with small bays and sandy
machair (grassy coastal plains) on the western shores. The island was once renowned for
its cattle and cheese, but production has fallen as crofting (a form of subsistence
farming) has declined. Arinagour, on the east coast, is the principal village and harbour.
Small island of the Inner Hebrides, in Argyll and Bute unitary authority, Scotland, 13
km / 8 miles in length, situated 16 km / 10 miles west of Jura. Oronsay, its companion
island to the south, is separated only at high tide. The landscape is mainly rocky with
some areas of natural woodland, and several sandy bays. Sheep and cattle farming remain
the principal occupation. Tourism is limited, with only one hotel on the island and no
camping or caravan facilities; the wide variety of bird-life, however, continues to
attract a limited number of enthusiasts. Scalasaig, on the east coast, is the main harbour
Island of the Inner Hebrides, in Highland unitary authority, Scotland; 20 km / 12 miles
southwest of Mallaig on the mainland. Extending over an area of 40 sq. km / 15 sq. miles,
it is one of a group collectively known as the Small Isles. Crofting (a form of
subsistence farming) is the main occupation. The residents of Eigg bought their island in
April 1997 after an eight-month ownership battle.
The islanders' victory marked the end of private ownership which had dominated the island
since 1308. In December 1996, an initial bid by the islanders of £1.2 million had been
rejected by the then owner, a German artist, and a month later the trustees of the
Heritage Lottery Fund turned down their appeal for financial help. Finally, an English
millionairess, who has remained anonymous, was believed to have given them around£
900,000 - the bulk of the £1.5 million purchase price.
Island of the Outer Hebrides, in Western Isles unitary authority, Scotland, between South
Uist and Barra. The main occupations are fishing and crofting (a form of subsistence
farming). Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender, reached Eriskay in 1745,
making his first landing on Scottish soil.
In 1941 the SS Politician was shipwrecked on the island, with a cargo of 20,000 cases of
whisky. This event inspired Compton Mackenzie's comic novel Whisky Galore (1947) and
Alexander Mackendrick's film (1949) of the same title.
Part of the Outer Hebrides, area 500 sq. km / 193 sq. miles. It is joined to Lewis by a
narrow isthmus. Harris tweed cloths are produced here.
Harris is mountainous in the north. The east coast of Harris is rocky, unlike the western
coast with its fine shell sand beaches. Tarbert is the main settlement and terminal for
car ferries from Skye and North Uist.
An t'Ob on the south coast was renamed Leverburgh on the death of Lord Leverhulme in 1925.
He had a grand economic plan to develop the town into a major fishing port. On his death,
the scheme foundered.
The Island of Taransay, just off the west coast of
South Harris was the location of a BBC television programme in which a group of volunteers
from the general public were castaway on the uninhabited island for a year.
Group of more than 500 islands (fewer than 100 inhabited) off the west coast of
mainland Scotland; total area 2,900 sq. km / 1,120 sq. miles. The Hebrides were settled by
Scandinavians during the 6th-9th centuries and passed under Norwegian rule from about 890
The Inner Hebrides are divided between Highland and Argyll and Bute
authorities, and include Raasay, Rum, Muck, Eigg, Scalpay, Skye (Highland) and Mull, Jura, Islay, Iona, Coll, Tiree, Colonsay, and
uninhabited Staffa (Argyll and Bute).
The Outer Hebrides form the islands area of the Western Isles
authority, separated from the Inner Hebrides by the Little Minch. They include Harris / Lewis, North Uist, South Uist,
Benbecula, Barra, Eriskay and St Kilda.
or Holyhead Island, Welsh Ynys Gybi
Rocky and barren island west of the Isle of Anglesey, northwest Wales; length 13 km / 8
miles, width 6 km / 4 miles. It is connected to Anglesey by a sandy causeway. The island
is a centre for surfing and sea angling, and Trearddur on Penrhos Bay is a seaside resort.
Holy Island is designated as an Environmentally Sensitive Area with some Areas of
Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The island is one of the oldest sites of human settlement in Wales, and has numerous
prehistoric and Roman remains.Ancient remains on the island include an Iron-Age hillfort
and a Roman watchtower on Holyhead mountain (Welsh Mynydd Twr, 200 m / 656 ft).
Island in the Inner Hebrides; area 850 hectares / 2,100 acres. A centre of early
Christianity, it is the site of a monastery founded 563 by St Columba. It later became a
burial ground for Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian kings. It has a 13th-century abbey.
Southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, on the west coast of Scotland, in Argyll and
Bute, separated from Jura by the Sound of Islay; area 610 sq. km / 235 sq. miles. The
principal towns are Bowmore, Port Charlotte, and Port Ellen. It is renowned for its malt
whisky and its wildlife, which includes eagles and rare wintering geese.
The highest summit is Beinn Bheigeir (491 m / 1,611 ft). Loch Finlaggan, near Port Askaig
in the north, was once the site of the principal seat of the `Lord of the Isles´ during
the 14th and 15th centuries. The Kidalton Cross, 11 km / 7 miles northeast of Port Ellen,
is one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in Scotland. There are seven whisky
distilleries on the island.
Car ferry services connect Islay (Port Askaig) to Oban on the mainland via Scalascaig
(Colonsay), and Port Askaig and Port Ellen to Kennacraig
on the mainland.
Island of the Inner Hebrides, Argyll and Bute; area 380 sq. km / 147 sq. miles;
population (1991) 196. It is separated from the Scottish mainland by the Sound of Jura.
The whirlpool Corryvreckan (Gaelic `Brecan's cauldron´) is off the north coast. It has a
range of mountains known as the `Paps of Jura´, the highest of which is Beinn an Oir at
784 m / 2,572 ft.
Jura is the only major Scottish island without a direct link to the mainland.
Largest and most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides, Western Isles; area 2,220 sq. km
/ 857 sq. miles. Its main town is Stornoway. It is separated from northwest Scotland by
the Minch. The island is 80 km / 50 miles long from north to south, and its greatest
breadth is 45 km / 28 miles. There are many lochs and peat moors. The Callanish standing
stones on the west coast are thought to be up to 5,000 years old, second only to
Stonehenge in archaeological significance in the UK.
Harris and Lewis are often assumed to be two separate islands, but they are linked by a
narrow neck of land.
The coast is indented on the east and west coasts. The most northerly point is the Butt of
Lewis. Much of the south and southwest of the island is rugged and mountainous, while
northern and central Lewis is dominated by an undulating peat bog.
The chief occupations are crofting and fishing. Oats and potatoes are grown, and sheep and
cattle are raised. There are many archaeological remains; the standing stones at
Callanish, a circle of 47 stones 24 km / 15 miles west of Stornaway, are thought to date
from between 3,000 and 1,500 BC. Lews Castle (1856-63) was presented to the town by Lord
Leverhulme, and now houses a technical college.
Daily flights link the island with Inverness and Glasgow. A car ferry service connects
Stornaway to Ullapool on the mainland.
Rocky, granite island
at the entrance to the Bristol Channel; 19 km / 12 miles northwest of Hartland Point,
Devon, southwest England; area 9.6 sq. km / 3.7 sq. miles;
Formerly used by pirates and privateers as a lair, it is now the site of a bird sanctuary
and the first British Marine Nature Reserve (1986). It has Bronze and Iron Age field
systems, which can be traced by their boundaries which stand up above the surface.
The land is used mainly as pasture for sheep and goats, and the island has large breeding
colonies of sea birds, including puffins and peregrines, and a thriving population of grey
seals. At the northern and southern extremities are lighthouses, and there are the remains
of the 13th-century Marisco Castle. The island was bought by the Landmark Trust in 1969.
The population increases significantly during the summer tourist season. Visitors are
mostly based in local, restored buildings, including the old lighthouse. Contact with the
Devon mainland is mainly by ferry to Bideford or Ilfracombe.
Island in the Irish Sea, a dependency of the British crown, but not part of the UK
Area: 570 sq. km / 220 sq. miles
Towns and cities: Ramsey, Peel, Castletown
Features: Snaefell 620 m / 2,035 ft; annual TT (Tourist Trophy) motorcycle races, gambling
casinos, Britain's first free port, tax haven; tailless Manx cat
Industries: light engineering products; agriculture, fishing, tourism, banking, and
insurance are important
Currency: the island produces its own coins and notes in UK currency denominations
Government: crown-appointed lieutenant-governor, a legislative council, and the
representative House of Keys, which together make up the Court of Tynwald, passing laws
subject to the royal assent. Laws passed at Westminster only affect the island if
specifically so provided
History: Norwegian until 1266, when the island was ceded to Scotland; it came under UK
Second largest island of
the Inner Hebrides, Argyll and Bute, Scotland; area 950 sq. km / 367 sq. miles; It is
mountainous, and is separated from the mainland by the Sound of Mull and the Firth of
Lorne; it lies 11 km / 7 miles west of Oban. The main town is Tobermory,
from which there are ferry connections to Oban; Craignure is also connected by ferry to
Oban. The economy is based on fishing, forestry, tourism, and stock rearing.
The west coast of Mull is indented with sea lochs, of which the main ones are Loch-na-Keal
and Loch Scridain. The highest peak is Ben More (966 m / 3,171 ft). On the south coast of
the island, the Carsaig Arches are a series of columnar black basalt caves and arches,
said to have been used as a hiding-place by nuns during the Reformation. The island of
Mull has the most extensive set of ferry connections among the Scottish islands.
Island group and unitary authority off the northeast coast of Scotland
Area: 1,014 sq. km / 391 sq. miles
Towns: Kirkwall (administrative headquarters), Stromness, both on Mainland (Pomona)
Physical: group of 90 islands and inlets. The surface of the islands is irregular and
indented by many arms of the sea. Next to Mainland, the most important of the islands are
North and South Ronaldsay, Hoy, Rousay, Stronsay, Flotta, Shapinsay, Eday, Sanday, and
Westray. The highest peak is Ward Hill in Hoy, which has an elevation of 479 m / 1,572 ft.
The Old Man of Hoy is an isolated stack of red sandstone 137 m / 450 ft high, off Hoy's
northwest coast Features: Skara Brae Neolithic village, and Maes Howe burial chamber;
Scapa Flow; oil terminal on Flotta
Industries: offshore oil, woollen weaving, wind-powered electricity generation,
distilling, boat-building, fish curing Agriculture: fishing, beef cattle, dairy products
Famous people: Edwin Muir, John Rae
Population of Scandinavian descent; Harald I (Fairhair) of Norway conquered the islands in
876; pledged to James III of Scotland in 1468 for the dowry of Margaret of Denmark; Scapa
Flow, between Mainland and Hoy, was a naval base in both world wars, the German fleet
scuttled itself here on 21 June 1919.
Burgar Hill has the world's most productive wind-powered generator; a 300 kW wind turbine
with blades 60 m / 197 ft in diameter, capable of producing 20% of the islands' energy
Many brochs, chambered cairns, and burial mounds remain as evidence of prehistoric and
Norse settlements. The Neolithic dwellings of Skara Brae are important examples.
The Orkneys, under the name `Orcades´, are mentioned by ancient geographical writers,
including Pliny and Ptolemy. In 876 Harold I (Harald Haarfager) conquered the Orkneys and
the Hebrides. During most of the 10th century the Orkney Islands were ruled by independent
Scandinavian jarls (earls), but in 1098 became subject to the Norwegian crown and remained
Scandinavian until 1468, when they were given to James III as security for his wife's
dowry. In 1590, on the marriage of James VI with the Danish Princess Anne, Denmark
formally resigned all pretensions to the sovereignty of the Orkneys.
However, during their long connection with Norway and Denmark, all traces of the primitive
Celtic population disappeared, and the present inhabitants are of Scandinavian stock.
In the mid-19th century there was a big influx of farmers from Aberdeenshire and other
parts of northeast Scotland, and two world wars also brought many others to reside
permanently in Orkney. Scapa Flow, between Mainland and Hoy, was a naval base in both
world wars, and the German fleet scuttled itself here on 21 June 1919.
The climate of the Orkney Islands is mild, owing to the Gulf Stream. At the season of the
longest day, there is almost no darkness for about six
weeks, and during the summer solstice photographs can be taken at midnight.
The area has a buoyant mixed economy. While the predominant industry is agriculture and
other `community´ industries, such as fishing, crafts, and knitwear, are important, the
economic vitality of the islands is largely attributable to the development of the oil
industry in the 1980s.
There are 34 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, five Special Protection Areas, and one
National Scenic Area.
Group of 140 islands and islets lying 40 km / 25 miles southwest of Land's End,
England; administered by the Duchy of Cornwall; area 16 sq. km / 6.3 sq. miles; population
(1991) 2,050. The five inhabited islands are St Mary's, the largest, on which is Hugh
Town, capital of the Scillies; Tresco, the second largest, with subtropical gardens; St
Martin's, noted for its beautiful shells; St Agnes; and Bryher.
Products include vegetables and early spring flowers, and tourism is important. The
islands have remains of Bronze Age settlements. The numerous wreck sites off the islands
include many of Sir Cloudesley Shovell's fleet (1707). The islands are an important
birdwatching centre with breeding sea birds in the summer and rare migrants in the spring
The islands are the property of the Crown (with the exception of Hugh Town, St Mary's, the
property in which was sold freehold to the occupiers in 1949) and are administered by the
Duchy of Cornwall. However, the island of Tresco, the most beautiful, is leased to R A
Dorrien-Smith, together with the uninhabited islands of the group. Farms are small, but
well equipped. The average holding is approximately 8 ha / 20 acres, with the land divided
into small squares surrounded by tall hedges of Pittosporum, a New Zealand plant with a
thick evergreen foliage. These hedges protect the crops from the Atlantic gales. Much land
has been drowned by the encroaching sea and by slow subsidence.
Frost and snow are a rare occurrence. The climate is a great factor in the islands' main
industry, the growing of spring flowers for market.
There is an air service between Penzance airport on the mainland and St Mary's, and a boat
service between St Mary's and Penzance.
The islands are crowded with prehistoric burial chambers, menhirs (upright stone
monuments), middens, and hut villages. The stone-chambered barrows evidently represent a
provincial extension of the great megalithic culture of Brittany, as might be inferred
from the geographical setting of the islands. It is thought possible that they may have
been the special home of the dead, known in Celtic mythology.
The English antiquary William Camden (1551-1623) identified the Scilly Isles with the
fabled islands called the Cassiterides, to which came the Phoenician traders, but there is
no proof. Tin was worked in Cornwall in the early Iron Age and in Roman times, but there
is no trace of tin workings in the Scilly Isles. Some, at least, of the villages belong to
the Bronze Age, and to this time also may be attributed the ancient walls of an early
field system, examples of which are occasionally to be seen below present sea level.
Island of the Inner Hebrides group, in west Highland unitary authority, Scotland, about
2 km / 1 miles east of Skye. It extends over an area 20 km / 12 miles long and 3 km / 2
miles wide. Agricultural activities such as farming, crofting (a form of subsistence
farming), and forestry are the principal occupations. The sea around Raasay is the Deepest Water in Britain.
British islet in the Atlantic, 24 m / 80 ft across and 22 m / 65 ft high, part of the
Hatton-Rockall bank, and 370 km / 230 miles W of North Uist in the Hebrides. The bank is
part of a fragment of Greenland that broke away 60 million years ago. It is in a
potentially rich oil / gas area. A party of British marines landed 1955 formally to annex
Rockall, but Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland challenge Britain's claims for mineral, oil,
and fishing rights. The Rockall Trough between Rockall and Ireland, 250 km / 155 miles
wide and up to 3,000 m / 10,000 ft deep, forms an ideal marine laboratory.
A 1995 study by the Natural History Museum of 17 seabed sites (including the Great Barrier
Reef and the San Diego Trough) revealed that the Rockall Trough had more species than any
other site, and greater biodiversity than a coral reef. In 4 cubic metres / 5 cubic yards
of sediment there were 325 species of worm.
Island of the Inner Hebrides, Highland unitary authority, Scotland, area 110 sq. km / 42
sq. miles, a nature reserve since 1957. Askival is 810 m / 2,658 ft high.
The island is owned by Scottish National Heritage, known as the Nature Conservatory
Council when the island was purchased in 1957.
The island is served by passenger ferries from the port of Kinloch to Muck, Canna, Eigg,
and Mallaig on the mainland.
Island off the north coast of Kent, southeast England; area 80 sq. km / 31 sq. miles;
Situated at the mouth of the River Medway, it is linked with the mainland by Kingsferry
Bridge (road and rail, completed in 1960) over the River Swale. The resort and port of
Sheerness is here. There is a nature reserve in the southern part of the island.
Arable farming is important in the north of the island; in the south of the island the
reclaimed marshes are used for grassland farming, particularly
sheep grazing. Agricultural produce includes cereals and vegetables. Other industries
include tourism, and - in west Sheppey - ceramics, pharmaceuticals, and steelmaking.
Old Norse Hjaltland `high land´ or ` Hjalte's land´
Islands and unitary authority off the north coast of Scotland, 80 km / 50 miles northeast
of the Orkney Islands, an important centre of the North Sea oil industry, and the most
northerly part of the UK
Area: 1,452 sq. km / 560 sq. miles
Towns: Lerwick (administrative headquarters), on Mainland, largest of 12 inhabited islands
Physical: the 100 islands are mostly bleak, hilly, and clad in moorland. The climate is
moist, cool, and windy; in summer there is almost perpetual daylight, whilst winter days
are very short. On clear winter nights, the aurora borealis (`northern lights´) can
frequently be seen in the sky
Industries: processed fish, handknits from Fair Isle and Unst, herring fishing, salmon
farming, cattle and sheep farming; large oil and gas fields west of Shetland; Europe's
largest oil port is Sullom Voe, Mainland; production at Foinaven oilfield, the first to be
developed in Atlantic waters; tourism
Dialect derived from Norse, the islands having been a Norse dependency from the 9th
century until 1472 when they were annexed by Scotland.
A buoyant mixed economy which had prospered with the development of the North Sea oil
industry. Traditional sectors still play an important part in the economy.
Shetland is rich in archaeological sites, the best known of which are Jarlshof, Mousa, and
Clickhimin Broch. Clickhimin Broch forms an island at the end of a causeway near Lerwick
and was inhabited from c. 6 BC to AD 5. At Mousa, the Picts successfully sought refuge
from Roman slave hunters. The settlement site at Jarlshof dates from the Bronze Age.
In 1993 the Braer ran aground on Shetland spilling 85,000 tonnes of oil. By February 1994,
50,000 birds, mostly guillemots and other fish-eating species, were washed up around the
Islands. They appeared to have starved to death. There are 78 Sites of Special Scientific
Interest, three National Nature Reserves, nine Special Protection Areas, and one National
Largest island of
the Inner Hebrides, Highland region, off the west coast of Scotland; area 1,740 sq. km /
672 sq. miles; population (1991) 8,900. It is separated from the mainland to the southeast
by the Sound of Sleat and by the islands of Raasay and Scalpay to the northeast. The chief
port and town is Portree. The economy is
based on crofting, craft industries, tourism, and livestock. The Skye Bridge, a privately
financed toll bridge to Kyleakin on the island from the Kyle of Lochalsh, was completed in
Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) took refuge here after the Battle of
Much of the island is underlain by Tertiary volcanic rocks, and the scenery of the central
part is very mountainous, rising to over 1,000 m / 3,280 ft. The coastline is deeply
indented by numerous sea lochs, and most of the settlements are coastal. Large areas of
the northern and central western parts of the island have now been planted as forest. The
island is 75 km / 47 miles long and 25 km / 16 miles wide.
Numerous car ferries serve the island: Armadale is connected to Mallaig on the mainland;
Uig to Tarbert (Harris); Uig to Lochmaddy (North Uist); and Sconser to Raasay.
Uninhabited island in the
Inner Hebrides, W of Mull. It has a rugged coastline and many caves, including Fingal's
Cave. Fingal's Cave is lined with volcanic basalt columns, and is 70 m / 230 ft long and
20 m / 65 ft high. Visited by the German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1829, the
cave was the inspiration of his Hebridean overture, otherwise known as Fingal's Cave.
Islands of the Outer Hebrides, Western Isles, Scotland, 45 miles west of North Uist.
Bleak and windswept, their volcanic rock rises 1,400 ft forming the highest cliffs in
Britain. The islanders were evacuated in 1930 and the island has been uninhabited ever
since except for occasional army and tourist visitors. The islands are home to thousands
of sea birds and Britain's only truly wild sheep, named after the island of Soay. Soays
are small goat like sheep that are thought to date back to 3000 BC.
Island of the Inner Hebrides, in Argyll and Bute unitary authority, Scotland, 21 km /
13 miles west of Mull and 2 km / 1 miles southwest of Coll. An elevated area rises to the
west, but the majority of its terrain is flat and low-lying, three-quarters of Tiree's 77
sq. km / 48 sq. miles being less than 20 m / 66 ft above sea level. The main settlement is
Scarinish on the east coast.
Sand dunes and fertile machair (shoreline grasslands) cover a third of the island, and its
dry, sunny climate encourages the farming of rich fodder
crops and cattle stock, as well as a thriving tourist industry.
Island connections include an air service to Glasgow from Reef airfield, and ferry links
to the islands of Coll, Mull, and mainland Oban.
Island of the Outer Hebrides, Western Isles, Scotland. Lochmaddy is the main port and
town. There is a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve at Balranald.
North Uist is connected to Benbecula to the south by the island of Grimsay and two stone
causeways. The crofting population is found on the north and west coasts. The interior
consists of peat bogs and many lochs. Eaval (347 m / 1,138 ft), on the southeast coast,
rises abruptly from the generally lowland landscape.
There are many important Iron Age sites, especially on the Machair lands of the north and
west coasts. In the southwest, at Carinish, there are the ruins of a 13th-century
monastery and college, Trinity Temple (1203). Balranald is home to the corncrake, one of
Europe's most endangered species.
North Uist is served by car ferries to Berneray (from Otternish), Uig on Skye (from
Lochmaddy), and Leverburgh on Harris.
Second largest island in the Outer Hebrides, Western Isles, Scotland, separated from
North Uist by the island of Benbecula. The main town and port with connections to the
mainland is Lochboisdale.
Most of the population live in crofting townships on the west coast.
There are hundreds of lochs in the central area of the island; the east coast is
mountainous and dissected by sea lochs.
The island is connected by car ferries from Lochboisdale, to Mallaig on the mainland,
Castlebay (Barra), Eriskay, and Oban on the mainland.
Island and unitary authority of southern England - The
Isle of Wight has its own separate entry in the Guide