Hebrides, a group of British islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Scotland. There are more than 500 islands, of which about 100 are inhabited. The total land area is 2,812 square miles (7,283 km2). The islands are divided into the Outer Hebrides, to the west, and the Inner Hebrides, closer to the mainland. The Outer Hebrides include the islands of Lewis and Harris, North Uist, South Uist, and Barra. The Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull, Islay, and Jura. Skye is linked to the mainland by a bridge opened in 1995.
The Hebrides are rocky and mostly treeless. The climate is humid and cool. Islanders raise sheep and cattle, and grow potatoes, turnips, and small grains. Fishing is an important occupation. Industries include fish processing, the distilling of whisky, and the manufacture of optical frames and woolen goods (particularly Harris tweed), woven in the cottages. Most of the islanders speak Gaelic.
The Hebrides were originally inhabited by Celts. Iona, one of the Inner Hebrides, became a center of Celtic Christianity after a monastery was founded there in 563. Norsemen raided the islands repeatedly after the sixth century A.D. From 875 to 1266, when they were ceded to Scotland, the islands belonged to Norway. Local lords successfully defied the Scottish kings, maintaining their power until well into the 18th century.
In the late 18th century large numbers of tenant farmers were evicted from the islands to establish sheep-raising on a large scale. The islanders either emigrated or sank into poverty. Conditions improved during the 20th century.
Population: about 50,000.