Harris, Outer Hebrides

Harris, Outer Hebrides

Coordinates: 57°55′N 6°50′W / 57.91°N 6.83°W / 57.91; -6.83

Scottish Gaelic: About this sound Na Hearadh
Harris is located in Outer Hebrides

 Harris shown within the Outer Hebrides
Population 1,984 [1]
Language Scottish Gaelic
OS grid reference NB155005
Council area Na h-Eileanan Siar
Lieutenancy area Western Isles
Country Scotland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district HS3
Dialling code 01859
Police Northern
Fire Highlands and Islands
Ambulance Scottish
EU Parliament Scotland
UK Parliament Na h-Eileanan an Iar
Scottish Parliament Western Isles
List of places: UK • Scotland •

Harris (also Scottish Gaelic: Na Hearadh, pronounced [nə ˈhɛɾəɣ]) is the southern and more mountainous part of Lewis and Harris, the largest island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Although not an island itself, Harris is often referred to as the Isle of Harris, which is the former postal county and the current post town for Royal Mail postcodes starting HS3 or HS5. See HS postcode area. A person from Harris is known as a Hearach.



Harris is most likely to be the island referred to as Adru (meaning thick, stout or bulky) on Ptolemy's map of the British Isles. In Old Norse, a Hérað was a type of administrative district, and the name may derive from that.[2] An alternative origin is the Norse Haerri, meaning "higher" - a reference to the high hills, especially in comparison with the much flatter Lewis lying to the north.[3] Most of the place names on Harris are Gaelicized Old Norse.


Harris divides naturally into northern and southern parts which are separated by West and East Loch Tarbert. These halves are joined by a narrow isthmus at the main settlement of Tarbert (An Tairbeart or Tairbeart na Hearadh).

An Cliseam, Harris

The bedrock of Harris is largely Lewisian gneisses, which were laid down in the Precambrian period, interspersed with igneous intrusions. One of these intrusions forms the summit plateau of the mountain Roinebhal. The rock here is anorthosite, and is similar in composition to rocks found in the mountains of the Moon.[4][5]

Harris is a part of historic Inverness-shire, and was administered as such under older administrative divisions. In the 2001 census, Harris had a usually resident population of 1,984.[1] It is part of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area, one of 40 in Scotland.[6]

North Harris

Old feannagan, or "lazy beds" on North Harris

North Harris, adjoining Lewis, contains Clisham (An Cliseam), the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides at 799 metres (2,621 ft).[7][8] The area is sparsely populated. Beyond Tarbert, the furthest settlement is Hushinish (Hùisinis) on the west coast. A bridge from the east coast links Harris to the island of Scalpay (Scalpaigh na Hearadh).

In March 2003 the 62,500 acres (253 km2) North Harris Estate was purchased[9] by the North Harris Trust, a development trust, on behalf of the local community.[10][11] In April 2006 the Trust hosted the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company conference "Community Energy: Leading from the Edge"[12] in Tarbert. In early 2008 the Trust received planning consent for three 86 metre (282 ft) wind turbines to be located at Monan.[13] In 2008 Mike Russell, the Scottish environment minister announced that the North Harris Trust had begun canvassing local opinion about a proposal to create Scotland's third national park in the area.[14]

South Harris

South Harris

The southern part of Harris is less mountainous, with numerous unspoilt, white sandy beaches on the west coast. Its main settlements are Rodel (Roghadal), known for its medieval kirk of St. Clement (Eaglais Chliamhain), the most elaborate surviving medieval church in the Hebrides after Iona Abbey, and Leverburgh (An Tòb na Hearadh or An t-Òb na Hearadh). A ferry sails from the latter to Berneray (Beàrnaraigh na Hearadh), an island off the coast of North Uist (Uibhist a Tuath), to which it is joined by a causeway.

The road which runs along the east coast of south Harris is known colloquially as the "Golden Road" as it cost so much money to build, when it was built in 1897. It runs from Tarbert to Rodel through the area of Harris known as Bays and through the coastal townships of Lickisto (Liceasto), Geocrab (Geòcrab), Manish (Mànais), Flodabay (Fleòideabhagh), Ardvay (Àird Mhighe), Finsbay (Fionnsbhagh) and Lingerbay (Lingreabhagh).

The beaches of Luskentyre and Scarista are amongst the most spectacular. From the former the island of Taransay, where the BBC Television series Castaway 2000 was recorded, is seen most clearly from Harris. At Scarista the beach is a venue for surfing and kite buggying. Nearby the Harris Golf Club offers well kept greens and views of the hills, but there is no play on Sundays. Scarista is the birthplace of the author Finlay J. MacDonald who wrote about growing up on Harris in the 1930s. His books: Crowdie and Cream, The Corncrake and the Lysander and Crotal and White paint a vivid and humorous picture of Hebridean life.


Tarbert is the main port and capital village of Harris. The name Tarbert comes from the Norse tairbeart meaning "draw-boat". Tarbert is a community of approximately 500 located on a narrow strip of land between Loch Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert. The village has the main ferry terminal, local tourist information and a range of small shops are available, including the Harris Tweed Shop overlooking the main access road to the CalMac ferry terminal and AD Munro's general grocery store on the main street.


The island of Scalpay is located to the of East Loch Tarbert. It was known historically for its fishing industry, though little of it remains. The island was linked to Harris when the Scalpay Bridge was opened in 1997. The bridge connects Scalpay to Kyles on Harris and makes it part of Harris.

Recent media attention has surrounded angling on Harris and Tarbert in particular. Local fishermen have been targeting large Common Skate in the area and have had prolific catches, mainly from West Loch Tarbert in autumn through the winter. There is an application for the Scottish shore record of 183 pounds (83 kg) although a subsequently caught fish estimated at 204 pounds (93 kg) has been landed. These catches have attracted the attention of the local and national press and sea angling’s leading magazines.[15][16]

Economy and transport

The Golden Road from Rodel to Tarbet along the east coast of South Harris

In common with many parts of the Highlands and Islands Harris has numerous single-track roads with passing places at intervals. Ferries sail from Tarbert to Uig in Skye.

Harris is also known for Harris tweed, although this is mostly now made in Lewis. Luskentyre Harris Tweed, a one-man business, gained worldwide publicity when it received an enormous order from Nike for tweed to be used in trainers.


The Sir E. Scott secondary school in Tarbert serves the whole of the Isle of Harris and Scalpay. This school has a primary and secondary department and can educate up to sixth year. The current headmaster is Gordon Macdonald.[17] The largest photovoltaic cell installation in Scotland is a 21 kWp system at the school.[18]


Harris has a largely Presbyterian population that practices sabbatarianism and all retail outlets are shut on Sunday.[19] This area has been described as the last bastion of fundamentalist Calvinism in the UK and there was controversy in 2006 when Caledonian MacBrayne decided to commence operating a ferry service on Sundays.[20] However, a Sunday ferry service between Berneray (North Uist) and Leverburgh (An t-Obbe) in the south of Harris has been introduced with relatively little controversy and now operates all year round. This allowed travellers to journey to Lewis and Harris by ferry on a Sunday before the 2009 commencement of Sunday ferries to Stornoway. The North Uist end of the connection can be reached through other ferry routes that also operate on Sundays (Uig-Lochmaddy and Oban-Lochboisdale).

Media and the arts

Tinted shots of parts of the island were used by Stanley Kubrick as the surface of Jupiter in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.[21]

The movie The Rocket Post was filmed on Taransay in 2004. The movie is based on the story of Gerhard Zucker, the German Rocket Scientist who in 1934 used the Isle of Scarp as his base for experimenting with sending mail over long distances by rocket.

The local newspaper is the Stornoway Gazette, there is also a community newspaper published monthly, called Dè Tha Dol?

District Tartan

The Isle of Harris district tartan

A group of sixth-year pupils at the Sir E. Scott secondary school in Tarbert won the 2003 Young Enterprise UK Award for their design, marketing, and selling of the Isle of Harris district tartan. The tartan is officially registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority (under #6198) and with the Scottish Tartans World Register (under #2981). Its symmetrical threadcount is listed as “WW8B80K8LG16K16LB24” with a color palette of:
     pelorous blue #2888C4,
     forest green #289C18,
     black #101010,
     wilson white #FCFCFC, and
     Windsor blue #2C2C80.[22]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Island Populations" Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
  2. ^ Placenames collected by Iain Mac an Tailleir (pdf)
  3. ^ Dictionary of Scottish Place-Names, David Ross (Birlinn)
  4. ^ McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. Page 94.
  5. ^ Gillen, Con (2003) Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden. Terra Publishing. Pages 63-4.
  6. ^ "National Scenic Areas". SNH. Retrieved 30 Mar 2011.
  7. ^ Rotary Club (1995) p. 124
  8. ^ Johnstone et al (1990) p. 240
  9. ^ Islanders celebrate buy-out, BBC News Online, 1 March 2003
  10. ^ "Welcome to The North Harris Trust - Urras Ceann a 'Tuath na Hearadh" North Harris Trust. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  11. ^ "About Development Trusts" DTA Scotland. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  12. ^ HICEC conference 2006
  13. ^ "North Harris community wind farm approved" (February 2008) John Muir Trust Journal No. 44.
  14. ^ Ross, John (14th March 2008) "Island may be site of third national park". Edinburgh The Scotsman.
  15. ^ Press and Journal report
  16. ^ BBC NEWS | Scotland | Highlands and Islands | Record-breaking hope for big fish
  17. ^ "Harris School Details" Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  18. ^ "Scotland's largest Sun Energy system installed in Western Isles" (2 November 2004) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Press release. Retrieved 31 August 2007.
  19. ^ "Hebrides 2002" Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  20. ^ Seenan, Gerard (10 April 2006) "Fury at ferry crossing on Sabbath" The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  21. ^ "Welcome to Film Hebrides" filmhebrides.com. Retrieved 26 September 2007.
  22. ^ http://www.tartanregister.gov.uk/tartanDetails.aspx?ref=1867


  • Rotary Club of Stornoway (1995) The Outer Hebrides Handbook and Guide. Machynlleth. Kittwake. ISBN 0951100351
  • Johnstone, Scott; Brown, Hamish; and Bennet, Donald (1990) The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills. Edinburgh. Scottish Mountaineering Trust. ISBN 0907521290

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.