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Gaelic: Na Hearadh

Outer Hebrides

Sron Scourst, North Harris - geograph.org.uk - 152940.jpg
Sron Scourst

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Location: 57°54’36"N, 6°49’48"W
Grid reference: NB155005
Highest point: Clisham (2,621 feet)
Population: 1,984  (2001)

Harris, also known as the Isle of Harris, is the southern and more mountainous part of the island known collectively as Lewis with Harris, the largest island in the Outer Hebrides. Although not an island itself, Harris is often referred to as the Isle of Harris. Harris is part of Inverness-shire, while Lewis is in Ross-shire.

Lewis and Harris are treated as separate islands, and are known as the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris. They are in separate counties. However they are not in truth separate but there is a land border between them, running from Loch Seaforth in the east over to Loch Resort in the west.


Harris is most likely to be the island referred to as Adru (meaning thick, stout or bulky) in Ptolemy's description of the British Isles.

In Old Norse, a Hérað was a type of administrative district, and the name may derive from that. 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.[1] Most of the place names on Harris are Gaelicised Old Norse.


An Cliseam

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 village of Tarbert (An Tairbeart or Tairbeart na Hearadh).

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.[2][3]

In the 2001 census, Harris had a usually resident population of 1,984. It is part of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.[4]

North Harris

Old "lazy beds" on Harris

North Harris, adjoining Lewis, contains Clisham (An Cliseam), the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides at 2,621 feet. 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 (Sgalpaigh na Hearadh).

In March 2003 the 62,500 acre North Harris Estate was purchased[5] by the North Harris Trust, a development trust, on behalf of the local community.[6][7] In April 2006 the Trust hosted the Highlands and Islands Community Energy Company conference "Community Energy: Leading from the Edge"[8] in Tarbert. In early 2008 the Trust received planning consent for three 282 foot wind turbines to erected at Monan.[9] 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.[10]

South Harris

South Harris
The Golden Road

The southern part of Harris is less mountainous, with numerous unspoilt, white sandy beaches on the west coast. Its main settlements are Rodel (known for its mediæval kirk of St. Clement, the most elaborate surviving mediæval church in the Hebrides after Iona Abbey) and Leverburgh. A ferry sails from the latter to Berneray, an island off the coast of North Uist to which latter 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, Geocrab, Manish, Flodabay, Ardvay, Finsbay and Lingerbay.

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, Crotal and White and The Corncrake and the Lysander paint a vivid and humorous picture of Hebridean life.


Tarbert is the main port and capital village of Harris. The name Tarbert is a commonpace name in the Hebrides from tairbeart meaning "isthmus". The latter is derived, it seems, from the Norse 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 Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal and AD Munro's general grocery store on the main street.


The island of Scalpay an island in the mouth 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. A record of 183 lb fish was landed, then reportedly a fish estimated at 204 lb has been landed. These catches have attracted the attention of the local and national press and sea angling's leading magazines.[11][12]

The Church

Harris has a largely Presbyterian population that practices strict observance of the Sabbath and all retail outlets are shut on Sunday. Harris and Lewis have been described as the last bastion of fundamentalist Calvinism in the United Kingdom and there was controversy in 2006 when Caledonian MacBrayne decided to commence operating a ferry service on Sundays.[13] 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.[14]

The nearby island of Taransay became well-known following the BBC show Castaway broadcast in 2000 and various scenes were shot on Harris itself.

The file The Rocket Post was also filmed on Taransay in 2004. The film 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?

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Harris)


  1. Dictionary of Scottish Place-Names, David Ross (Birlinn)
  2. McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. Page 94.
  3. Gillen, Con (2003) Geology and landscapes of Scotland. Harpenden. Terra Publishing. Pages 63-4.
  4. "National Scenic Areas" - Scottish Natural Heritage
  5. Islanders celebrate buy-out, BBC News Online, 1 March 2003
  6. "Welcome to The North Harris Trust - Urras Ceann a 'Tuath na Hearadh" North Harris Trust. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  7. "About Development Trusts" DTA Scotland. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
  8. HICEC conference 2006
  9. "North Harris community wind farm approved" (February 2008) John Muir Trust Journal No. 44.
  10. Ross, John (14th March 2008) "Island may be site of third national park". Edinburgh The Scotsman.
  11. Press and Journal report
  12. BBC NEWS | Scotland | Highlands and Islands | Record-breaking hope for big fish
  13. Seenan, Gerard (10 April 2006) "Fury at ferry crossing on Sabbath" The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  14. "Welcome to Film Hebrides" filmhebrides.com. Retrieved 26 September 2007.
  • Rotary Club of Stornoway (1995) The Outer Hebrides Handbook and Guide. Machynlleth. Kittwake. ISBN 0-9511003-5-1
  • Johnstone, Scott; Brown, Hamish; and Bennet, Donald (1990) The Corbetts and Other Scottish Hills. Edinburgh. Scottish Mountaineering Trust. ISBN 0-907521-29-0
  • Vogler, Gisela (2001). A Harris way of life: Marion Campbell (1909-1996). West Tarbert: Harris Voluntary Service. ISBN 090396029X.