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The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles (officially known by their Gaelic name, Na h-Eileanan Siar) comprise an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. They form part of the Hebrides, separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the stormy stretch of water known as the Minch and the Little Minch.
Although the Outer Hebrides comprise a unit for administrative and government purposes today, this was not always the case. Prior to the 1974 local government reorganisation in Scotland, the Isle of Lewis was part of Ross & Cromarty (and formerly of Ross-shire), while the Isle of Harris (which shares a land border with Lewis) and other islands to the south of it were in Inverness-shire.
Most communities in the Outer Hebrides use the Scottish Gaelic language. The name for the UK Parliament constituency covering this area is Na h-Eileanan an Iar, whilst the Scottish Parliament constituency for the area continues to be known as Western Isles.
The islands were at one time part of an area known in Norse as the Suðreyjar or Súreyjar (Southern Islands). The Suðreyjar were transferred to Norwegian rule in 1098. In about 1157, Somerled named himself King of the Isles. Sovereignty was transferred to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth in 1266, which followed the Battle of Largs three years earlier.
Colloquially the Outer Hebrides are sometimes referred to collectively as An t-Eilean Fada or "The Long Island"; Na h-Eileanan a-Muigh (the Outer Isles) is also heard occasionally in Scottish Gaelic