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Northern Islands Of Britain

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Northern Islands Of Britain

This is a list of islands of Scotland, the mainland of which is part of the island of Great Britain. Also included are various other related tables and lists. The definition of an offshore island used in this list is that of "land that is surrounded by seawater on a daily basis, but not necessarily at all stages of the tide, excluding human devices such as bridges and causeways".

Scotland has over 790 offshore islands, most of which are to be found in four main groups: Shetland, Orkney, and the Hebrides, sub-divided into the Inner Hebrides and Outer Hebrides. There are also clusters of islands in the Firth of Clyde, Firth of Forth, and Solway Firth, and numerous small islands within the many bodies of fresh water in Scotland including Loch Lomond and Loch Maree.

Many of these islands are swept by strong tides, and the Corryvreckan tide race between Scarba and Jura is one of the largest whirlpools in the world. Other strong tides are to be found in the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and Orkney, and another example is the "Grey Dog" between Scarba and Lunga. The geology and geomorphology of the islands is varied. Some, such as Skye and Mull are mountainous, whilst others like Tiree and Sanday are relatively low lying. Many have bedrock made from ancient Archaean Lewisian Gneiss which was formed 3 billion years ago; Shapinsay and other Orkney islands are formed from Old Red Sandstone, which is 400 million years old; and others such as Rùm from more recent Tertiary volcanoes.

The largest island is Lewis and Harris which extends to 2,179 square kilometres, and there are a further 200 islands which are greater than 40 hectares in area. Of the remainder, several such as Staffa and the Flannan Isles are well known despite their small size.

Some 99 Scottish islands are populated, of which 94 are offshore islands. The local government council areas with the most inhabited islands are Argyll and Bute with 26, Orkney with 20, Shetland with 16 and Highland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with 15 each. Many previously inhabited islands such as Mingulay, Noss and the St Kilda archipelago have been abandoned during the course of the past century and today only 14 islands are populated by over 1,000 people and 45 by over 100. Between 1991 and 2001, the population of the islands fell by 3% overall, although there were 35 islands whose population increased. The total population of all the islands in 2001 was 99,739.

The culture of the islands has been affected by the successive influences of Celtic, Norse and English speaking peoples and this is reflected in names given to the islands. Most of the Hebrides have names with Scots Gaelic derivations, whilst those of the Northern Isles tend to be derived from the Viking names. A few have Brythonic, Scots and even perhaps pre-Celtic roots. A feature of modern island life is the low crime rate and they are considered to be amongst the safest places to live in the UK.

Rockall is a small rocky islet in the North Atlantic which was declared part of Scotland by the Island of Rockall Act 1972. However, the legality of the claim is disputed by the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Iceland and it is probably unenforceable in international law.

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