The 10 Most Populous Islands Of Scotland

The shore of the Isle of Lewis and Harris.
The shore of the Isle of Lewis and Harris.

Scotland has more than 790 offshore islands. Of these, about 94 islands are permanently inhabited. The population of the Scottish islands has exhibited an overall increase of 4% between 2001 and 2011. The island of Lewis and Harris is the largest island in Scotland in both area and population.

1. Lewis and Harris

It is the most populous Scottish island. The island had a population of 21,031 in 2011. The main town of Lewis and Harris is Stornoway. The island is noted for the production of the handmade Harris tweed fabric.

2. Mainland, Shetland

With a population of 18,765 in 2011, the island of Mainland in the Shetland archipelago of Scotland is the second most populous island in Scotland. It is the central hub of air and ferry transport in the archipelago. The island also hosts the only burgh in the archipelago.

3. Mainland, Orkney

The main island of the Scottish archipelago of Orkney is also named as Mainland. It had a population of 17,162 individuals in 2011. Like Mainland, Shetland, Mainland of Orkney is also the heart of the archipelago’s air and ferry transport system. It is also home to the only two burghs of Orkney. It is the archipelago’s most densely populated island with nearly 75% of Orkney’s population residing here. The island has 13 parishes and three main settlements, Kirkwall, Stromness, and Finstown.

4. Skye

The island of Skye is one of the most notable islands of Scotland. It is the fourth most populated island in Scotland. Tourism, fishing, forestry, and cultivation are the major economic activities of Skye’s residents. Portree is the largest settlement of the island. Skye is well connected to nearby islands by ferry services and a road bridge named the Skye Bridge. Wildlife also thrives in Skye. The island has picturesque landscapes and magnificent historical sites that make it a popular tourist attraction in Scotland. Skye had a population of 10,008 people in 2011.

5. Isle of Bute

This Scottish island had a population of 6,498 in 2011, making it the fifth most populated island in Scotland. The main economic activities of the Isle of Bute are agriculture and tourism. Forestry and fishing are also popular here. The island was previously a part the County of Bute but is currently in the Argyll and Bute council area. The island is naturally beautiful and also has numerous architectural attractions like castles and chapels that attract tourists to the island.

6. Arran

The island of Arran had a population of 4,629 in 2011. The island is currently part of the North Ayrshire council area. The island’s culture bears similarity to that of the Hebrides but it is separated from the same by the Kintyre peninsula. Arran has hosted human populations since the Neolithic period. Thus, the island has numerous archeological sites of importance. The island also has surreal landscapes comprising of hills and mountains, rivers and beaches, and locks. Thus, it is not surprising that tourism thrives here. Tourism, farming, and forestry are the important industries of Arran.

7. Islay

The island of Islay had a population of 3,228 in 2011. Bowmore is the capital of the island and hosts a distillery and the Kilarrow Parish Church. The island also has a port. The primary economic activities of Islay are tourism, agriculture, and the distillation of malt whiskey. The island also has rich birdlife and thus attracts birdwatchers in large numbers. Most of the island’s land is owned by non-residents while tenant farmers manage farming activities. In the summer, more than 50,000 tourists visit the island.

8. Mull

Part of the Argyll and Bute council area, Mull is Scotland’s eighth most populous island. The island had a population of 2,800 in 2011. The majority of the island’s population resides in Tobermory. Currently, tourism is the most important economic activity on the island. White-tailed eagles on this island are a birdwatcher’s delight. Fishing, farming, forestry, and aquaculture are also practiced here.

9. South Uist

With a population of 1,754, South Uist is Scotland’s ninth most populous island. The island is one of Scotland’s last remaining strongholds of the Gaelic language. Nearly 90% of the population of this island are Catholics. South Uist is a famous tourist destination as it is endowed with both natural beauty and archeological sites.

10. Great Cumbrae

Located in western Scotland’s Firth of Clyde, the island of Great Cumbrae is the tenth most populated island in Scotland. The island is a favorite destination for vacationers and hosts several tourist attractions. It has a National Watersports Centre, a cathedral, an 18-hole golf course, cycling routes, walking trails, etc. The population on the island changes seasonally with summers being the busiest time on the island.

The 10 Most Populous Islands Of Scotland

RankIslandLocal AuthorityPopulation 2011
1Lewis and HarrisNa h-Eileanan Siar21,031
2Mainland, ShetlandShetland18,765
3Mainland, OrkneyOrkney17,162
5ButeArgyll and Bute6,498
6ArranNorth Ayrshire4,629
7IslayArgyll and Bute3,228
8MullArgyll and Bute2,800
9South UistNa h-Eileanan Siar1,754
10Great CumbraeNorth Ayrshire1,376

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