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Scalpay, Outer Hebrides
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OS grid reference: NG214965
Coordinates: 57°52′N 6°41′W / 57.87°N 6.69°W / 57.87; -6.69
Gaelic name:
Norse name: Skalprøy
Meaning of name: scallop island or ship Island
Area and Summit
Area: 653 ha (2.5 sq mi)
Area rank (Scottish islands): 66
Highest elevation: Beinn Scorabhaig 104 m (341 ft)
Population (2001): 291
Population rank (inhabited Scottish islands): 26 out of 97
Main settlement: An Acarsaid a Tuath (North Harbour)

Scalpay[pronunciation?] (Scottish Gaelic: Sgalpaigh or Sgalpaigh na Hearadh i.e. "Scalpay of Harris" to distinguish it from Scalpay off Skye) is an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.


Scalpay - Outer Hebrides
Scalpay, looking roughly west to the North Harris hills.

Scalpay is around 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) long and rises to a height of 104 metres (341 feet) at Beinn Scorabhaig. The area of Scalpay is 653 hectares (2.52 sq mi). The main settlement on the island is at the north, near the bridge, clustered around An Acairseid a Tuath (North Harbour).

The island is peppered with small lochans. The largest of these is Loch an Duin (Loch of the Fort) which has a tiny island in it, with the remains of the fort still visible. Eilean Glas, a tiny peninsula on Scalpay's eastern shore, is home to the first lighthouse to be built in the Outer Hebrides.

Scalpay's nearest neighbour, Harris, is just 300 metres (980 feet) away across the narrows of Caolas Scalpaigh. In 1997, a bridge from Harris to Scalpay was built, replacing a ferry service.


Mac an Tàilleir (2003) suggests the name derives from "ship island" from the Norse. However, Haswell-Smith states that the Old Norse name was Skalprøy, meaning "scallop island".


The vast majority of the locals in Scalpay are Protestants. The island is home to two Presbyterian churches, the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). Like most places in the Outer Hebrides, Sunday is a day that locals use to rest from work and attend church. Respect for the Sabbath is appreciated by the islanders and they warmly welcome all visitors to meet with them during the services.


In 2001, the island had 322 people, whose main employment was fish farming and prawn fishing. By 2011 the population had declined by 9% to 291 whilst during the same period Scottish island populations as a whole grew by 4% to 103,702.

Scalpay is home to many Gaelic singers and psalm presenters. The island used to have more than 10 shops over 30 years ago but due to lack of people and work, the last shop closed in 2007. There also used to be a salmon factory, which was a major local employer from 2001 until its closure in 2005. In the spring of 2009, local newspapers reported that the factory was to reopen as a net washing facility to support the local fish farming industry. In 2012, the Scalpay community bought and opened a community shop/café, Buth Scalpaigh.

Photographer Marco Secchi lived on Scalpay for few years between 2002-2008 and documented life and landscape of the Outer Hebrides.

In 2011 the island's owner, Fred Taylor, announced that he proposed handing over the land to the local population. One proposal was that the island would be owned by a local development trust; under another proposal it would form part of the larger North Harris Trust, itself community owned. Islanders voted to accept the gift and assume community ownership of the island. They will go into partnership with the North Harris Community Trust to run the island.

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