[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]
HARRIS (SOUND OF), a navigable channel between the islands of Harris and North Uist; 9 miles in length, and from 8 to 12 in breadth. It is the only passage for vessels of burden passing from the east to the west side of that long cluster of islands called the LONG ISLAND: which see. It is much incumbered with rocks, shoals, and islets; but, with a skilful pilot, can be passed in safety. A few of them may measure a mile in length, and about half-a-mile in breadth. They are covered with heath and moss, and afford pretty good summer-pasturage. The people of the larger islands repair to them with their families and cattle, in the season of kelp-manufacturing, and here they get peats for fuel, there being no moss in any of the inhabited islands of this district, excepting Calligray. The names of the largest isles are Hermitray, Hulmitray, Saartay, Votersay, Neartay, Opsay, Vaaksay, Haay, Suursay, Torogay, Scarvay, Lingay, Groay, Gilisay, Sagay, Stromay, Skeilay, and Copay. There are, besides these, a vast number of islets, holms, and high rocks, for each of which the people have names.1 A remarkable variation of the current happens in this sound, from the autumnal to the vernal equinox; the current in neap-tides passes all day from east to west, and all night in a contrary direction. After the vernal equinox, it changes this course, going all day from west to east, and the contrary at night. At spring-tides the current corresponds nearly to the common course.
1 It is remarkable, that as the names of the larger isles terminate in ay, so the names of these last generally terminate in em, e.g. Tuem, Guadem, Coddern, &c.