Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


The Hebrides, also known as the Western Isles, comprise a diverse archipelago off the west coast of mainlaind Scotland.

They are divided into two main groups: the Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides. The Inner Hebrides are closer to the mainland and include islands like Skye, Mull, Islay, and Jura. The Outer Hebrides are farther west and include islands such as Lewis and Harris, North Uist, South Uist, and Barra.

According to Wace, they were a part of Arthur’s empire. They may be intended as the home of any number of knights with the sobriquet “of the Isles.”

The Hebrides | 0 to the 9th century AD

Pre-Roman and Roman Period | Before 1st century BC – 5th century AD
The Hebrides were not directly under Roman control, as the Roman Empire’s influence was limited to the southern parts of what is now modern Scotland and England. The islands were likely inhabited by various Celtic tribes during the first to fourth centuries AD.

Post-Roman/Early Medieval Period | 5th – 9th centuries
The Celtic-speaking people of the Hebrides were part of the broader Celtic culture of the British Isles. During the early medieval period, the Hebrides would have been influenced by the rise of Celtic Christianity (Celtic Church), possibly introduced by missionaries.

The Hebrides, along with other parts of Scotland and the British Isles, experienced changes due to migrations and interactions among various tribes and groups. The Picts, who were an indigenous Celtic people, inhabited parts of the Hebrides and northern Scotland during the fifth to ninth centuries.

The Hebrides were often part of larger political entities and kingdoms that vied for control and dominance in the region. Different clans and dynasties held influence over various parts of the Hebrides, contributing to the complexity of the island’s history. Clans played a crucial role in the social and political structure of the islands.

The Hebrides’ location as a crossroads of maritime trade routes facilitated cultural exchanges between Norse, Celtic, and other groups. The islands’ diverse influence are reflected in aspects of language, culture, and local tradition.

The spread of Christianity during this period also reached the Hebrides, initially through Celtic Christianity and later influenced by Norse Christianity. Monasteries and religious communities were established on some of the islands. These religious centers played a role in shaping local culture and society.

Viking Influence | 8th century onwards
From the late eighth century onwards, Norse Vikings began raiding and settling in the Hebrides, establishing trade routes. The Vikings, coming from Scandinavia, established a significant presence in the islands. The Norse influence led to changes in language, culture, and governance. Many of the islands’ place names have Norse origins, reflecting the lasting impact on Norse culture on the region.

The Hebrides were integral to Norse expansion into the western seabord of Scotland and beyond. The islands served as key points for navigation, trade, and exploration.

Roman de Brut | Wace, c. 1155