The Sound of Gighay looking northwest from Càrais on Hellisay
|OS grid reference||NF756040|
|Meaning of name||Old Norse: island of the caves|
|Area and summit|
|Area||142 hectares (0.55 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||Meall Meadhonach 79 metres (259 ft)|
|Island group||Uists and Barra|
|Local Authority||Na h-Eileanan Siar|
Geography and geology
There are several peaks on the island including Beinn a' Chàrnain in the west (mountain of the small cairn; 73 metres (240 ft)), Meall Meadhonach (middle rounded hill; 79 metres (259 ft)) and Meall Mòr (east of Meall Meadhonach and south of the peninsula of Càrais; 76 metres (249 ft)).
Along with a variety of seabirds, raptors including falcons and golden eagles have been seen on Hellisay. The island has a profusion of sea thrift and the Sound of Gighay has been described as a "quiet secret place of wild irises and marshmallows".
The island's name is Old Norse in origin. It possibly means "island of the caves", which appears to be confirmed by the name Rubha na h-Uamh (headland of the cave) in the east of the island. However, Blaeu's map has "Hildesay", which suggests that the name may derive from the Norse for "Hilda's Island".
The island's settlement was at Buaile Mhòr (anglicised to Bualavore and meaning "the big fold") near Eilean a' Ghamhna in the north west of the island. The remains of a sheep pen and a well can still be seen.
Like so many other islands in the region, Hellisay was badly affected by the Highland Clearances. Firstly, refugees from clearances in neighbouring islands swelled the population, and latterly the island's inhabitants themselves were evicted, and many went to live on Eriskay. The population peaked at 108 in 1841, and the island was cleared in the 1840s - however it continued to have some inhabitants up until 1890.
- Area and population ranks: there are c. 300 islands >20ha in extent and 93 permanently inhabited islands were listed in the 2011 census.
- National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Haswell-Smith (2004) pp. 226-28
- Ordnance Survey. Get-a-map (Map). 1:25,000. Leisure. http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
- "Best of Scotland's islands". (9 August 2013) Highland News. Retrieved 16 October 2013.