North Uist and South Uist are linked by causeways running via the Isle of Benbecula and Grimsay, and the entire group is also known as Uist. It is incorrect to call the group of islands "The Uists". "The Uists" is a relatively new term possibly coined by recent incomers, but is incorrect.
From south to north, the inhabited islands in the island group are Èirisgeigh (Eriskay), Uibhist a Deas (South Uist), Grimsay (South), Beinn nam Faoghla (Benbecula), Eilean Fhlodaigh (Flodaigh), Griomasaigh (Grimsay (North)), Fraoch-eilean, Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist), Am Baile Sear (Baleshare) and Beàrnaraigh (Berneray).
The main settlements in the Uists are:
- Baile a' Mhanaich (Balivanich)
- Creag Ghoraidh (Creagorry)
- Lioniclate (Liniclate)
Writing in 1549, Sir Donald Monro, High Dean of the Isles stated of "Ywst" that it was a fertile country full of high hills and forests on the east coast with five parish kirks. He also noted that in the north of "Ywst ther is sundrie covis and holes in the earth, coverit with heddir above, quhilk fosters maney rebellis in the countrey".
Monro referred to the "infinite number of fresh water loches", including Loch Bì, which is South Uist's largest loch and at 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) long it all but cuts the island in two. Monro stated that "the sea has gotten enteries to this fresche water loche" and described the "thicke dyke of rough staines" that had been created to prevent salt water ingress. This apparently resulted in numerous fish being caught in the stones, including "fluikes, podloches, skatts, and herings" and he described another "kynd of fishe, the quhantitie and shape of ane salmont, but it has na skaills at all; the under haffe, narrest his vombe is quhite, and the upmaist haffe narrest his back is als black as jett".
Monro's description was:
This countrey is bruiked by sundrey captains; to witt, the south southwest end of it, callit Bayhastill, be M’Neill of Barray, the rest of the ile, namit Peiter’s parochin, the parochin of Howes, and the mayne land of the mid countrey callit Mackermeanache, perteins to Clanronald, halding of the Clandonald. At the end heirof the sea enters, and cuts the countrey be ebbing and flowing through it: and in the north syde of this there is ane parochin callit Buchagla, perteining to the said Clandonald. At the north end thereof the sea cuts the countrey againe, and that cutting of the sea is called Careynesse, and benorth this countrey is called Kenehnache of Ywst, that is in Englishe, the north head of Ywst, whilk term is twa paroche kirks, and is mair of profit than the rest of haill of Ywst, perteining to Donald Gormesone.
- Monro (1549) no. 154