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The Inner Hebrides lie closer to mainland Scotland and include Islay, Jura, Skye, Mull, Raasay, Staffa and the Small Isles. The Outer Hebrides are a chain of more than 100 islands and small skerries located about 70 kilometres (43 mi) west of mainland Scotland.

The Seaforths' royalist inclinations led to Lewis becoming garrisoned during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms by Cromwell's troops, who destroyed the old castle in Stornoway.

With the implementation of the Treaty of Union in 1707, the Hebrides became part of the new Kingdom of Great Britain, but the clans' loyalties to a distant monarch were not strong.

A rebellion by his nephew, Alexander of Lochalsh provoked an exasperated James IV to forfeit the family's lands in 1493.