Discover the Intriguing St. Kilda Islands

The year 2007 marks the 50th anniversary since the archipelago of St. Kilda Islands was bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland by the Earl of Dumfries. During the past five decades the Trust and its many volunteers have worked to protect St. Kilda’s unique beauty. In 1958 the work parties of volunteers concentrated on restoring and maintaining six cottages along the Village Bay main street. These cottages have served as shelter for volunteers and researchers who spend time in the summer months on these remote Scottish islands.

The archipelago of St. Kilda Islands, situated in the remotest part of the British Isles, form an essential seabird breeding station in north-west Europe for bird species such as Leach’s petrels, Northern Gannets, Northern Fulmars and Atlantic Puffins. The marine environment of St. Kilda is a wonderland of underwater caves, chasms and arches. Some of the oldest structures on St. Kilda contain unusual boat-shaped stone rings which possibly date back to 1850 B.C. Their purpose is unknown and they are unique to St. Kilda. Currently, three organizations – The National Trust for Scotland, Scottish National Heritage and MoD – work together to continue a program of research and conservation aimed at maintaining and protecting thisWorld Heritage Site, one of the few in the world to be awarded natural, cultural and marine heritage status.

The history of the early inhabitants of St. Kilda is fascinating and has been the subject of numerous books and articles. The islands were inhabited for a period of about 4,000 years, more often than not totally cut off from the mainland during the harsh winters when the storms battered the ragged coastline. Apart from Christian missionaries who visited from time to time, the first real regular contact with the outside world came during World War I. Slowly a money-based economy was established and the inhabitants started to become less self-reliant. A number of the inhabitants left the island in search of a better way of life, and after crop failures and a number of deaths as a result of the influenza, the remaining 36 inhabitants were evacuated at their own request and settled in Morvern on the mainland of Scotland.

There are no permanent inhabitants on the island apart from the staff of the radar tracking station established in 1957 by the Ministry of Defense on Hirta. This radar tracking station for the missile range situated in Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, is occupied all year round and provides power, logistics transport, water supply and medical facilities, aiding the work of the conservationists and researchers who visit the islands.

The St. Kilda Islands are fascinating and mysterious. No doubt the ongoing research in the area will reveal more of the secrets of these remote islands of Scotland.