St Kilda

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Overview of Village Bay, Hirta

St Kilda (Gaelic: Hiort) is an isolated archipelago 40 miles west-north-west of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its islands are the westernmost, outermost of the Outer Hebrides, and belong to the parish of Harris, Inverness-shire.

The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom and three other islands (Dùn, Soay and Boreray), were also used for grazing and seabird hunting.

St Kilda may have been permanently inhabited for at least two millennia, the population probably never exceeding 180 (and certainly no more than 100 after 1851). The entire population was evacuated from Hirta (the only inhabited island) in 1930. Currently, the only year-round residents are defence personnel although a variety of conservation workers, volunteers and scientists spend time there in the summer months.[1][2]

The origin of the name St Kilda is a matter of conjecture. The islands' human heritage includes numerous unique architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods, although the earliest written records of island life date from the Late Middle Ages. The mediæval village on Hirta was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the influences of religious zeal, illnesses brought by increased external contacts through tourism, and the First World War all contributed to the island's evacuation in 1930.[3] The story of St Kilda has attracted artistic interpretations, including an opera.[4]

The entire archipelago is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became one of Scotland's five World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is one of the few in the world to hold joint status for its natural and cultural qualities.[5] Two different early sheep types have survived on these remote islands, the Soay, a Neolithic type, and the Boreray, an Iron Age type. The islands are a breeding ground for many important seabird species including gannets, Atlantic puffins, and northern fulmars. The St Kilda wren and St Kilda field mouse are endemic subspecies.[1] Parties of volunteers work on the islands in the summer to restore the many ruined buildings that the native St Kildans left behind. They share the island with a small military base established in 1957.[6]


The St Kilda archipelago


The islands are composed of Tertiary igneous formations of granites and gabbro, heavily weathered by the elements. The archipelago represents the remnants of a long-extinct ring volcano rising from a seabed plateau approximately 130 feet below sea level.[7]


Name Area OS Grid Ref Name means
Hirta 1,656 acres NF102991 unknown
Boreray 213 acres NA153050 "Fortified island"
Dùn NF098976 "Fort"
Soay 245 acres NA062014 "Sheep island"
Stac an Armin NA150062 "Warrior's stack"
Stac Lee NA141047 "Grey stack"
Stac Levenish NF131965 "Stream" or "torrent" stack

Hirta is the largest island in the group and has more than 78% of the archipelago's land area. Next in size is Soay and next Boreray.

The island of Dùn ('fort'), which protects Village Bay from the prevailing south-westerly winds, was at one time joined to Hirta by a natural arch. MacLean (1972) suggests that the arch was broken when struck by a galleon fleeing the defeat of the Spanish Armada, but other sources, such as Mitchell (1992) and Fleming (2005), provide the more credible (if less romantic) explanation that the arch was simply swept away by one of the many fierce storms that batter the islands every winter.[8][9]

Soay is less than half a mile north-west of Hirta, but on the other side of the island from the Village. Boreray is off four miles to the north-east.

Smaller islets and stacks in the group include Stac an Armin and Stac Lee, which lie close by Boreray, and Stac Levenish, alone in the sea to the south-east of Hirta.[10][11]

Mountains, cliffs and sea stacks

Hirta and Dùn

The highest point in the archipelago, Conachair ('the beacon') at 1,410 feet, is on Hirta, immediately north of the village. In the south-east is Oiseval ('east fell'), which reaches 951 feet, and Mullach Mòr ('big hill summit') at 1,185 feet is due west of Conachair. Ruival ('red fell') 449 feet and Mullach Bi ('pillar summit') 1,175 feet dominate the western cliffs. Boreray reaches 1,260 feet and Soay 1,240 feet. The extraordinary Stac an Armin reaches 643 feet, and Stac Lee 564 feet, making them the highest sea stacks in Britain.[12]

In modern times, St Kilda's only settlement was at Village Bay (Gaelic: Bàgh a' Bhaile or Loch Hiort) on Hirta. Gleann Mòr on the north coast of Hirta and Boreray also contain the remains of earlier habitations.[13] The sea approach to Hirta into Village Bay suggests a small settlement flanked by high rolling hills in a semicircle behind it. This is misleading.[14] The whole north face of Conachair is a vertical cliff up to 1,400 feet high,[15] falling sheer into the sea and constituting the highest sea cliff in the United Kingdom.

Around St Kilda are many of the most spectacular sea cliffs in the British Isles. Baxter and Crumley (1988) suggest that St Kilda:

" a mad, imperfect God's hoard of all unnecessary lavish landscape luxuries he ever devised in his madness. These he has scattered at random in Atlantic isolation 100 miles from the corrupting influences of the mainland, 40 miles west of the westmost Western Isles. He has kept for himself only the best pieces and woven around them a plot as evidence of his madness."[16]


Cliff face silhouette on Stac Levenish

Although 40 miles from the nearest land, St Kilda is visible from as far as the summit ridges of the Cuillin on Skye, some 80 miles distant.[17]

The archipelago's remote location and oceanic climate are matched in the United Kingdom only by a few smaller outlying islands such as the Flannan Isles, North Rona, Sula Sgeir, and the Bishop's Isles at the southern edge of the Outer Hebrides.


The climate is oceanic with heavy rain and damp. Temperatures are generally cool, averaging 5.6 °C in January and 11.8 °C in July. The prevailing winds, especially strong in winter, are southerly and southwesterly. Gale force winds occur less than 2% of the time in any one year, but gusts of 115 miles an hour and more occur regularly on the high tops, and speeds of 130 miles an hour have occasionally been recorded near sea level.[18]

The tidal range is 9½ feet, and ocean swells of 16 feet frequently occur, which can make landings difficult or impossible at any time of year.[19][20] However, the oceanic location protects the islands from snow, which lies for only about a dozen days per year.[18]


Soay ram on Hirta

On the very inaccessible island of Soay there were sheep of a unique type, which lived as feral animals and belonged to the owner of the islands, not to the islanders. These Soay sheep are believed to be remnants of the earliest sheep kept in Europe in the Neolithic, and are small, short-tailed, usually brown with white bellies, and have naturally moulting fleeces.

About 200 Soay sheep remain on Soay itself, but soon after the evacuation a second feral population of them was established on Hirta, which at that time had no sheep; these now number between 600 and 1,700.[15] A few Soays have been exported to form breeding populations in other parts of the world, where they are valued for their hardiness, small size and unusual appearance.[21] On Hirta and Soay, the sheep prefer the pastures exposed to sea spray growing red fescue, sea plantain and sea pink.

The St Kildans also kept up to 2,000 of a Hebridean variety of the Scottish Dunface, a primitive sheep probably similar to those kept throughout Britain during the Iron Age. At the time of the evacuation all the islanders' sheep were removed from Hirta, but those on Boreray were left to become feral, and these are now regarded as a breed in their own right, the Boreray. The Boreray is one of the rarest British sheep, and is one of the few remaining descendants of the Dunface (although some Scottish Blackface blood was introduced in the nineteenth century).[22]

Yet another kind of sheep has an association with St Kilda. This is a black, often four-horned breed previously known as the "St Kilda" sheep, but now known as the Hebridean. In fact it was probably derived from Dunface sheep from elsewhere in the Hebrides, including North Uist. It was widely kept in parks in mainland Scotland and England in the 19th century; it is not known why the St Kilda name became attached to it.


Soay shrouded in mist

St Kilda is a breeding ground for many important seabird species. The world's largest colony of gannets, totalling 30,000 pairs, amount to 24% of the global population. There are 49,000 breeding pairs of Leach's petrels, up to 90% of the European population; 136,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins, about 30% of the United Kingdom's total breeding population, and 67,000 northern fulmar pairs, about 13 percent of the UK total.[23] Dùn is home to the largest colony of fulmars in Britain. Before 1828, St Kilda was their only breeding ground in the British Isles, but they have since spread and established colonies elsewhere, such as Fowlsheugh.[24]

The last Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) seen in Britain was killed on Stac an Armin in July 1840.[1] Unusual behaviour by St Kilda's bonxies (great skuas) was recorded in 2007 during research into recent falls in the Leach's Petrel population. Using night vision gear, ecologists observed the skuas hunting petrels at night, a remarkable strategy for a seabird.[25]

Unique to St Kilda are the St Kilda Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis), a subspecies of the Winter Wren, and the St Kilda Field Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus hirtensis), a subspecies of wood mouse.

Endemic to St Kilda too was the St Kilda House Mouse (Mus musculus muralis), vanished completely after the departure of human inhabitants, as it was strictly associated with settlements and buildings.[1] It had a number of traits in common with a sub-species (Mus musculus mykinessiensis) found on Mykines in the Faroe Islands.[26]

The grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) now breeds on Hirta but did not do so before the 1930 evacuation.[18]

The archipelago's isolation has resulted in a lack of biodiversity. Only 58 species of butterfly and moth occur on the islands, compared to 367 recorded on the Western Isles.[27] Plant life is heavily influenced by the salt spray, strong winds and acidic peaty soils. No trees grow on the archipelago, although there are more than 130 different flowering plants, 162 species of fungi and 160 bryophytes. Several rarities exist amongst the 194 lichen species. Kelp thrives in the surrounding seas, which contain a diversity of unusual marine invertebrates.[1]

The beach at Village Bay is unusual in that its short stretch of summer sand recedes in winter, exposing the large boulders on which it rests. A survey of the beach in 1953 found only a single resident species, the crustacean isopod Eurydice pulchra.[28]

Names of St Kilda

The Street in 1886

"St Kilda"

No saint is known by the name of Kilda, and various theories have been proposed for the word's origin, which dates from the late 16th century. The name St Kilda first appears on a Dutch map dated 1666 [29] and subsequent usage may come from the use of Dutch maps.

Of the suggestions have been made, the main theories are:

  • Tobar Childa, the spring found on the island of Hirta. Haswell-Smith suggest a derivation from Norse sunt kelda ("sweet wellwater") or from the name of the spring itself, Childa, if the Dutch assumed that it was dedicated to a saint. Maclean suggested the spring as the origin too, one of his many ideas and he states that a 1588 map identifies the archipelago as Kilda.
(Childa is from the Old Norse for "well" and so Tobar Childa is a tautological placename, consisting of Gaelic and Norse synonyms: it is "Well Well".[1])
  • Kilder, an unknown man. Martin Martin visited in 1697 and believed that the name St Kilda "is taken from one Kilder, who lived here; and from him the large well Toubir-Kilda [Tobar Childa] has also its name".[30] As an origin of the latter's name, there was no observation by Martin Martin of "Well Well".
  • Culdees; a wilder suggestion of Maclean's was that it Kilda might refer to Culdee anchorites, if they brought Christianity to the island.
  • Hirta: A leading suggestion proposed by Maclean is that Kilda is simply a corruption of the Gaelic name applied to the group and to the main island, Hirta, reflecting local pronunciation. He observed that the islanders tended to pronounce r as l, and thus habitually referred to the island as Hilta.[10] Steel (1988) adds weight to the idea, noting that the islanders pronounced the H with a "somewhat guttural quality", making the sound they used for Hirta "almost" Kilta.[31]
1580 Carte of Scotlande showing Hyrth (i.e. Hirta) at left and Skaldar (Haskeir) to the north-east
  • Dutch cartographical error, also suggested by Maclean: that they confused Hirta with Skildar, the old name for Haskeir island much nearer the main Outer Hebrides archipelago.[10][32] Quine (2000) hypothesises that the name is derived from a series of cartographical errors, starting with the use of the Old Icelandic Skildir ("shields") and appearing as Skildar on a map by Nicholas de Nicolay (1583), Skilda later misunderstood as S Kilda.[33] Martin in 1703 states: "all seamen call it St. Kilda; and in sea maps St. Kilder, particularly in a Dutch sea map from Ireland to Zeland, published at Amsterdam by Peter Goas in the year, 1663", nearly a century after the publication of Waghenaer's charts.

In a later passage concerning the traditions relating to the Flannan Isles, Martin adds "It is absolutely unlawful to call the island of St Kilda (which lies thirty leagues southward) by its proper Irish name Hirt, but only the high country". This refers to the St Kildan's habit of referring to Hirta as 'the high country' and Boreray as 'the north country'.[34]


The name Hirta long pre-dates St Kilda. It is similarly open to interpretation:

  • Ier ("west") or h-Iar-Tìr ("westland"), suggested by Martin.[35]
  • Ei hirt: "Dangerous" or "deathlike", suggested by Haswell-Smith[36] or an unspecified Celtic word meaning "gloom" or "death".
  • Stag (hirtir). Maclean draws on an Icelandic saga]] describing an early 13th-century voyage to Ireland that mentions a visit to the islands of Hirtir. He speculates that the shape of Hirta resembles a stag, Hirtir ("stags" in Norse).[10]
  • Ì Àrd ("high island" in Gaelic), suggested by the Reverend Neil Mackenzie, who lived there from 1829 to 1844.
  • Hirt ("shepherd" in Norse), as the islands spear as a shepherd herding the Outer Hebrides into line, suggested by Steel (1998).[37]
  • Hirðö ("herd island" in Norse), suggested by Murray (1966)[38]

All the names of and on the islands are fully discussed by Coates (1990).[39]

Other islands

  • Dùn means "fort"
  • Soay is from the Norse for "sheep island"
  • Boreray is from the Norse for "fortified isle"

The life of the St Kildans

St Kildans out harvesting seabirds

Most modern commentators feel that the predominant theme of life on St Kilda was isolation. When Martin Martin visited the islands in 1697,[30] the only means of making the journey was by open boat, which could take several days and nights of rowing and sailing across the ocean and was next to impossible in autumn and winter. In all seasons, waves up to 40 feet high lash the beach of Village Bay, and even on calmer days landing on the slippery rocks can be hazardous. Separated by distance and weather, the natives knew little of mainland and international politics. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, it was rumoured that Prince Charles Edward Stuart and some of his senior Jacobite aides had escaped to St Kilda. An expedition was launched, and in due course British soldiers were ferried ashore to Hirta. They found a deserted village, as the St Kildans, fearing pirates, had fled to caves to the west. When the St Kildans were persuaded to come down, the soldiers discovered that the isolated natives knew nothing of the prince and had never heard of King George II either.[40]

St Kildans paid some of their rent by collecting seabirds; roping pegs – one of which can be seen in this photo – enabled them to abseil down to the nests.

Even in the late 19th century, the islanders could communicate with the rest of the world only by lighting a bonfire on the summit of Conachair and hoping a passing ship might see it, or by using the "St Kilda mailboat". The mailboat was the invention of John Sands, who visited in 1877. During his stay, a shipwreck left nine Austrian sailors marooned there, and by February supplies were running low. Sands attached a message to a lifebuoy salvaged from the Peti Dubrovacki and threw it into the sea.[41] Nine days later it was picked up in Birsay, Orkney and a rescue was arranged. The St Kildans, building on this idea, fashioned a piece of wood into the shape of a boat, attached it to a bladder made of sheepskin, and placed in it a small bottle or tin containing a message. Launched when the wind came from the north-west, two-thirds of the messages were later found on the west coast of Scotland or, less conveniently, in Norway.[42][43] The mailboat was last launched on the day of the evacuation.

Launching the "St Kilda mailboat"

The St Kildan diet was unique to the islands. The islanders kept sheep and a few cattle and were able to grow a limited amount of food crops such as barley and potatoes on the better-drained land in Village Bay, and in many ways the islands can be seen as large mixed farm. Samuel Johnson reported that in the 18th century sheep's milk was made "into small cheeses" by the St Kildans.[44] They generally eschewed fishing because of the heavy seas and unpredictable weather.[45]

The mainstay of the St Kildans' food supplies was seabirds, which dwell in profusion in island, and of these in particular the gannet and fulmar. The men harvested eggs and young birds and ate both fresh and cured. Adult puffins were also caught by the use of fowling rods.[15] However, this feature of island life came at a price. When Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux|Henry Brougham visited in 1799 he noted that:

"the air is infected by a stench almost insupportable – a compound of rotten fish, filth of all sorts and stinking seafowl".[46]

An excavation of the Taigh an t-Sithiche (the "house of the faeries" – see below) in 1877 by Sands unearthed the remains of gannet, sheep, cattle and limpets amidst various stone tools. The building is between 1,700 and 2,500 years old, which suggests that the St Kildan diet had changed little over the millennia. Indeed, the tools were recognised by the St Kildans, who could put names to them as similar devices were still in use.[47]

These fowling activities involved considerable skills in climbing, especially on the precipitous sea stacks. An important island tradition involved the 'Mistress Stone', a door-shaped opening in the rocks north-west of Ruival over-hanging a gully. Young men of the island had to undertake a ritual there to prove themselves on the crags and worthy of taking a wife. Martin Martin wrote:

The Mistress Stone

In the face of the rock, south from the town, is the famous stone, known by the name of the mistress-stone; it resembles a door exactly; and is in the very front of this rock, which is twenty or thirty fathom [120 to 180 feet] perpendicular in height, the figure of it being discernible about the distance of a mile; upon the lintel of this door, every bachelor-wooer is by an ancient custom obliged in honour to give a specimen of his affection for the love of his mistress, and it is thus; he is to stand on his left foot, having the one half of his sole over the rock, and then he draws the right foot further out to the left, and in this posture bowing, he puts both his fists further out to the right foot; and then after he has performed this, he has acquired no small reputation, being always after it accounted worthy of the finest mistress in the world: they firmly believe that this achievement is always attended with the desired success.

This being the custom of the place, one of the inhabitants very gravely desired me to let him know the time limited by me for trying of this piece of gallantry before I design'd to leave the place, that he might attend me; I told him this performance would have a quite contrary effect upon me, by robbing me both of my life and mistress at the same moment.[30]

Puffin hunting

Another important aspect of St Kildan life was the daily 'Parliament', as outside visitors dubbed it. This was a meeting held in the street every morning after prayers and attended by all the adult males during the course of which they would decide upon the day's activities. No one led the meeting, and all had the right to speak. According to Steel (1988), "Discussion frequently spread discord, but never in recorded history were feuds so bitter as to bring about a permanent division in the community".[48]

Whatever the privations, the St Kildans were fortunate in some respects, for their isolation spared them some of the evils of life elsewhere. Martin noted in 1697 that the citizens seemed "happier than the generality of mankind as being almost the only people in the world who feel the sweetness of true liberty",[30] and in the 19th century their health and well being was contrasted favourably with conditions elsewhere in the Hebrides.[49] Theirs was not a utopian society; the islanders had ingenious wooden locks for their property, and financial penalties were exacted for misdemeanours.[50] Nonetheless, no resident St Kildan is known to have fought in a war, and in four centuries of history, no serious crime committed by an islander was recorded there.[51] A 19th century commentator wrote: "If St Kilda is not the Eutopia so long sought, where will it be found? Where is the land which has neither arms, money, care, physic, politics, nor taxes? That land is St Kilda".[52]

Other commentators have doubted this and notice that while discord and crime were not recorded, as they would not be so far from the arm of regular law, there is indication that even murder went unnoticed by the authorities, if not by the islanders in evil times. Nonetheless, it cannot be doubted that in latter times the strong influence of the Free Church of Scotland upon a people so utterly reliant on divine providence for their sustenance and preservation, restrained the natural instincts of human nature.


A cleit above Village Bay


It has been known for some time that St Kilda was continuously inhabited for two millennia or more, from the Bronze Age to the 20th century.[53] Recently, the first direct evidence of earlier Neolithic settlement emerged; shards of pottery of the Hebridean ware style, found to the east of the village. The subsequent discovery of a quarry for stone tools on Mullach Sgar above Village Bay led to finds of numerous stone hoe-blades, grinders and Skaill knives (the latter a type of Neolithic flaked stone with a sharp edge used for cutting, named after Skaill Bay in Orkney).

14th to 17th century

The first written record of St Kilda may date from 1202 when an Icelandic cleric wrote of taking shelter on "the islands that are called Hirtir".[54] Early reports mentioned finds of brooches, an iron sword and Danish coins, and the enduring Norse place names indicate a sustained Viking presence on Hirta, but the visible evidence has been lost.[55] The first English language reference is from the late 14th century, when John of Fordun mentioned 'the isle of Irte, which is agreed to be under the Circius and on the margins of the world'.[56]

The islands were historically part of the domain of the MacLeods of Harris, whose steward was responsible for the collection of rents in kind and other duties. The first detailed report of a visit to the islands dates from 1549, when Donald Munro]] suggested that:

"The inhabitants thereof ar simple poor people, scarce learnit in aney religion, but M'Cloyd of Herray, his stewart, or he quhom he deputs in sic office, sailes anes in the zear ther at midsummer, with some chaplaine to baptize bairnes ther."[57]

Notwithstanding the occasional visit of a kirk minister, Macauley in 1764 reported the existence of five druidic altars, including a large circle of stones fixed perpendicularly in the ground near the Stallir House on Boreray.[58]

The Macleod also established the school on St Kilda after the 16th century Reformation, in obedience to an Act of Parliament requiring lairds to establish a school in every parish.

Coll MacDonald of Colonsay raided Hirta in 1615, removing 30 sheep and a quantity of barley.[59] Thereafter, the islands developed a reputation for abundance. At the time of Martin's visit in 1697 the population was 180 and the steward travelled with a "company" of up to 60 persons to which he "elected the most 'meagre' among his friends in the neighbouring islands, to that number and took them periodically to St Kilda to enjoy the nourishing and plentiful, if primitive, fare of the island, and so be restored to their wonted health and strength."[30]

The 18th and 19th centuries

The schoolroom (on the right hand side), built in 1884
Map and view of St Kilda in 1888

Visiting ships in the 18th century brought cholera and smallpox.[1] In 1727, the loss of life was so high that too few residents remained to man the boats, and new families were brought in from Harris to replace them.[60]

By 1758 the population had risen to 88 and reached just under 100 by the end of the century. This figure remained fairly constant from the 18th century until 1851, when 36 islanders emigrated to Australia on board the Priscilla, a loss from which the island never fully recovered. The emigration was in part a response to the laird's closure of the church and manse for several years during the Disruption that created the Free Church of Scotland.[61][62]

In 1822 the Rev John MacDonald, the 'Apostle of the North', arrived in Village Bay. He set about his mission with zeal, preaching 13 lengthy sermons during his first 11 days and the effect was remarkable. Over a hundred years before, in 1705, a missionary named Alexander Buchan came to St Kilda, but despite his long stay, the idea of organised religion did not take hold. John MacDonald was made of different stuff. He returned to St Kilda regularly and raised funds on behalf of the St Kildans, although privately he expressed that he was appalled by their lack of religious knowledge. The islanders took to him with enthusiasm and wept when he left for the last time eight years later.

MacDonald's successor, who arrived on 3 July 1830, was Rev Neil Mackenzie, a resident Church of Scotland minister who greatly improved the conditions of the inhabitants. He reorganised island agriculture, was instrumental in the rebuilding of the village (see below) and supervised the building of a new church and manse. With help from the Gaelic School Society, MacKenzie and his wife introduced formal education to Hirta, beginning a daily school to teach reading, writing and arithmetic and a Sunday school for religious education.[63]

Mackenzie left in 1844[64] and no new minister was appointed for a decade. As a result, the school closed on the Makenzie's departure. In 1865 came a new minister, the Rev John Mackay. While Mackenzie had stayed in the Church of Scotland, the St Kildans were with the new Free Church that emerged from the Disruption and Mackay was very much of the Free Church mind, and placed an uncommon emphasis on religious observance. He introduced a routine of three two-to-three-hour services on Sunday at which attendance was effectively compulsory. One visitor noted in 1875 that: "The Sabbath was a day of intolerable gloom. At the clink of the bell the whole flock hurry to Church with sorrowful looks and eyes bent upon the ground. It is considered sinful to look to the right or to the left."[65]

The interior of the church at Oiseabhal, St Kilda

The new regime of the island under John Mackay was of the dourest and it has been argued that kirk attendance and related observances interfered seriously with the practical routines of the island from which all mouths were fed. During a period of food shortages on the island, a relief vessel arrived on a Saturday, but the minister said that the islanders had to spend the day preparing for church on the Sabbath, and it was Monday before supplies were landed. Children were forbidden to play games and required to carry a Bible wherever they went. Mackay remained minister on St Kilda for 24 years.[66]

Tourism began in earnest in the Victorian period and had a destabilising impact on St Kilda. Steamers began to visit Hirta, enabling the islanders to earn money from the sale of tweeds and birds' eggs but at the expense of their self-esteem, as the tourists regarded them as curiosities. The boats brought other previously unknown diseases, especially infant tetanus, which resulted in infant mortality rates as high as 80% during the late 19th century.[15] The cnatan na gall or boat-cough, an illness that struck after the arrival of a ship to Hirta, became a regular feature of life.[41][46]

By the opening of the 20th century, formal schooling had again become a feature of the islands, and in 1906 the church was extended to make a schoolhouse. The children all now learned English and their native Gaelic. Improved midwifery skills, denied to the island by Reverend Mackay, reduced the problems of childhood tetanus. One midwife newly come to Hirta was shocked to find that the women of the island took each new-born child away for a secret ceremony, which she learned was to anoint the child with oil from a flask made of a gannet's gullet kept for the purpose and used for many years. When she confiscated the flask and publicly burnt it, the disease the fowl's gullet had been incubating for a generation, and which had killed most of the island's newborns, was ended.

From the 1880s, trawlers fishing the north Atlantic made regular visits, bringing additional trade. Talk of an evacuation occurred in 1875 during MacKay's period of tenure, but despite occasional food shortages and a flu epidemic in 1913, the population was stable at between 75 and 80, and no obvious sign existed that within a few years the millennia-old occupation of the island was to end.[67][68][69]

First World War

4-inch QF gun looking towards Dùn

Early in First World War the Royal Navy erected a signal station on Hirta, and daily communications with the mainland were established for the first time in St Kilda's history. In a belated response, a German submarine arrived in Village Bay on the morning of 15 May 1918 and, after issuing a warning, started shelling the island. Seventy-two shells were fired, and the wireless station was destroyed. The manse, church and jetty storehouse were damaged, but no loss of life occurred.[70] One eyewitness recalled: "It wasn't what you would call a bad submarine because it could have blowed every house down because they were all in a row there. He only wanted Admiralty property. One lamb was killed... all the cattle ran from one side of the island to the other when they heard the shots."[71]

As a result of this attack, a 4-inch Mark III QF gun was erected on a promontory overlooking Village Bay, but it never saw military use. Of greater long-term significance to the islanders were the introduction of regular contact with the outside world and the slow development of a money-based economy. This made life easier for the St Kildans but also made them less self-reliant. Both were factors in the evacuation of the island little more than a decade later.[72]


Boreray, Stac Lee, and Stac an Armin from the heights of Conachair

The population was declining and the disparity between the wealth of the mainland and the poor life of St Kilda was too painful to see. The islands' inhabitants had existed for centuries in relative isolation until tourism and the presence of the military in First World War induced the islanders to seek alternatives to privations they routinely suffered. The visitors in the nineteenth century brought change and opened horizons which disconnected the islanders from the way of life that had allowed their forebears to survive in this unique environment.[73] A small jetty was built in 1902, but the islands still remained at the weather's mercy.[74]

After First World War most of the young men left the island, and the population fell from 73 in 1920 to 37 in 1928.[15] After the death of four men from influenza in 1926 there was a succession of crop failures in the 1920s. Investigations by Aberdeen University into the soil where crops had been grown have shown that there had been contamination by lead and other pollutants, caused by the use of seabird carcasses and peat ash in the manure used on the village fields. This occurred over a lengthy period of time as manuring practices became more intensive and may have been a factor in the evacuation.[75][76] The last straw came with the death from appendicitis of a young woman, Mary Gillies, in January 1930.

On 29 August 1930, the remaining 36 inhabitants were removed to Lochaline in Morvern in mainland Argyllshire at their own request. It was an English-speaking district and the men of a treeless island were offered unfamiliar work with the Forestry Commission: the islanders had a great deal to learn in their new way of life.

The morning of the evacuation promised a perfect day. The sun rose out of a calm and sparkling sea and warmed the impassive cliffs of Oiseval. The sky was hopelessly blue and the sight of Hirta, green and pleasant as the island of so many careless dreams, made parting all the more difficult. Observing tradition the islanders left an open Bible and a small pile of oats in each house, locked all the doors and at 7 a.m. boarded the Harebell. Although exhausted by the strain and hard work of the last few days, they were reported to have stayed cheerful throughout the operation. But as the long antler of Dun fell back onto the horizon and the familiar outline of the island grew faint, the severing of an ancient tie became a reality and the St Kildans gave way to tears.[77]

Empty islands

In 1931 Sir Reginald MacLeod sold the abandoned islands to John Crichton-Stuart, Lord Dumfries (later 5th Marquess of Bute). After many centuries the isles had passed from the hands of the Macleods. For the next 26 years the island experienced quietude, save for the occasional summer visit from tourists or a returning St Kildan family.[78][79]

The islands took no active part in Second World War, during which they were completely abandoned,[80] but three aircraft crash sites remain from that period. A Bristol Beaufighter|Beaufighter LX798 based at Port Ellen on Islay crashed into Conachair within 100 yards of the summit on the night of 3–4 June 1943. A year later, just before midnight on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day, a Sunderland flying boat ML858 was wrecked at the head of Gleann Mòr. A small plaque in the kirk is dedicated to those who died in this accident.[81] A Wellington bomber crashed on the south coast of Soay in 1942 or 1943. Not until 1978 was any formal attempt made to investigate the wreck, and its identity has not been absolutely determined. Amongst the wreckage, a Royal Canadian Air Force cap badge was discovered, which suggests it may have been HX448 of 7 OTU which went missing on a navigation exercise on 28 September 1942. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the Wellington is LA995 of 303 FTU which was lost on 23 February 1943.[82][83]

On his death on 14 August 1956, the Marquess of Bute's will bequeathed the archipelago to the National Trust for Scotland provided they accept the offer within six months. After much consideration, the Executive Committee agreed to do so in January 1957. Soon afterward, St Kilda was declared an inalienable property of the Trust's. The Trust did however grant a lease of the islands to the Ministry of Defence.

The National Trust and the Army

The tracking tower on Mullach Sgar

In 1955 the British government decided to incorporate St Kilda into a missile tracking range based in Benbecula, where test firings and flights are carried out. Thus in 1957 St Kilda became permanently inhabited once again. A variety of military buildings and masts have since been erected, including the island's first licensed premises, the 'Puff Inn'. The Ministry of Defence leases St Kilda from the National Trust for Scotland for a nominal fee.[84] The main island of Hirta is still occupied year-round by a small number of civilians employed by defence contractor QinetiQ working in the military base on a monthly rotation.[2][85] In 2009 the MOD announced that it was considering closing down its missile testing ranges in the Western Isles, potentially leaving the Hirta base unmanned.

Nature conservation

The slow renovation and conservation of the village began, much of it undertaken by summer volunteer work parties.[86] In addition, scientific research began on the feral Soay sheep population and other aspects of the natural environment. In 1957 the area was designated a National Nature Reserve.[87]

In 1986 the islands became the first place in Scotland to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its terrestrial natural features.[88] In 2004, the WHS was extended to include a large amount of the surrounding marine features as well as the islands themselves.[89][90] In 2005 St Kilda became one of only two dozen global locations to be awarded mixed World Heritage Status for both 'natural' and 'cultural' significance. The islands share this honour with internationally important sites such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Mount Athos in Greece and the Drakensberg Park in South Africa.[91]

The St Kilda World Heritage Site covers a total area of 59,803 acres including the land and sea.[19] The land area is 2,112 acres.[20]

St Kilda is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a National Scenic Area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a European Union Special Protection Area.[92] Visiting yachts may find shelter in Village Bay, but those wishing to land are told to contact the National Trust for Scotland in advance. Concern exists about the introduction of non-native animal and plant species into such a fragile environment.[1]

St Kilda's marine environment of underwater caves, arches and chasms offers a challenging but superlative diving experience. Such is the power of the North Atlantic swell that the effects of the waves can be detected 40 fathoms below sea level.[93]

In 2008 the National Trust for Scotland received the support of the Minister for Environment for their plan to ensure no rats come ashore from the Spinningdale, a UK-registered/Spanish-owned fishing vessel grounded on Hirta. There was concern that bird life on the island could be seriously affected.[94][95] Fortunately, potential contaminants from the vessel including fuel, oils, bait and stores were successfully removed by Dutch salvage company Mammoet before the bird breeding season in early April.[96]


Prehistoric buildings

Ruins in Gleann Mòr

The oldest structures on St Kilda are the most enigmatic. Large sheepfolds lie inland from the existing village at An Lag Bho'n Tuath (in English, "the hollow in the north") and contain curious 'boat-shaped' stone rings, or 'settings'. Soil samples suggest a date of 1850 BC, but they are unique to St Kilda, and their purpose is unknown. In Gleann Mòr, (north-west of Village Bay beyond Hirta's central ridge), there are 20 'horned structures', essentially ruined buildings with a main court measuring about 3 yards by 3 yards, two or more smaller cells and a forecourt formed by two curved or horn-shaped walls. Again, nothing like them exists anywhere else in Britain or Europe, and their original use is unknown.[97] Also in Gleann Mòr is Taigh na Banaghaisgeich, the 'Amazon's House'. As Martin (1703) reported, many St Kilda tales are told about this female warrior.

This Amazon is famous in their traditions: her house or dairy of stone is yet extant; some of the inhabitants dwell in it all summer, though it be some hundred years old; the whole is built of stone, without any wood, lime, earth, or mortar to cement it, and is built in form of a circle pyramid-wise towards the top, having a vent in it, the fire being always in the centre of the floor; the stones are long and thin, which supplies the defect of wood; the body of this house contains not above nine persons sitting; there are three beds or low vaults that go off the side of the wall, a pillar betwixt each bed, which contains five men apiece; at the entry to one of these low vaults is a stone standing upon one end fix'd; upon this they say she ordinarily laid her helmet; there are two stones on the other side, upon which she is reported to have laid her sword: she is said to have been much addicted to hunting, and that in her time all the space betwixt this isle and that of Harries, was one continued tract of dry land.[30]

Similar stories of a female warrior who hunted the now submerged land between the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda are reported from Harris.[98] The structure's forecourt is akin to the other 'horned structures' in the immediate area, but like Martin's "Amazon" its original purpose is the stuff of legend rather than archaeological fact.

Much more is known of the hundreds of unique cleitean that decorate the archipelago. These dome-shaped structures are constructed of flat boulders with a cap of turf on the top. This enables the wind to pass through the cavities in the wall but keeps the rain out. They were used for storing peat, nets, grain, preserved flesh and eggs, manure, hay and as a shelter for lambs in winter. The date of origin of this St Kildan invention is unknown, but they were in continuous use from prehistoric times until the 1930 evacuation. More than 1,200 ruined or intact cleitean remain on Hirta and a further 170 on the neighbouring islands.[99][100] House no. 16 in the modern village has an early Christian stone cross built into the front wall, which may date from the 7th century.[101]

Mediæval village

The Village. The Head Wall surrounds the site, with Tobar Childa top left, the 19th century Street at centre and the new military base to the right.

A mediæval village lay near Tobar Childa, about 380 yards from the shore, at the foot of the slopes of Conachair. The oldest building is an underground passage with two small annexes called Taigh an t-Sithiche (house of the faeries) which dates to between 500 BC and AD 300. The St Kildans believed it was a house or hiding place, although a more recent theory suggests that it was an ice house.[102]

Extensive ruins of field walls and cleitean and the remnants of a mediæval 'house' with a beehive-shaped annex remain. Nearby is the 'Bull's House', a roofless rectangular structure in which the island's bull was kept during winter. Tobar Childa itself is supplied by two springs that lie just outside the Head Wall that was constructed around the Village to prevent sheep and cattle gaining access to the cultivated areas within its boundary.[103] There were 25 to 30 houses altogether. Most were black houses of typical Hebridean design, but some older buildings were made of corbelled stone and turfed rather than thatched. The turf was used to prevent ingress of wind and rain, and the older "beehive" buildings resembled green hillocks rather than dwellings.[104]

Recent structures

The Head Wall was built in 1834 when the mediæval village was abandoned and a new one planned between Tobar Childa and the sea some 700 feet down the slope. This came about as the result of a visit by Sir Thomas Dyke Ackland, the MP for Devon. Appalled by the primitive conditions, he made a donation that led to the construction of a completely new settlement of 30 new black houses. Several of the new dwellings were damaged by a severe gale in October 1860, and repairs were sufficient only to make them suitable for use as byres. According to Alasdair MacGregor's analysis of the settlement, the sixteen modern, zinc-roofed cottages amidst the black houses and new Factor's house seen in most photographs of the natives were constructed around 1862.[105]

These houses were made of dry stone, had thick walls and were roofed with turf. Each typically had only one tiny window and a small aperture for letting out smoke from the peat fire that burnt in the middle of the room. As a result, the interiors were blackened by soot. The cattle occupied one end of the house in winter, and once a year the straw from the floor was stripped out and spread on the ground.[106]

The Feather Store, where fulmar and gannet feathers were kept, and sold to pay the rent

One of the more poignant ruins on Hirta is the site of 'Lady Grange's House'. Rachel Chiesley, Lady Grange had been married to the Jacobite sympathiser James Erskine of Grange for 25 years when he decided that she might have overheard too many of his treasonable plottings. He had her kidnapped and secretly confined in Edinburgh for six months. From there she was sent to the Monach Isles, where she lived in isolation for two years. She was then taken to Hirta from 1734 to 1740, which she described as "a vile neasty, stinking poor isle". After a failed rescue attempt, she was removed by Erskine to the Isle of Skye, where she died. The 'house' is a large cleit in the Village meadows.[107][108][109][110]

Boswell and Johnson discussed the subject during their 1773 tour of the Hebrides. Boswell wrote:

"After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange's being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. Dr Johnson said, if M'Leod would let it be known that he had such a place for naughty ladies, he might make it a very profitable island."[111]
The 'International Sea & Airport Lounge'

In the 1860s unsuccessful attempts were made to improve the landing area by blasting rocks. A small jetty was erected in 1877, but it was washed away in a storm two years later. In 1883 representations to the Napier Commission suggested the building of a replacement, but it was 1901 before the Congested Districts Board provided an engineer to enable one to be completed the following year. Nearby on the shore line are some huge boulders which were known throughout the Highlands and Islands in the 19th century as Doirneagan Hirt, Hirta's pebbles.[112]

At one time, three churches stood on Hirta. Christ Church, in the site of the graveyard at the centre of the village, was in use in 1697 and was the largest, but this thatched-roof structure was too small to hold the entire population, and most of the congregation had to gather in the churchyard during services. St Brendan's Church lay over half a mile away on the slopes of Ruival, and St Columba's at the west end of the village street, but little is left of these buildings. A new kirk and manse were erected at the east end of the village in 1830 and a Factor's house in 1860.[113][114]

Buildings on other islands

Dùn from Ruival with Stac Levenish behind

Dùn means "fort", and there is but a single ruined wall of a structure said to have been built in the far-distant past by the mythical Fir Bolg.[115] The only "habitation" is Sean Taigh (old house), a natural cavern sometimes used as a shelter by the St Kildans when they were tending the sheep or catching birds.

Soay has a primitive hut known as Taigh Dugan (Dugan's house). This is little more than an excavated hole under a huge stone with two rude walls on the sides. The story of its creation relates to two sheep-stealing brothers from Lewis who came to St Kilda only to cause further trouble. Dugan was exiled to Soay, where he died; the other, called Fearchar Mòr, was sent to Stac an Armin, where he found life so intolerable he cast himself into the sea.

Boreray boasts the Cleitean MacPhàidein, a "cleit village" of three small bothies used on a regular basis during fowling expeditions. Here too are the ruins of Taigh Stallar (the steward's house), which was similar to the Amazon's house in Gleann Mòr although somewhat larger, and which had six bed spaces. The local tradition was that it was built by the "Man of the Rocks", who led a rebellion against the landlord's steward.[116] It may be an example of an Iron Age wheelhouse and the associated remains of an agricultural field system were discovered in 2011.[117][118] As a result of a smallpox outbreak on Hirta in 1724, three men and eight boys were marooned on Boreray until the following May.[119] No fewer than 78 storage cleitean exist on Stac an Armin and a small bothy. Incredibly, a small bothy exists on the precipitous Stac Lee too, also used by fowlers.[120]

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Haswell-Smith, Hamish. (2004) The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh. Canongate. Pages 314–25.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The new residents of St Kilda archipelago". (29 August 2010). BBC News. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
  3. See especially Maclean (1977), Steel (1988), Fleming (2005).
  4. McMillan, Joyce (3 March 2007) "St Kilda the Opera brings out the bully-boys". Edinburgh. The Scotsman. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  5. "World Heritage: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". UNESCO. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
  6. Steel (1988) page 273.
  7. "Knowledge of the marine environment" (PDF) Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 2 January 2007.
  8. Maclean (1977) page 18.
  9. Fleming (2005) page 64.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Maclean (1977) page 33.
  11. Quine (2000) pages 99, 109, 111, 125, 137, 145.
  12. "Dual World Heritage Status For Unique Scottish Islands". National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
  13. Maclean (1977) page 19.
  14. Baxter and Crumley (1988) page 87. "Village Bay and its hills... a stupendous sham, a masterly St Kildan deception."
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Keay, J. & Keay, J. (1994) Collins Encyclopaedia of Scotland. London. HarperCollins. Pages 840–2.
  16. Baxter and Crumley (1988) page 7.
  17. Murray (1966) page 163.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Fraser Darling, F. and Boyd, J.M. (1969) Natural History in the Highlands and Islands. London. Bloomsbury.
  19. 19.0 19.1 UN Environment Programme. It defines the site as being contained within a square with the coordinates 57°54'36"N / 08°42'W, 57°46'N / 08°42'W, 57°46'N / 08°25' 42"W, 57°54'36"N / 08°25'42'W.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "St Kilda World Heritage Site Management Plan 2003 - 2008" (PDF) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 24 January 2007.
  21. "Soays of America" Retrieved 24 December 2007.
  22. "Sheep". Rare Breeds Watchlist. Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  23. Benvie, Neil (2000) Scotland's Wildlife. London. Aurum Press.
  24. Fisher, James & Waterston, George (Nov. 1941) The Breeding Distribution, History and Population of The Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) in the British Isles. Edinburgh. The Journal of Animal Ecology, Vol. 10, No. 2 pp. 204–272. Retrieved 24 March 2007.
  25. McKenzie, Steven "Bird night attacks may be unique" (5 November 2007) BBC News. Retrieved on 6 November 2007.
  26. "The mammals on Mykines" Retrieved 22 May 2007.
  27. "St Kilda National Nature Reserve: 'A world apart'." (PDF) Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
  28. Gauld, R. Bagenal, T.E. and Connell, J.H. (1953) "The marine fauna and flora of St. Kilda, 1952". Scottish Naturalist 65 pp 29–49, quoted in Darling and Boyd (1969) page 184.
  29. Buchanan (1983) Pages 2–6.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 30.5 Martin, Martin (1703).
  31. Steel (1988) page 27.
  32. Fleming (2005) page 27. Maclean does not state which island caused the confusion, but Fleming equates 'Skildir' with Haskeir.
  33. de Nicolay, Nicholas (1583) Vraye & exacte description Hydrographique des costes maritimes d'Escosse & des Isles Orchades Hebrides avec partie d'Angleterre & d'Irlande servant a la navigation. Edinburgh. National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 22 December 2007.
  34. Fleming (2005)
  35. Martin Martin (1703): "Hirta is taken from the Irish Ier, which in that language signifies west".
  36. Haswell-Smith (2004)
  37. Steel (1988) pages 26–27.
  38. Murray, W H (1966) The Hebrides. London. Heinemann, pages 196, 236.
  39. Coates, Richard (1990).
  40. Steel (1988) page 32.
  41. 41.0 41.1 "Life in St. Kilda", an account by J. Sands in Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Art, 1877. Retrieved 1 April 2007.
  42. Maclean (1977) pages 136–8.
  43. "St Kilda mailboat" Glasgow Digital Library. Retrieved 4 March 2008.
  44. Johnson, Samuel (1775) A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Republished, Chapman & Dodd, London, 1924. Page 121.
  45. The St Kildans did fish from the rocks and even organised fishing trips from their boat(s) from time to time, but this was an occasional event, sometimes undertaken to pay rent, rather than a crucial aspect of day-to-day island life. See Maclean (1977) pp 102-03, who also quotes J. MacCulloch's 1824 Description of the Western Islands of Scotland as stating "The neglect of fishing proceeds from the wealth of the inhabitants. They possess already as much food as they can consume, and are under no temptation to augment it by another perilous and laborious employment".
  46. 46.0 46.1 Cooper, Derek (1979) Road to the Isles: Travellers in the Hebrides 1770–1914. London. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  47. Maclean (1977) page 26.
  48. Steel (1988) pages 44–6
  49. See for example Steel (1988) page 71 quoting Macauley in 1756, MacCulloch in 1819 and Ross in 1887.
  50. Fleming (2005) pages 107 and 110.
  51. Steel (1988) pages 33–4.
  52. Maclean, Lachlan (1838) Sketches on the Island of St Kilda. McPhun.
  53. St Kilda: Revised Nomination of St Kilda for inclusion in the World Heritage Site List (January 2003) (pdf) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 21 March 2007.
  54. Fleming (2005) page 27 quoting Taylor, A.B. (1968) "The Norsemen in St Kilda". Saga book of the Viking Society. 17. 116–43.
  55. Fleming (2005) page 63.
  56. Maclean (1972) page 34 quoting John of Fordun's Scotichronicon of c. 1380.
  57. Monro (1549) "Hirta" No. 158. Translation from Scots: "The inhabitants are simple poor people, hardly educated in any religion, but the steward of MacLeod of Harris, or his deputy, sails there once a year at midsummer with a chaplain to baptise the children".
  58. Macauley, Rev Kenneth (1764) History of St Kilda. London
  59. Fleming (2005) page 28.
  60. This is the date provided by Quine (2000) for the marooning of the group on Stac an Armin, (see 'Buildings on other islands' above), although Steel (1988) states that the outbreak took place in 1724.
  61. Maclean (1977) page 125.
  62. Fleming (2005) page 32.
  63. Maclean (1977) pages 115–6.
  64. Maclean (1977) page 116
  65. John Sands, quoted in Maclean (1977) page 117.
  66. Maclean (1977) pages 116–9.
  67. Steel (1988) pages 150–5.
  68. Maclean (1977) page 140.
  69. Fleming (2005) page 165.
  70. Steel (1988) page 167.
  71. Neil Gilles, quoted in Steel (1988) page 167.
  72. Steel (1988) page 168.
  73. The Evacuation Accessed 2 December 2008
  74. Even in the 21st century this is a problem. The National Trust reported in 2006 that it was cancelling 2007 work parties as "adverse weather conditions resulted in our supplies failing to reach St Kilda and our next opportunity to get supplies out is May 2007." "Work party information" National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
  75. "Poison in Paradise" National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  76. Meharga, Andrew. A et al. (September 2006) "Ancient manuring practices pollute arable soils at the St Kilda World Heritage Site, Scottish North Atlantic" Chemosphere 64, Issue 11. Pages 1818–1828. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  77. Maclean (1977) page 142.
  78. Thompson, Francis (1970) St Kilda and other Hebridean Outliers. David & Charles. ISBN 071534885X
  79. Steel (1988) pages 229–32.
  80. Steel (1988) page 234.
  81. Quine (2000) page 90.
  82. Steel (1988) page 236.
  83. Barry, John C. (1980) "Wartime Wrecks on St. Kilda" After the Battle. 30 p. 28.
  84. Steel (1988) pages 238–55.
  85. "Advice for visitors" (2004) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 18 March 2007. This notes that the name 'Puff Inn' is misleading in that it is not open to the public.
  86. Steel (1988) pages 256–7.
  87. "Scotland's National Nature Reserves—St Kilda" National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  88. "Scotland's National Nature Reserves—News and Events" (9 December 2004) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  89. Marine Environment gains World Heritage Protection (2 July 2004) The National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  90. "World Heritage Sites in Scotland" (21 July 2007) Scottish Parliament Information Centre. Research Note RN 01/73. Retrieved 3 January 2007.
  91. "Dual World Heritage Status For Unique Scottish Islands" (14 July 2005) National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 6 January 2007.
  92. "St Kilda National Nature Reserve" National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 16 March 2007.
  93. McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. Page 220.
  94. Escobales, Roxanne (5 February 2008). "Trawler rats threaten St Kilda seabirds". London: Guardian Newspapers. Retrieved 30-Jun-2010. 
  95. "Rats probe under way on St Kilda" BBC. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  96. Gaston, Jack (2008-05-29). "Early bird saves UK heritage site". Lloyd's List Daily Commercial News (Informa Australia Pty Ltd): p. 22. 
  97. Quine (2000) page 91–2.
  98. Maclean (1977) pages 27–8.
  99. Maclean (1977) pages 65–6.
  100. Quine (2000) page 32.
  101. Quine (2000) page 51.
  102. Quine (2000) pages 52–3.
  103. Quine (2000) page 30.
  104. Maclean (1977) page 66.
  105. MacGregor (1969) page 129.
  106. Steel (1988) pages 72–3.
  107. Quine (2000) page 48.
  108. Steel (1988) pages 31–2.
  109. Keay & Keay (1994) page 358.
  110. "St Kilda: Fascinating Facts" National Trust for Scotland. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  111. Boswell, James (1785) Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. [1]
  112. Quine (2000) pages 29–30.
  113. Maclean (1977) page 31.
  114. Quine (2000) page 37.
  115. Maclean (1977) page 29.
  116. Maclean (1977) page 28.
  117. Fleming (2005) page 58.
  118. "Prehistoric finds on remote St Kilda's Boreray isle". (17 June 2011) BBC News. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  119. Maclean (1977) pages 48–9
  120. Quine (2000) pages 142 and 146.


  • Baxter, Colin and Crumley, Jim (1998) St Kilda: A portrait of Britain's remotest island landscape, Biggar, Colin Baxter Photography ISBN 0948661038
  • Buchanan, Margaret (1983) St Kilda: a Photographic Album, W. Blackwood, ISBN 0851581625
  • Coates, Richard (1990) The Place-names of St Kilda, Lampeter, Edwin Mellen Press
  • Fraser Darling, F, and Boyd, JM (1969) Natural History in the Highlands and Islands, London, Bloomsbury ISBN 187063098X
  • Fleming, Andrew (2005) St. Kilda and the Wider World: Tales of an Iconic Island, Windgather Press ISBN 1905119003
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  • Martin, Martin (1703) "A Voyage to St. Kilda" in A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland, Appin Regiment/Appin Historical Society. Retrieved 3 March 2007
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  • Quine, David (2000) St Kilda, Grantown-on-Spey, Colin Baxter Island Guides ISBN 1841070084
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  • Atkinson, Robert Island going to the remoter isles, chiefly uninhabited, off the north-west corner of Scotland, William Collins, 1949. (Reprinted Birlinn, 1995 ISBN 1874744319)
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  • Coates, Richard The Place-Names of St. Kilda, Edwin Mellen Press, 1990 ISBN 0889460779
  • Gilbert, O. The Lichen Hunters. St Kilda: Lichens at the Edge of the World, The Book Guild Ltd., England, 2004 ISBN 1857769309
  • Harden, Jill and Lelong, Olivia "Winds of Change, the Living Landscapes of Hirta, St Kilda", Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 2011 ISBN 9780903903295
  • Harman, Mary An Isle Called Hirte: History and Culture of St. Kilda to 1930, MacLean Press, 1996 ISBN 1899272038
  • Kearton, Richard With Nature and a Camera, Cassell and Company, London, 1898
  • Macaulay, Kenneth (1764), The History of St Kilda, T Becket and P A De Hondt, London
  • Macauley, Margaret (2009) The Prisoner of St Kilda: The true story of the unfortunate Lady Grange, Edinburgh, Luath ISBN 9781906817022
  • McCutcheon, Campbell St. Kilda: a Journey to the End of the World, Tempus, 2002 ISBN 0752423800
  • Stell, Geoffrey P., and Mary Harman Buildings of St Kilda, Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments in Scotland, 1988 ISBN 011493391X

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