St Kilda: Please stay away from our 'amazing' island

The call of a near-empty island far from anywhere may feel extra strong right now.

Normally buzzing with visitors at this time of year , Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda , remains almost deserted with tourists urged to stay away. PIC: Creative Commons.
Normally buzzing with visitors at this time of year , Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda , remains almost deserted with tourists urged to stay away. PIC: Creative Commons.
Normally buzzing with visitors at this time of year , Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda , remains almost deserted with tourists urged to stay away. PIC: Creative Commons.

But people have been urged not to travel to St Kilda as lockdown eases in order to protect the bubble of island life.

National Trust for Scotland, which owns the archipelago, said it appreciated many people wanted to go visit the island, which sits 40 miles to the west of its nearest neighbour in the Outer Hebrides, but that the time to do so was not now.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A statement said: “Although we understand the call to visit this amazing World Heritage Site is strong, we ask people do not travel until further notice.

“However, if you do visits, please take home everything you bring with you.”

NTS has shut the toilet blocks, shop and camping site with the pier also closed, unless in the case of an emergency.

Julie Hunt, chairman of the St Kilda Club, which promotes and supports the conservation of the dual UNESCO heritage site, said safety of NTS staff had driven the move to keep the island locked down as far as possible.

NTS usually has three people stationed on the island over the summer, including an archaeologist, but the conservation charity has kept staff off St Kilda for time being.

Ms Hunt said: “Obviously the island isn’t shut per se given the right to roam rules so the island is open but NTS have shut the pier, the museum and the shop.

“It is ok if you have a day boat and you sail up and then return to the mainland.

“But we really don’t want to be in a position where you have a NTS member of staff and someone arrives on the island, coughs and splutters over them and infects them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Getting someone off the island off the island when they are ill is not easy, it is a coastguard job, and calling the coastguard out is very expensive.

“And then, where are they going to head to? Well Stornoway, and we know they have already said they are very wary of people visiting the island.

“All this is coming from a safety point of view.”

Read More
What it is like living on St Kilda

Researchers for the St Kilda Soay Sheep Project, which has carried out a continuous study of the rare breed on the island since 1985, stay away.

Meanwhile, around 20 to 30 people remain at the Ministry of Defence base on St Kilda.

Ms Hunt added: “We also have to think about the people on the base. We really don’t want people coming on the island and then there is an outbreak of the virus there.”

Ms Hunt said the St Kilda Club had offered financial support to NTS, which is currently trying to stem a £28m shortfall in funding given loss of income caused by the pandemic, if help was required to re-open the island.

“They know they can come to us,” said Ms Hunt, with the club raising its funds through membership subscriptions and sales from the island shop.

Next month marks the 90th anniversary of the evacuation of the last permanent residents of St Kilda.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is understood that a programme of events on the island was being devised by NTS to mark the occasion, with the planning now halted due to coronavirus.

Ms Hunt said the club was now working to put the celebration of St Kildan life and its legacy online, with a range of musicians and speakers, including the direct descendants of those who left St Kilda on August 29 1930, due to take part in the afternoon event.

The operation to evacuate the last 36 residents from St Kilda began at 5am that day, with tthe last islanders leaving three months after they petitioned the government for help.

The population had fallen away from 90 residents in 1764. Emigration to Australian and a breakout of flu in 1912 had brought the number of islanders down to untenable level, with eight or nine widows among the 23 adults who remained.

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director