St Kilda: Travel back 130 years for a stroll on the edge of the earth

Step onto the fabled archipelago of St Kilda without leaving your home this lockdown.

While we can’t venture far at the moment, virtual reality is opening up some of Scotland’s most famous places like never before.

St Kilda is one of the historic sites brought to life by the Open Virtual Worlds Project at St Andrews University, which uses the latest technology to tear down boundaries of time and place.

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What it's like living on St Kilda
The reconstruction of Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda, was created to open up access to the fabled island which sits to the west of the Outer Hebrides.

The St Kilda project takes users back to Village Bay on Hirta in 1890, some 30 years before it was evacuated of its permanent population.

The village cottages, blackhouses, cemetery and school come into view on the tour, as well as the odd resident. Then, a fly through of the village gives a bird’s eye perspective of this fascinating place.

The project was completed by Sarah Kennedy and her team on the Open Virtual Worlds research team in collaboration with the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in North Uist.

Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda has been digitally reconstructed to show what it would have been like at the end of the 19th Century, before its last residents were evacuated. PIC: NTS.

Norman MacLeod, of Taigh Chearsabhagh, said he came up with the idea to reconstruct Village Bay on Hirta to give access to the island for all.

He said: “St Kilda is one of these places that a lot of people, like those with disabilities or those without a lot of money, can’t get to very easily.

“There is a huge wealth of educational material about what the people lived on, what they survived on, what diseases were brought onto the island and the folklore of the place.

“My own grandfather helped with the evacuation in the 1930s so I think that really pushed me to do something.”

On August 29, 1930, the last 36 residents of St Kilda were evacuated from Hirta on the HMS Harebell.

The ship collected 13 men, 10 women and 13 children from the island with the evacuation coming three months after the remaining islanders petitioned the government for help to leave.

St Kilda sits just over 40 miles west of Benbecula and its today is a temporary home to conservationists and military staff based at the MOD tracking station there.

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