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See Melbourne/St Kilda for the St Kilda in Melbourne

St Kilda is a small archipelago in the Atlantic, 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles of Scotland, of which it's administratively part. Hirta is the main island, and there is no island called St Kilda.


Main Street, Hirta

Until 1930 the people of Hirta subsisted by fishing, crofting and eating seagull eggs, in squalid impoverished conditions. The islands of Dùn, Soay and Boreray were never permanently inhabited and were just used for sheep grazing and egg collecting. In the early 20th century young folk drifted away in search of a better life, there was a run of crop failures, and a young woman died for lack of mainland medical treatment. The last 36 residents were evacuated on 26 Aug 1930 to Morvern on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

There has been an army base here since 1957, running the radar station that tracks the missile range off Benbecula. Much of the station is now run remotely and it had been intended for those personnel to leave (they're nowadays employed by the privatised defence firm Qinetiq.) A change of plan means that they're staying, and the station facilities are being noisily rebuilt, but this is in the hands of the switchback politics of the UK defence industry.

St Kilda is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Hirta has a resident ranger and rotating NTS work parties but there are very few visitor facilities, eg no cafe. Most visitors come on day trips by boat whenever summer conditions allow. St Kilda isn't the most remote spot in the British Isles - a handful of other islands vie for that title - but has become a romanticised metaphor for isolation. That's mainly because its evacuation is still within living memory, with original film footage, boosted by the fictionalised version of the 1937 Michael Powell film "The Edge of the World".

For a map of St Kilda, try the historic maps from The National Library of Scotland.

Visitor information[edit]

Get in[edit]

St Kilda archipelago

By boat, preferably not on Tuesday or Friday, when the supply boat calls to replenish the resident staff, and the landing area is congested.

There are no ferries or air services to St Kilda. With your own boat, or by cruise or boat trip as described below, you need to transfer to a small open dinghy (e.g., a Zodiac RIB) to land on Hirta; there's no mooring. That's mainly because the jetty is tiny, it's also to ensure that no rats can sneak ashore with you, to devastate the island's bird life. (And no dogs or other pets are allowed ashore.) Hirta's jetty is sheltered from the prevailing west winds, but wind or swell from the east or south-east makes landing impractical. Landing on the other islands is only by special permission and is tricky even in the best conditions, as they are steep crags with no harbour. Regular summer visits are:

  • NTS Work Party, see "Do". The NTS hires its own boats for these groups.
  • Cruise ships with a 7- to 10-day tour of the Outer Hebrides and other isles. Itineraries are flexible to adjust for sea conditions, especially for St Kilda so they may not be able to call. See listings in the home ports for:
    • Hebrides Cruises sailing from Oban.
    • Majestic Line sailing from Oban.
    • St Hilda Sea Adventures sailing from Oban.
    • Noble Caledonia sailing from several UK ports.
  • Day trips sail from Skye and the Western Isles. You have to make yourself available for a two-day slot, and they sail on the first suitable day of that slot. It's a 3- to 4-hour crossing with four hours ashore on Hirta, then a sail around the other islands and on homeward. The boats have shelter and toilets but no catering, bring your own packed lunch. See listings in the home ports for:
    • Sea Harris sailing from Leverburgh on Harris.
    • Kilda Cruises based in Tarbert on Harris but sailing from Leverburgh.
    • Go to St Kilda sailing from Stein on Skye.
  • Camping: If you're staying at the campsite and don't have organised transport, you need to negotiate one-way trips with these operators. You may have to pay double, since the boat will be left with an unused day-trip space on each leg of the journey. Also factor in the possibility of cancelled boats outward or homebound. But firm up your camping first as this is even more limited than boat spaces.

Get around[edit]

Walk. The island is only four miles long, with a mile of track, so the usual four-hour landing of a day trip is enough to reach anywhere that's safe to approach.


  • The bay at Hirta is the flooded caldera of a volcano active 55 million years ago, during the formation of the Atlantic.
  • 1 Main Street. A row of stone "white houses" built in the 1860s, to replace the village's squalid turf-roofed "black houses". Several have been restored and are used as facilities for NTS work parties. One houses the Museum. Others lie derelict.
  • Lady Grange's House: A cleit is a stone shed or bothy; there are several dotted around the island. This one, on Main Street, was the "house" of Lady Grange (Rachel Chiesley) between 1734 and 1740. She had fallen out with her husband, a high-ranking Edinburgh lawyer, and took to screaming abuse at him in the street and in church. Her accusations of Jacobite treason had enough truth in them to be dangerous, so Lord Grange had her abducted. Then aged 52, she was held captive in several places across the Highlands, then for two years on the Monach Isles and in 1734 was brought to St Kilda. She spent six years in filthy conditions marooned on this rain-lashed Alcatraz, and no-one looked for her or much missed her violent temper. (Dr Johnson later commented that if the land-owner "let it be known that he had such a place for naughty ladies, he might make it a very profitable island.") Eventually a smuggled letter reached her own lawyer, who organised a rescue - but Lord Grange heard of it and bundled her off elsewhere. Her last years were spent in captivity on Skye, where she died in 1745.
  • Wildlife: Puffins are seen from the track leading from the village. Watch also for the unique St Kilda Wren and St Kilda Fieldmouse, fulmars and bonxies, and the semi-wild brown Soay sheep.
  • 2 Mullach Mor is the summit of the track, at 361 m. Pity about the ugly radar station, its job is to track missiles fired from the test range on South Uist. A longer circular hike takes in Mullach Bi to the west and Conachair east at 430 m, but this is stretching it for most day trip schedules.
  • Cliffs and sea stacks are dangerous and better admired from the boat. Or better still from below water, where they continue as wall faces and clefts for scuba divers to explore.
  • 3 Dùn is the mile-long island sheltering Hirta's bay. The name means a prehistoric fort but there's no trace of this. Until the Middle Ages it was connected to Hirta by a natural arch, but this collapsed - the gully between may be fordable at low tide. The sheep don't care to try this so the vegetation on Dùn is lusher than elsewhere in St Kilda.
  • 4 Soay means "island of sheep" (Old Norse Seyðoy), and several islands are so called, but this is the one with the distinctive feral Soay sheep. They were only introduced to Hirta when that island became uninhabited. The west tip of Soay is the westernmost point in the UK, if Rockall is discounted.
  • 5 Boreray rises abruptly to 384 m, yet from prehistoric times people have somehow clung to its slopes. The Boreray sheep is another distinct rare breed, a small horned blackface.


Cleit above Village Bay
  • National Trust for Scotland organise work parties in summer, typically for two weeks. The work typically involves repairing facilities, wildlife monitoring or archaeology. A cook and a work leader travel out with each group, and various excursions are organised. These parties are over-subscribed, and you need to contact the NTS by autumn for a chance of going out the following summer.
  • Keep a constant eye on the weather. If it's turning for the worse, make your way back to the jetty, as your boat may need to sail at short notice.


Souvenirs may be available occasionally from either the ranger or the leader of work parties.


There are no eating facilities open to the public. The army base is off-limits to visitors.


Boreray in the mist

There are no facilities open to the public. The Puff Inn inside the army base is off-limits.


  • If you have your own boat, you're better sleeping aboard.
  • National Trust for Scotland campsite, c/o Balnain House, 40 Huntly Street, Inverness IV3 5HR. The campsite can only take six, and is usually booked out to NTS groups. You may be able to use the campsite independently, but must make a reservation with NTS months in advance. The NTS work parties sleep in dorms in restored houses in the village, but these aren't available to other visitors.


There is no mobile signal on St Kilda or on the boat crossing.

Go next[edit]

  • If you're lucky, back to where you sailed from. If you're unlucky, you'll be stuck here contemplating a churning grey ocean and the empty wrapper of your last toffee.
  • Even more remote islands: uninhabited North Rona is 71 km northwest of Cape Wrath, further out from the mainland than St Kilda. A very occasional cruise ship visits (eg Noble Caledonia as above) but there are no regular boat trips and you won't even find it on most maps of Britain. St Kilda may be "The Edge of the World" but North Rona feels to have slid off the edge altogether.

This park travel guide to St Kilda is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.