diamond geezer

 Friday, June 23, 2006

Postcard from the Hebrides: the remotest village in Britain (1930)

For several centuries the tiny volcanic islands of St Kilda, 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, were home to the farthest-flung residents of the UK [map]. A hardy community of birdcatchers lived here on a 'gannet and eggs' diet, taking advantage of some of the largest seabird colonies in Western Europe. Usually the locals stayed on the islands munching puffins, but occasionally they travelled to the mainland and accidentally brought back diseases which wiped out half the resident population. By 1930 the 36 remaining inhabitants had had enough, and so willingly packed their bags and evacuated to start new lives on the mainland. Nowadays the National Trust for Scotland maintains a presence on St Kilda protecting the unique environment, and nobody eats the puffins any more.

One of my reasons for visiting the Outer Hebrides was to attempt to reach St Kilda for myself. It's not quite as impossible as it sounds, with several boatowners offering trips and cruises out across the choppy waters of the North Atlantic. For £120 Angus from Kilda Cruises will even get you there and back in a day - except, as I discovered to my cost, all his seats get snapped up months in advance. Never mind, the weather last week turned out to be too wet and windy to run daily sailings anyway, so even a confirmed booking would have been a disappointment. Ah well, at least it gives me an excuse to return.

Kilda links: main site (fab); blog (honest); history; photo tours; more photos; visiting; World Heritage Status; sheep; byelaws; Kilda for kids; more facts

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