St Kilda: Please stay away from our ‘amazing’ island

By on July 27, 2020 0
Normally buzzing with visitors at this time of year, Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda, remains almost deserted with tourists urged to stay away. IPC: Creative Commons.

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

The National Trust for Scotland, which owns the archipelago, said it appreciates that many people want to visit the island, which is 40 miles west of its closest neighbor in the Outer Hebrides, but the time had not come to do so.

A statement said: ‘While we understand the call to visit this incredible World Heritage Site is strong, we ask people not to travel until further notice.

“However, if you are visiting, please take home whatever you bring with you.”

NTS has closed the toilet blocks, shop and campsite with the jetty also closed except for emergencies.

Julie Hunt, chair of the St Kilda Club, which promotes and supports the conservation of the dual UNESCO heritage site, said the safety of NTS staff was the driving force behind the decision to keep the island locked down as much as possible.

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

Ms Hunt said: ‘Obviously the island is not closed per se given the roaming right so the island is open but NTS has closed the pier, museum and shop.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a day boat and you sail and then come back to the mainland.

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

“Getting someone off the island when they’re sick isn’t easy, it’s coastguard work, and calling the coastguard is very expensive.

“And then, where are they going to go? Well Stornoway, and we know they’ve said before that they’re very suspicious of people visiting the island.

“It all comes from a security perspective.”

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What it’s like to live in St Kilda

Researchers from the St Kilda Soay Sheep Project, which has carried out an ongoing study of the rare breed on the island since 1985, remain on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, around 20-30 personnel remain at the Ministry of Defense base in St Kilda.

Ms Hunt added: “We also have to think about the people on the base. We really don’t want people to come to the island, then there’s a virus outbreak there. »

Ms Hunt said the St Kilda Club had offered financial support to NTS, who are currently trying to bridge a £28m funding shortfall given the loss of income caused by the pandemic, should help be needed to reopen the island.

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

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

It is understood that a program of events on the island was being drawn up by NTS to mark the occasion, with planning now on hold due to coronavirus.

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

The evacuation operation for the last 36 residents of St Kilda began at 5am that day, with the last islanders leaving three months after appealing to the government for help.

The population had fallen to 90 by 1764. Emigration to Australia and an influenza epidemic in 1912 had reduced the number of islanders to an unsustainable level, with eight or nine widows among the 23 adults who remained.

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