Hebridean Summer 2003

An adventure cruise amongst Scottish Islands

The Cottage, and  the view up the Buttermere Valley
Oak Cottage Home Page

 

 

 

 

Time and place : Summer cruise for Ann and myself, through the Western Isles of Scotland - page 2 - St Kilda

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Kirsty, Ann and Chris keep a fore-deck lookout. Our list of land and sea birds now exceeding the magic fifty, grew as the day went on, and we kept a watch the whole time for whales, dolphins and porpoises. Suddenly a fog bank cleared, and we had our first view of Boreray.

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Close to the stack and under the mist it was a bit grey, but suddenly we rounded the corner to sunshine, blue skies, and the most incredible scenery you could image. The island rises almost vertically nearly four hundred feet, but the top was obscured by an amazing fast moving shroud of mist. Gannets, flying above us, filled the air with movement as they circled above us.

(Sorry, the photo doesn't really do the birds justice . . . there were thousands all around !!)

Stac Lee - the white bits are the Gannets and their nest spots.

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We reluctantly left that incredible scene, and made for the coast of St Kilda four miles to the south west.

The bay, with the old village spread out across the hillside, was an impressive sight, just like the old photos. However the houses are unfortunately dominated by the 1960's army base which was built to support the radar and communications station seen at the top of the hill.

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After anchoring, we made our way shoreward, to be greeted by the National Trust Warden. The white house is the old manse with its church and school room. Renovated by the National Trust for Scotland, they gave an impression of what it must have been like for the local people, before the islands were abandoned early in the 1930's.

The village feather store, where they kept Puffin and Fulmar feathers prior to exchanging them for food and other goods in kind from the island's landlord. They also produced homespun tweed, socks and scarfs, which they made from the Soay sheep's wool.

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The black and white picture shown the houses a short while after the evacuation. The rough weather more usual to Kilda soon took its toll on the abandoned buildings. Today five of these houses have been repaired .

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The third renovated house in Main Street has been made into a small museum. Inside a typical "St Kilda Mailboat" - one up on a note in a bottle - is a tradition still kept up today by departing Trust volunteer workers. In past years, messages floated by this method to other Hebrides islands, have saved the St Kildans from starvation on more than one occasion.

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Between the newer houses are the remains of the Black Houses of old, and everywhere the locals built "cleats" which were stone outhouses, used for storing and drying the birds they caught. Puffins and Fulmar meat was their staple diet, which made this pair of nesting birds, resting comfortably in this one, rather ironic.

The Dun Headland and the wild Soay sheep. Fortunately after seeing the village, we still had time to walk over and view the high southern cliffs, and the puffins on the island promontory.

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At the top, the Maidens Rock, and a tremendous view over the nearly 1000 ft western cliffs.

On the headland of Ruaival, a fine day but Ann needed to stand firm against the strong north-easterly breeze.

This wind, and the Atlantic swell in the bay itself, would give us an uncomfortable time at the moorings overnight.

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However, before going on board, we had just enough time to visit the Pub, which was within the base buildings.

Now we can say "been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt" (but not these ones).

Chalice waits in the bay, as we put on waterproofs for the journey back to the boat. The transfer from the zodiac to Chalice was the "most interesting" of the holiday due to the swell and the unpredictable nature or the wind. The other (green) boat is the Cuma who also took the opportunity of this fine weather window to visit the island.

Visit the St Kilda Homepage

 

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Technical note: Pictures taken with a Cannon IXUS 400 Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

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