St Kilda
St Kilda
Mixed United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland Europe And North America

St Kilda is of exceptional natural beauty and supports significant natural habitats. It is unique in the very high bird densities that occur in a relatively small area which is conditioned by the complex and different ecological niches existing in the site. There is also a complex ecological dynamic in the three marine zones present in the site that is essential to the maintenance of both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

The cultural landscape of St Kilda is an outstanding example of land use resulting from a type of subsistence economy based on the products of birds, agriculture and sheep farming;reflecting age-old traditions. The built structures and field systems, the cleits and the traditional stone houses of the Highlands bear testimony to over two millennia of human occupation of distant land in extreme conditions.

The archipelago of St Kilda, the remotest part of the British Isles, in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, is the remains of a Tertiary ring volcano, weathered and glaciated to produce dramatic precipitous cliffs. Two stacks adjoining Boreray are the highest in the country: Stac an Armin (191 m) and Stac Lee (165 m). the rocks are predominantly gabbro, granophyre, dolerite and basalt.

There is archaeological evidence of habitation from over 2,000 years ago, concentrated at Village Bay and Gleann Mor, including evidence of Bronze Age occupation and Viking visits. Important changes came in the 19th century, when most of the earlier structures and residential buildings were replaced with new. The church is a relatively plain two-bay oblong structure built in 1826, a schoolroom being added on the north-west side in 1898-1900. As a result of several outside influences, including religious missionaries, a devastating outbreak of smallpox, and tourism, the islands were finally evacuated in 1930.

The most common traditional structure on St Kilda is the cleit, of which is about 1,260 have been recorded on Hirta, distributed all over the island, and more than 170 others on the outlying islands and stacks. Cleits are small drystone structures of round-ended rectilinear form, with drystone walls and a roof of slabs covered with earth and turf. Within this basic plan are numerous variations of door position and examples even includes integral adjoining cells. Cleits were usually used to store materials, and their generally open wall construction was designed to allow a through-flow of air. They were used to store birds, eggs and feathers, and harvested crops as well as peat and turf which were both used as fuel.

The protected settlement areas on St Kilda are:

  • the Village, the largest settlement, on the south side of the island, overlooking the Village Bay or Loch Hirta;
  • Gleann Mor settlement, on the north side of the island, on the Glen Bay or Loch a' Ghlinne,
  • Geo Chrubaidh settlement, north-west of Gleann Mor;
  • Claigeann an Tigh Faire, a small site on the west coast.