A private day excursion to St. Kilda



[24-Feb-18] St. Kilda day trip details announced.

  St. Kilda - at the edge of the world

St Kilda is an isolated archipelago situated 64 kilometres (40 miles) west-northwest of North Uist, in the North Atlantic Ocean. The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom. The entire archipelago is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became one of Scotland's six World Heritage Sites in 1986, and is one of the few in the world to hold joint status for both its natural and cultural qualities.

Permanent habitation on the islands possibly extends back at least two millennia, but illnesses brought by increased external contacts through tourism, and the upheaval of the First World War contributed to the island's evacuation in 1930.

Today, three organisations, The National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the UK Ministry of Defense, work in partnership to further a continuing programme of conservation and research on the islands to ensure the care and protection of this World Heritage Site. Parties of volunteers work on the islands every summer to restore the many ruined buildings that the native St. Kildans left behind. They share the island with a small military base established in 1957.

More information about St. Kilda can be found at www.kilda.org.uk.
Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17529718

The MacLeod connection with St. Kilda

For many years, the islands of St. Kilda belonged to the Chief of the Clan MacLeod at Dunvegan. The connections between the MacLeods and St. Kilda are nicely summarised here on the Dunvegan Castle's website. There are a number of St. Kilda photos and relics on display at the Castle, as well as books for sale that document the unique community that lived on those remote islands.

St. Kilda lore figures largely in the legends of the MacLeods. It is astonishingly beautiful, but can be a brutal and otherworldly place. Birds were said to flutter at the windows of homes on the island when a MacLeod chief died. Mainlanders who later arrived on the island to deliver the sad news were always mystified that everyone there had already learned of the chief's death.

Parliament has included St. Kilda-themed events in the past. At Parliament 1998, Margaret Cameron, who had participated in a work party on St. Kilda, shared her experiences and described the National Trust's involvement with archaeology and restoration projects on Hirta. Anne Lorne Gillies sang to us the story of the MacLeods during the Stanley McLeod Memorial Lecture at Parliament 2006. This included material she later recorded an album St. Kilda Mailboat. The album was inspired by the island of St Kilda, and the love and longing, work and play, happiness and sorrow of the people who once lived on the islands.

On the "Suardal Tapes, Volume I" (available from Clan MacLeod sales), Norman MacLeod of Suardal recorded the story of a competition between MacLeods and MacDonalds for the ownership of St. Kilda. To settle the claims of ownership, a boat rowing race to St. Kilda was arranged between crews from the two clans. It was agreed that the clansman who first laid his hand on the island soil would claim it for his chief. As the race progressed, apparently the MacDonalds were winning. At the last minute, one of the MacLeods cut off his hand and threw it on the shore, thus claiming the islands for the MacLeods.

Our excursion on Saturday 28 July 2018

Planning this trip to St. Kilda trip has been a very complex process, with many variables to consider. The unpredictability of the weather is key. Most vessel operators who provide day trips to St. Kilda typically offer a two-day window, and this is true in our case. (Refer to the trip details, below, for a description of our sailing window and relevant refund policies.)

There are quite a few sailings to St. Kilda, departing from a handful of different locations. All of the vessels are small, and carry just twelve passengers. It has been tricky identifying from where the boat should depart, understanding who can handle the stress of the trip, finding a day that is convenient to as many people as possible, and minimising the impact of flexible accommodation requirements on the days before and after the trip. We chose the date closet to the end of Parliament, and the departure location nearest to Dunvegan.

While those of us who go on the trip may have attended Parliament this year, this trip is not officially part of Parliament. If this trip goes smoothly and if there is enough interest, we might try to incorporate it into a future Parliament.

Details of our plan:
This trip is not being organised as a group outing by ACMS or any of its National Societies. Anyone who wants to go will privately book him or herself on the targeted date of sailing. If the targeted sailing date of 28 July is completely booked, we will identify an additional targeted date so that MacLeods may be able to travel together.
The sailing on Saturday 28 July departs at 6:50AM and returns at about 8:30PM. The boat departs from and returns to the Stein Jetty which is past the Stein Inn, Waternish, in northwest Skye. The pier is in the picture at the bottom of this page. (The satellite navigation postcode for the Stein Inn is IV55 8GA.) When we reach St. Kilda, we will land and have about four hours on the island of Hirta.
You should bring all of your own food and drink for the day, and be prepared to carry all trash back with you. There is a toilet on the boat, and on St. Kilda, National Trust for Scotland provides toilets for use by visitors. The boat is equipped with foul weather gear, but you should dress in warm layers and wear good walking shoes, a warm hat, and gloves. There are trails on the island, but they go over rough terrain and can be steep. Unless you are reasonably fit, it may not be possible to travel any significant distance on the island.
The service provider we will use is www.gotostkilda.co.uk, operated by Kerry and Kevin McKinnon. Their trips have a five star rating from the Scottish Tourist Board. There is a lot of information on www.gotostkilda.co.uk, including the operators' contact details.
You must book and pay the fees yourself. Go to the website www.gotostkilda.co.uk to book yourself personally on the 28 July 2018 sailing. Please do this as soon as possible, as there are only twelve seats available and this sailing is also open to the general public.
£260.00 round trip for the day
£    5.00 for a walking tour of the village the island of Hirta
You will need to pay an £85.00 deposit to reserve your place. The balance will be due before Saturday 14th July.
Terms, including refund policies. (Please note these details are paraphrased from the www.gotostkilda.co.uk website, and if there is any discrepancy between this information and what appears on the other website, the other website's information supersedes what you read here.)
If we can't sail Saturday, we will try to go out on the following day, Sunday 29th July.
If we don't sail at all, or if you can't make the alternative dates, you will get a refund minus 2.5%.
If we sail but for some reason we don't land on St. Kilda, you will get a 30% refund.
There is no refund if you must cancel for your own reasons, so you should take out travel insurance for the cost of this trip.

Jetty at the Stein Inn, in Waternish on Skye, departure point for the boat to St. Kilda

Kevin Tolmie, Clan MacLeod Magazine Editor and the leader of the Lewis and Harris Pre-Parliment trip, and Dorna Caskie are already booked on this trip. Please contact Dorna if you have "MacLeod" questions, or the tour operators at www.gotostkilda.co.uk if you have questions related to the vessel and/or its operation.