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Enjoy the Islands of St. Kilda

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Travelers to St. Kilda may be interested to know that the islands are a World Heritage Site under the auspices of three organizations: The National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and the Ministry of Defense. The National Trust works to preserve the islands’ historical, cultural, and natural values. This includes archaeological research in the summers, as well as a work program that allows volunteers to stay on the islands while helping in the preservation effort. The Ministry of Defense site was established in 1957, and is currently staffed by civilian workers who live on Hirta year-round. This base serves as a radar tracking station for the missile range in the Outer Hebrides islands of the Western Isles of Scotland. It also provides infrastructure to the islands—power, medical aid, transportation—which in turn helps facilitate the work of the National Trust and the Scottish Heritage.

Visitors enjoying Scotland travel will be awed by the immense colonies of seabirds that breed there each year. St. Kilda boasts the largest colony of North Atlantic gannets in the world, and the largest colony of fulmars in the British Isles. Other birds found in the archipelago include puffins, kittiwakes, sanderlings, great skuas, Manx shearwaters, and petrels. Birds are not the only creatures that make these islands unique, however. St. Kilda is also home to Soay sheep, which are descendants of primitive sheep and have probably lived on the islands for over 1,000 years. The St. Kilda field mouse is also a unique mammal, a subspecies found only on the islands. Grey seals can also be seen swimming in the waters surrounding St. Kilda.

Those visiting the island must observe certain regulations. In order to keep the risk of parasites low for the Soay sheep, no dogs or cats are allowed on shore. Visitors are taken ashore on small boats; this practice ensures that rats are kept off the islands, as rats would threaten the seabird colonies. People are encouraged to enjoy their travel of Scotland’s St. Kilda islands, but are asked to take pictures rather than plants, rocks, flowers, or other specimens. They are also asked to avoid sheep with young lambs, nesting birds, and breeding seals, as these animals are very sensitive to disturbance. If everyone shows this respect, travelers will continue to enjoy the history, the wildlife, and the spectacular scenery of these remote islands.

The National Trust for Scotland has a St. Kilda website with detailed information and pictures: http://www.kilda.org.uk/

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