i.Visitor facilities and statistics

There are two main categories of visitor: those staying overnight on the islands and casual visitors from charter boats, yachts and cruise ships. The main difference is that those staying overnight on the islands – NTS Work Party members, campers, researchers, workers (generally employed by or contracted to MoD/QinetiQ) on the MoD Base –are permitted to use various accommodation facilities and in particular may use the ‘ablutions block’ which houses toilets and showers. Camping for up to six people is permitted by The National Trust for Scotland by prior arrangement. The restriction in numbers is because of limited water supply in dry summers and the restricted washing and toilet facilities available.

Other visitor facilities on the island consist of: the Museum (House No. 3) that has displays about the natural heritage of the islands; the reconstructed house (House 6); a shop run by the St Kilda Club selling souvenirs, books, postcards, etc., and the ‘Puff Inn’ bar run by MoD/QinetiQ staff. In addition, there is a small orientation point at the pier with an NNR sign that explains a little about the island, and the two members of conservation staff are often able to give guided walks to visitors. Visitors from cruise ships and small boats often have their own guide – generally taking advantage of the St Kilda Archaeological Broadsheet and other publications. A colour bilingual (English and Gaelic) National Nature Reserve leaflet has been produced by SNH and is available free to all visitors. SNH have also produced various posters, postcards and videos about St Kilda, especially its marine interest.

Every year a seasonal warden is resident on Hirta from April to September inclusive. All visitors are asked to report to the warden on arrival. A guided tour of the Village area is offered to all visitors and if walkers wish to wander beyond that they are requested, for health and safety reasons, not to do so alone. Visitors are requested to consult the warden before landing on any of the other islands. The warden will often accompany vessels on a cruise around Boreray and the stacks, which offers an awe-inspiring experience around the towering sea stacks and impressive seabird colonies. There is no tourist accommodation on Hirta other than the small campsite; so most visitors stay on board their vessel anchored in Village Bay overnight.

Visitor statistics have been collected by the St Kilda Warden for over 15 years:

A cruise around the cliffsVirtually all visitors arrive between April and September. An analysis of visitors was made for the period 1986-1997 with 74% being ‘general visitors’, 11% being divers, 6% NTS/SNH work parties and staff, 5% the crew of MoD vessels, and 3% school groups. The doubling in visitor numbers between 1986 and 1997 is due almost entirely to a slight increase in cruise vessels (normally carrying around 100 passengers) and the more erratic visits by one large cruise ship in particular with up to 350 passengers. These visitors are only landed for a day trip ashore and are supervised by the warden.

 

The NTS maintain a popular and comprehensive website about St Kilda with links to the NTS, SNH, JNCC, the Soay Sheep Research Project, etc. Although it is probably too early to provide accurate figures, the average number of discrete visits to the St Kilda website numbers several hundred per week – some visitors remaining in the site for an hour or more.