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I'm just here (Archaeologist )

30 April 2010

My journey to St. Kilda began in Inverness, at the trust offices. It has been quite some journey. Although I have lived in Lewis for the last 6 years, working as an Archaeologist, I am from the Black Isle so Inverness is familiar territory. However, I am new to the National trust, and this job, so first up was a week of intensive ‘induction’ information. After this my head felt like a bee hive with an intruder. Finally, after so much expectation, it was time to say good bye to familiarity and ease the beehive back west. Under watchful Red Kites’ gaze and past the lush East highland forests and fields, the road lead up to the barren splendour of heather clad hills and deer bounded around. On the boat, crossing the Minch, the full glory of these hills was revealed; I could never tire of that view. The sun was shining, the water iridescent and patches of snow clung to the hills (- like large Eagle poo’s, as a relative from down south once thought!). This time the dolphins and whales were elsewhere, although the fulmars followed playfully in our path. A goodbye to my girlfriend and to my wee dog lead to a brake-neck hurtle through the hills and beaches of Harris, and a feverish form filling ferry to Berneray. I fell in love with North Uist all over again, marvelling at her patchwork of land and sea mingling in that effortless rolling beauty. An Otter loped over the single track before heading back into anonymity.

Late again, I rushed into Balivanich Airport all a fluster with my clutter of baggage. The pilot assured me that the grounding of the rest of the country’s flying machines due to airborne volcanic ash was “just a safety OVER precaution”, and we took off. I got a good look at the Monach’s for future reference and then studied the backs of the Gannets below, and the great expanse of flat, featureless Ocean, leading my mind to drift off... and then BAM!.. there it was! – a massive, jagged lump of a thing towering outwards and upwards; a shape so outlandish and different from any other that it had presence; demanding attention. It seemed to take forever to get close, as if it were receding as we approached. Finally the main island came into focus and we skimmed over Stac Levenish, with its heroic patch of grass clinging like paint to an old piece of driftwood. As we flew toward the opening arc of village bay, surrounded by its steep and solid hills, it struck me that Hiort is like a huge natural fortress; like an enormous Broch, protecting us frail humans from the incredible power of the North Atlantic. The chopper aimed for the Eastern wall of the fort and began to bank around, turbulence lifting and dropping it this way and that, scaring the living insides near out of me. I looked over into the whites of a fulmars eye’s, sitting on a ledge of the cliff. As the blades began to slow on the landing pad I asked the pilot if he ever got bored of his job? Although clearly a man of little words, he cracked up and said ‘No!’

I was met by a bunch of friendly, helpful folk, not a frown in sight... Welcome to St. Kilda! The journey done, sitting in the cosy Factor's House, it makes me realise something: what a place we live in, here in the North. So many of Earth's inhabitants don’t have anything like what we live with. I have done a little bit of travelling, seen some of the worlds’ reputed beauty spots, and as nice as they are, I’d rather stay here. It doesn’t get any better than the Highlands and Islands. Have a nice day!


Ian Mchardy

St. Kilda Archaeologist

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