After an exhaustive and secretive selection process, I’ve finally picked my top 5 favorite Cleitean from the around 1200 on Hirta. In reverse order they are...
5: Cleit 213 – the Fowler’s Fancy
This sturdy and well-preserved cleit lies on the boulderfield of Carn Mòr, a key area where the harvesting seabirds and their products (a process known as Fowling), took place. This cleit stands as a representative for the many cleitean in the most spectacular and inaccessible areas of Hirta.
4: Cleit 8 –the ‘Party Cleit’
This very commodious cleit is the only one to have a short staircase in the entrance. As this prevents access by the soay sheep, the cleit is unusually dry and clean. It is occasionally used as a final redoubt for campers under siege by inclement weather!
3: Cleit 844: The Ghost of Cleitmas Past
The ephemeral remains of this lost cleit lie on the slopes of Mullach Geal. A faint U-shaped impression like this is all that is left of many cleitean.
2: Cleit 122/3: The Survivor
This vast cleit, comple with an intact side chamber accessible from inside through a small opening, is one of a number of cleitean in village bay that aren’t. They are in fact the remains of late medieval dwellings which huddle below Conachair. To the right of the surviving side chamber, a further blocked entrance to a small chamber is clearly visible.
1: Cleit 74: The Cross in the Cleit
This small, unremarkable cleit to the rear of House 13 contains a relic of Hirta’s early medieval past. One of the slabs used to roof the cleit is inscribed with a simple carved stone cross, thought to date from the 7th or 8th centuries. This carved cross, along with a further two in house 16 and near house 10, are likely to be all that remains of the small early Christian chapel that was once the heart of the community.
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist