Every year thousands of visitors come to St Kilda to enjoy both the natural landscape and wildlife and of course the cultural landscape; the abandoned houses and fields that are all that are left of the once thriving community. Nearly all of our visitors behave responsibly and respect the environment around them, however some are careless or thoughtless and can inadvertently cause damage.
This month, some campers decided to ignore the advice that all visitors are given– not to move or interfere with any stones or structures on the islands.
After their departure, I discovered that they had taken stones from a nearby cleit and wall to secure their tent pegs. They had removed around twenty or so stones themselves and unfortunately another camper followed their example, unknowingly causing further problems by moving stones which were lying around on the ground.
There are two problems created by acts like these – one is that the cumulative effects of these small inconsiderate interventions over the years can be devastating in themselves, cleit six, within the camping enclosure, is in effect being gradually dismantled by the occasional careless camper. The other problem is that, as anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, when we undertake dry stone repairs on island we repair stone-for-stone. This means that each stone which has collapsed will be carefully identified and returned to its original location using a set of photographic records. As these loose stones have been moved that will no longer be possible. In effect, the result has been that a small part of St Kilda’s landscape has been changed forever and can never be fully replaced.
The Trust spends thousands of pounds and many hours of effort annually to repair the dry stone buildings of St Kilda. What happened in the camping enclosure is a reminder of how fragile the iconic landscape of St Kilda is and how it can be diminished stone by stone.
Being able to camp and spend a night or two on St Kilda, right in the heart of the dual World Heritage Site, is an amazing opportunity and privilege that many have enjoyed over the years. So, if you do chose to visit us, please ensure you take nothing but memories and photographs, and leave the Island’s exactly as you found them.
Àrsair Hiort/ St Kilda Archaeologist