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       Code of Conduct for Cruise Ships

This advice applies to landings on any offshore islands but especially the National Nature Reserves (NNRs) of St Kilda (Hirta), North Rona and the Monach Isles (Hyskeir), together with the Sites of Special Scientific Interest/ Special Protection Areas of the Flannan Isles, the Shiant Islands, Mingulay and Berneray.

Due to the dangers and the risk of excessive disturbance to nesting birds no attempt should be made to land on Sula Sgeir NNR. Nor are unauthorised landings permitted on any of the St Kilda stacks and islands (other than Hirta itself); if in doubt first report to the SNH/NTS Seasonal Warden on Hirta, who is present from April to September inclusive.

  • When planning your visit to St Kilda please contact, well in advance, the National Trust for Scotland office in Inverness (telephone 01463 232 034; fax 01463 732 620) to arrange suitable dates. When planning a visit to North Rona, the Monachs, the Flannans, the Shiants, Mingulay or Berneray SNH would appreciate knowing in advance (telephone number 01851 705258; fax 01851 704900 - or 01870 620238; fax 01870 620350 for the Monachs).

  • In deciding itinerary dates and times of arrival at St Kilda please be respectful of the Seasonal Warden and MoD staff who live and work on the island. Do not go ashore too early in the morning for instance as the warden is expected to meet you. If possible, try to avoid arriving on Tuesdays (when personnel and supplies are transferred - either by helicopter or landing craft) and also try to avoid Sundays.

  • A set of byelaws have been established for St Kilda and it is advisable to familiarise your shore party with them beforehand. A copy is also on display at the Factor's House, where the Seasonal Warden is based.

  • Before landing on Hirta please contact the Seasonal Warden who will meet your party and brief you on the NNR/World Heritage Site. Guided walks of the Village Area may be offered and the Warden may be able to accompany your vessel around Boreray and the Stacks to point out features of interest: (provided you take him/her back to Hirta afterwards!). Contact telephone number 01870 604628 or radio ahead to the MoD base on Hirta.

  • Please remember that there are no public toilet facilities on any offshore island (even Hirta) so ensure passengers take advantage of the facilities on the ship before landing. (They cannot expect to find any privacy or suitable cover on the islands and must not add to the litter problem so should attend to the business before coming ashore).

  • Do not allow dogs or cats ashore since they may run off, cause havoc amongst the wildlife (and sheep) and prove difficult to catch again on departure. Dogs can also introduce mainland parasites to the unique and isolated Soay sheep population. (Feral cats have, thankfully but only recently died out on the Monachs).

  • There is a small pier/breakwater in Village Bay, Hirta but it is not safe for even small vessels to tie alongside. Nor is this ever encouraged because of the real risk of rats getting ashore, becoming established and devastating the seabird colonies etc. Ferry passengers ashore with dinghies or small tenders.

  • There are no landing facilities on any of the islands and the rocks can be very slippy; so passengers should exercise great care when stepping ashore and pay attention to the commands of their boatman. They should wear stout footwear with good, non-slip soles but be prepared to get their feet wet!

  • The National Nature Reserves of St Kilda, and the uninhabited NNRs of North Rona and the Monachs have threshold signs erected near where visitors normally come ashore. They include a map and information about the island to help visitors gain as much as possible from their visit. There are also a few icons explaining activities that can be damaging to the reserve and its wildlife: please respect them.

  • An attractive and informative SNH leaflet is available for St Kilda and can be obtained from the Seasonal Warden or the SNH Office in South Uist (telephone 01870 620238). NTS and Historic Scotland also have a very useful leaflet on the antiquities. There are of course a host of books about St Kilda and the other offshore islands.

  • There is a small shop in Hirta which may be opened for visitors with prior arrangement through the Seasonal Warden. Visitors are requested however not to wander into or through the QinetiQ site or the NTS cottages without invitation, as people are living there.

  • Cottage number 3 in Hirta contains a small museum which will normally be open and which visitors are free to browse (and is well worth a visit). Another cottage will eventually be restored by NTS as an example of a St Kildan home.

  • Visitors are asked not to wander around the islands alone and unaccompanied, in case of accidents, and not to venture too close to the cliff edge. Not only can this be unstable in places but strong winds or sudden gusts can make it even more dangerous. Boots with non-slip treads are essential. Even then wet grass make the slopes very slippy and waterproof trousers or oilskins can make it especially difficult to stop a fall! There are no cliff-rescue facilities based on any of the islands and it is a long way to the nearest hospital.

  • All these islands are famed for the richness and diversity of their wildlife and have therefore attracted a host of national and international designations. Although we would wish visitors to gain as much enjoyment and interest as possible from their visit please remember that the needs of the wildlife and environment must always come first.

  • Please respect the historic buildings, ruins, graveslabs and archaeological structures, and many have been scheduled as Ancient Monuments.

  • Please do not pick flowers, hammer the rocks or take any plants, rocks or other specimens away or otherwise knowingly disturb the landscape, vegetation or animals. The animals may appear tame and approachable but visitors should resist the temptation to get that little bit closer, since telephoto lenses ought to be able to deliver perfectly acceptable photographs. Visitors should also take care not to introduce, inadvertently or otherwise, any alien plants or animals; mud on your boots can carry seeds for example. Bird ringing on NNRs requires prior approval from SNH; nor should firearms be taken ashore.

  • Nesting birds, breeding seals and sheep with young lambs are especially vulnerable to disturbance so visitors should avoid them at all times or, if they stumble across a nest or chicks by accident, they should leave at once to allow the parents to return. Gulls and skuas are always ready to take advantage of any unguarded eggs and young.

  • Ground-nesting birds have eggs and young that are well camouflaged and difficult to spot, so visitors should be careful where they place their feet if they think there is a nest nearby. Terns and some waders lay their eggs on bare sand/shingle along the shore and are especially vulnerable.

  • Gulls, even terns - but especially skuas - are very protective of their nests, dive-bombing anyone venturing too close and even hitting intruders on the head. Visitors must take care but it is best to avoid the colonies altogether.

  • In exceptional circumstances some areas of Hirta may be placed temporarily out of bounds because of some sensitive wildlife, research or other interest. The warden will advise on arrival and explain the reasons so visitors are kindly requested to comply. Such events will be kept to a minimum however.

  • Visitors should try not to linger or to congregate at one spot too long since studies have shown that visitor pressure - especially near landing sites - can significantly reduce the breeding success and survival of young birds and seal pups.

  • Visitors should not of, course, drop any litter and should leave the island just as they found it, if not better.

  • None of the anchorages are secure in bad weather. Even Village Bay in St Kilda is especially exposed in easterly winds or downdraughts from the summit. Be aware that changes in the weather can be swift and unpredictable making departure from the island very dangerous. Visitors must adhere rigidly to all arrangements made with their boatman and should not venture so far away that they cannot be summoned back to the boat if the weather suddenly deteriorates. Low cloud and mist can be very disorientating also, making the landing place difficult to locate.

  • Please try to avoid visitng on Tuesdays and Fridays because these are supply days.

  • Visitors should, of course, take great care leaving the island again and we hope they enjoy their visit.

© National Trust for Scotland