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Frequently Asked Questions

Who was St Kilda?
The name St Kilda is misleading as there never was a St Kilda associated with islands. It was first used instead of Hirte, or Hirta, on a map published in 1540, but for an island near Lewis. On a map of 1592 it was used for the St Kilda archipelago.

The word may be a corruption of the Old Norse word 'Skildir' meaning shields, and possibly refers to the shape of the islands when viewed from a distance at sea.

How do I get there?
Apart from joining an NTS work party or going on an NTS cruise, the best way to get to St Kilda is by one of the charter boats that operate from the Western Isles Skye and the mainland. For details of times and prices, you should contact the charter boat operators directly.

How long does it take to get there?
The journey time is dependent on weather and tide conditions, as well as the type of boat chartered. Boats from the Western Isles can take between 3 and 6 hours, from the mainland it can take up to 18 hours. There are times when the boat has to turn back due to bad weather.

Does anyone live there?
There are no permanent residents on St Kilda today. However, the main island of Hirta is occupied all year round by the people who work on the military base, now almost entirely a civilian workforce. The National Trust for Scotland staff are resident on the island from April to September every year. National Trust for Scotland work parties work parties visit the islands during the summer months, and many researchers spend time there studying all aspects of the natural and cultural history.

Are there any original St Kildans left?
As far as we know there is only one original inhabitant left who lived there before the evacuation in 1930.

Where can I buy postcards and other souvenirs?
The St Kilda club run a small shop on St Kilda where you can buy a wide range of books, postcards, clothing and DVDs. These are also available at the St Kilda Club re-union on the 2nd Saturday in November.

Are the sheep still there? Who looks after them?
At the time the people were evacuated, Blackface sheep were removed from Hirta, but still remain on Boreray. Two years later Hirta was restocked with Soay sheep from the neighbouring island of Soay. These sheep have remained there ever since, with almost no active management by humans. This extraordinary population of sheep has been the subject of scientific study since the mid-1950s, initially under the Soay Research Team and latterly as part of a larger, more detailed research project currently being carried out by the Soay Sheep Project. In particular, the study aims to examine the patterns of population growth and decline and to determine the reasons for any changes.

Soay Sheep Project website

Is there other material about St Kilda not mentioned on this website?
There is a great wealth of material about St Kilda – too much to detail here.

Two major sources are:

The George Washington Wilson Collection, University of Aberdeen holds an important photographic archive.

George Washington Wilson Collection
Queen Mother Library
University of Aberdeen
Meston Walk
Aberdeen AB24 3UE
United Kingdom

The Scottish Life Archive has a large archive of material including photographs

Royal Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh EH11JF
United Kingdom
Tel: (+44) 0131 225 7534

© The National Trust for Scotland