• VISIT ST KILDA

    One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
  • ST KILDA

    One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around

HOW TO VISIT ST KILDA

SCOTLAND

An isolated Scottish archipelago and the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda possesses fascinating social history and visual spectacle in equal measure. Indeed, this is demonstrated by it being one of the few places in the world to hold dual UNESCO World Heritage status, inscribed for both natural and cultural criteria.

For most who brave the North Atlantic’s rough seas to reach its shores, a trip to St Kilda is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If it is a journey that you hope to make, this guide covers all the essential details and will help you plan your visit to these distant and ruggedly beautiful isles.

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OUR ST KILDA FILM

Watch our Instagram stories from St Kilda

Watch Instagram stories
from our St Kilda trip

ST KILDA MAP

This map shows the main sites on the islands of St Kilda, along with the various ports of departure.


AN INTRODUCTION TO ST KILDA

ST KILDA

AN INTRODUCTION

From the remarkable geography of this archipelago and what life was like for those who lived there, to the arrival of modernity, the community’s eventual evacuation, and the circumstances of the islands today, the following introduction to St Kilda will hopefully pique your interest and get you excited for the trip to come.

ABOUT ST KILDA

More than 40 miles west of North Uist, St Kilda rises dramatically from the North Atlantic Ocean, a small archipelago formed by the remains of an ancient volcano. St Kilda, or Hiort as it’s known in Gaelic, consists of the main island of Hirta, the smaller islands of Dun, Soay, and Boreray, and the prominent sea stacks Stac Lee and Stac an Armin.

Dramatic Coastline

Over millennia, St Kilda’s dramatic coastline has been carved and worn by ice, rain, and sea. The sheer cliffs of Conachair on Hirta are the highest in the British Isles at 430 metres, and Stac an Armin is the highest sea stack at 190 metres. Impressive in their own right, the cliffs and stacks of St Kilda become an otherworldly sight during breeding season, when the islands support an estimated 1 million seabirds. It is the largest seabird colony in the north-east Atlantic, and includes puffins, gannets, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills, shearwaters, petrels, and shags.

The impressive Stac an Armin, part of the St Kilda archipelago, rising 190 metres out of the water and covered in countless seabirds

The impressive Stac an Armin, rising 190 metres out of the water and covered in countless seabirds



The impressive Stac an Armin, part of the St Kilda archipelago, rising 190 metres out of the water and covered in countless seabirds

The impressive Stac an Armin, rising 190 metres
out of the water and covered in countless seabirds



Unique Wildlife

St Kilda is also home to unique wildlife species, including the endemic St Kilda Field Mouse, St Kilda Wren, and two types of primitive sheep, Soay and Boreray. A number of Soay sheep were transferred from Soay to Hirta following the evacuation in 1930, and their descendants roam freely around the island to this day. The Boreray sheep can be spotted on the steep slopes and rocky ledges of Boreray as you circle the island by boat.

Evacuation

Inhabited for at least 4000 years, the last permanent residents of St Kilda were voluntarily evacuated in 1930. Life on these isolated islands had always been challenging, but with only a handful of able-bodied men left in the remaining community of 36, the St Kildans’ way of life was simply no longer sustainable.

LIFE ON ST KILDA

Life on the remote and isolated St Kilda revolved around the weather and seasons, and was highly dependent on the community working closely together for the survival of all.

Self-sufficient Crofters

For centuries St Kildans were self-sufficient crofters. They raised cattle and sheep for wool, milk, and meat, grew crops of barley, oats, and potatoes, and harvested seabirds and their eggs – especially gannets and fulmars – for food, feathers, and oil. Rough seas and the difficulty of landing boats meant fishing opportunities were rare. Supplies would be stored through winter in a cleit (plural cleitean), a dry-stone storage hut with a turf roof. These cleitean can be seen dotted all over the hillsides of Hirta today.

A day tripper to St Kilda walks among the cleitean - drystone storage huts with turf roofs - on the hillside of the main island, Hirta

Cleitean – drystone storage huts with turf roofs – on the hillside of Hirta, St Kilda’s main island



A day tripper to St Kilda walks among the cleitean - drystone storage huts with turf roofs - on the hillside of the main island, Hirta

Cleitean (drystone storage huts with turf roofs)
on the hillside of Hirta, St Kilda’s main island



Skilled Cragsmen

St Kildan men were highly skilled cragsmen. In order to hunt seabirds, they would scale sheer cliffs and sea stacks, and lower themselves over daunting precipices with only a rope tied around them for safety. Fowling expeditions to the outlying islands of Borerary, Soay, and Dun, and to the gannet breeding sites of Stac an Armin and Stac Lee, would take place in spring and summer. Men would row to the islands and stay in basic stone bothies or shelters during the harvest.

In August 1727, three men and eight boys were stranded for nine months on Stac an Armin when a smallpox epidemic swept through the village on Hirta, killing 94 people. Amazingly, all of the marooned St Kildans survived, making it through the winter by living off fresh water, birds, eggs, and fish caught with a bent nail.

Living on Hirta

Hirta was the only inhabited island, with everyone living along one street of houses in sheltered Village Bay. Each family kept a croft, consisting of a house, a strip of land, and a share in the common grazings for cattle and sheep. The cliffs for harvesting seabirds were also divided among the crofts, allotted annually. Borerary, Soay, Dun, and the stacs were considered common property, with fowling expeditions undertaken as a community and the gannet harvest being divided equally. Rent was paid to MacLeod of Dunvegan on Skye, usually in the form of seabird feathers and oil, plus tweed, barley, milk, cheese, and wool.

In the early 19th century, blackhouse dwellings were the norm. These were traditional hebridean houses built using double-skinned walls with rounded external corners and a thatched roof. They had no chimney, so the peat fires would smoke out the interior and blacken the roof, hence the name. Humans and animals shared the space over winter, with one end of the house being transformed into a byre.

Following a bad storm in the 1860s, housing improvements were made on the island. New homes were built with chimneys in the gable ends and windows to let in natural light, and the blackhouses were turned over to the cattle. The ruined houses lining the street today are from this era, with the thick, crumbling walls of the blackhouses still lying tucked between them.

'The Street' on the main St Kilda island, Hirta, with the remains of the blackhouses in between the more modern houses (the ones with repaired roofs are used by the NTS today), and the drystone storage huts known as cleitean climbing the hill behind

Main Street, with the remains of the blackhouses in between the more modern houses (the ones with repaired roofs are used by the NTS today)



'The Street' on the main St Kilda island, Hirta, with the remains of the blackhouses in between the more modern houses (the ones with repaired roofs are used by the NTS today), and the drystone storage huts known as cleitean climbing the hill behind

The Street, with the remains of the blackhouses in
between the more modern houses (the ones with
repaired roofs are used by the NTS today)



TOURISM, EMIGRATION, AND EVACUATION

Throughout the hundred years prior to the evacuation of St Kilda, life for the islanders had started to change.

Tourism

The first tourists visited St Kilda on a steamship in the 1830s, and there was a steady growth in tourism to the island throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Islanders sold souvenirs like knitwear and cheese, and the men demonstrated their skills on the crags to amazed tourists. With this new stream of income, St Kildans could import goods from the mainland such as flour, sugar, tea, coal, and paraffin. While easing some immediate hardships, the increased dependence on supplies from elsewhere made life particularly harsh during the long winters, when boat services would stop and months would pass without contact from the outside world.

Increased tourism brought economic advantages, but it also increased susceptibility to illness and disease, as the isolated community had very little immunity. The regular summer steamship services improved communication and allowed for the import and export of goods, but also brought a growing awareness of the possibility of an easier life beyond St Kilda’s shores. In 1851, 36 St Kildans emigrated to Australia, reducing the population to around 70.

Emigration and Evacuation

Between 1915 and 1919 a naval wireless station operated from St Kilda, providing employment opportunities, ease of communication with the mainland, and direct contact with servicemen. Following the departure of the navy at the end of the Great War, a large number of St Kildans emigrated to seek an easier life for themselves and their families. As the St Kildan way of life was so heavily reliant on community, the exodus put a serious strain on those who remained. Essential tasks such as handling the boat, cultivating the fields, and harvesting the cliffs became more difficult with fewer able-bodied people. The islanders became ever more reliant on passing trawlers for supplies.

By the year 1930, the population of St Kilda had dwindled to just 36, and a future on the island seemed impossible. The community formally petitioned the government for evacuation to the mainland in May, with the last residents leaving on August 29th, 1930.

ST KILDA TODAY

Following the evacuation and until the outbreak of WWII in 1939, tourists and St Kildans alike continued to visit throughout the summer months. In 1957 the Marquis of Bute bequeathed St Kilda to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), and it was designated a National Nature Reserve. Some of the land was leased to the military, and in the same year, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) started building infrastructure to support a radar station, including accommodation, roads, and technical facilities.

To this day the MoD maintains a year-round presence on St Kilda (now largely a civilian workforce), while NTS staff are resident between April and September. NTS work party volunteers and scientists visit throughout the summer months, living in a few restored homes of former residents.

St Kilda is one of only thirty-nine dual UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, inscribed for both natural and cultural criteria. It is still owned by NTS, and is managed in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, NatureScot, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council), and the Ministry of Defence.

SEE MORE FROM SCOTLAND

A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town
A person in a long mustard coloured coat and black hat looking out towards the sea from a viewpoint above Loch Skipport on South Uist, with the Isle of Skye seen faintly on the horizon
A yacht in the bay at Vatersay with pastel sunset skies and the silhouette of the Isle of Rum in the background
One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below
A walker on the old military road among the dramatic mountain scenery of the Lairigmor, a real highlight of the West Highland Way
A view of Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way
A tent set up with expansive views of the surrounding hills near Ba Bridge on Rannoch Moor, this hiker found the perfect spot while camping the West Highland Way
A person stands on the wide expanse of Tresness Beach on Sanday
An impressive view of the Old Man of Hoy from the south, showing the towering stack detatched from the rugged red cliffs of the island's west coast
Standing stones set in a large circle, known as the Ring of Brodgar, one of Orkney's most iconic sites and Scotland's largest stone circle
A person walks along the unspoiled beach of the Tresness Peninsula on Sanday
Two surfers walk across the sand in the afternoon sun at Ceannabeinne Beach, not far from Durness on the North Coast 500 route.
An abandoned boat wreck on the Isle of Mull.
Peanmeanach Bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula in February
Culross: Scotland's Best Preserved 17th century town

WHAT TO EXPECT ON A DAY TRIP TO ST KILDA

The only way to visit St Kilda is by boat, with most people embarking on a day trip from Harris, Barra, Uist, or Skye. We cover the various tour options in more detail in the How To Get To St Kilda section below, but first let’s outline what a typical day trip to St Kilda involves.

DAY TRIP OVERVIEW

A day trip to St Kilda lasts between 11 and 13.5 hours in total, departing between 7 and 8am, and returning between 7 and 8:30pm. The travel time is between 2.5 and 4 hours in each direction, and can vary considerably depending on the conditions that day. On reaching St Kilda, you usually have about 4.5 hours on Hirta, and approximately 1 hour circling the outlying islands and sea stacks on the boat. The trip costs between £205 and £285 per person.

There is no phone reception or wifi on St Kilda itself, while during the boat trip, your signal and data connection will likely come and go.

The crossing can be rough due to big swells, and it’s not uncommon for passengers to get seasick. Indeed, trips to St Kilda are often cancelled because of bad weather. As such, most tour operators offer a 2 day window. This means that if your trip is cancelled on the first day, it will run on the second day instead (if the weather allows).

All of the boats operating day trips to St Kilda have covered seating, an outdoor area, and a toilet onboard.

HIRTA

When you reach St Kilda you will anchor in Village Bay, where you’ll transfer to a dinghy/zodiac boat to take you to the jetty. Flotation aids are provided.

After landing on Hirta you’ll be met for a briefing by the National Trust for Scotland Warden (who is resident on St Kilda between April and September). This lasts around 15 minutes. The warden will cover what to see and do on the island, and provide practical information for your visit. You can pick up a map and info leaflet here, if you haven’t already been given one on the boat. You’re then free to go wherever you like on the island (other than inside the MoD buildings or the renovated volunteer houses).

Village Bay basking in sunshine on St Kilda, with the summit of Conachair hidden in the clouds above

Village Bay on Hirta, with the summit of Conachair hidden in the clouds above



Village Bay basking in sunshine on St Kilda, with the summit of Conachair hidden in the clouds above

Village Bay on Hirta, with the summit
of Conachair hidden in the clouds above



There is a toilet, water tap, and small souvenir shop, but nowhere to buy food or drinks so be sure to bring your own.

Note that flying drones is not permitted on the islands.

BORERAY, STAC LEE AND STAC AN ARMIN

At the agreed time, return to the jetty on Hirta for your transfer back to the boat by dinghy/zodiac. You’ll be offered tea, coffee, and snacks onboard.

After 15 minutes or so, your boat will depart Village Bay for a trip around the outlying islands and sea stacks of St Kilda. Your route will depend on the weather and your specific tour, but may include getting close to Dun, where the largest puffin colony can be found, and heading around the northeastern side of Hirta to see the towering cliffs of Conachair.

From Hirta, it’s around 5 miles (15 minutes or so by boat) to Boreray, Stac an Armin and Stac Lee, where the highest concentration of gannets can be seen. Your boat will likely circle around Boreray, where you’ll have fantastic views of the cliffs, seabirds, and stacks before starting the return journey to your port of departure.

WHAT TO DO ON A TRIP TO ST KILDA

Your first view of St Kilda is bound to send tingles down your spine, a mass of land rising from the ocean with nothing but sea for miles around. As you get closer, the distinction between the islands of this small archipelago becomes more clear, with Boreray and the enormous sea stacks (Stac Lee and Stac an Armin) clustered together to the northeast, and the main island of Hirta looming ahead. From most angles the small island of Dun appears to be an extension of Hirta, a long arm protruding from the southern side of Village Bay, and Soay remains hidden from sight beyond hilly Hirta.

The small island of Dun, with two boats anchored in front, seen from a boat in Village Bay on a day trip to St Kilda

The view of Dun from Village Bay



The small island of Dun, with two boats anchored in front, seen from a boat in Village Bay on a day trip to St Kilda

The view of Dun from Village Bay



As you enter the curved, sheltered bay on the southern side of Hirta and get your first glimpse of The Village, there’s every chance your eye will be drawn not to the historic stone structures lining the main street, or to those scattered up the hillsides, but to the numerous MoD buildings and related infrastructure: a few shipping containers lining the shore, a road winding up the mountain to a large radar installation, and a cluster of modern buildings set back from the pier.

Your heart might sink a little, these incongruous structures at odds with the image of St Kilda in your mind. Just know that the feeling should fade as you set off towards the Main Street and up the hillside beyond, and if not, make peace with the fact that the presence of the MoD and associated infrastructure is invaluable to the continued work of the NTS, providing electricity, water, bulk fuel storage, drainage, medical facilities, and regular supply drops by helicopter.

VILLAGE WALK

Approximately 1 Hour

Following the introductory talk by the warden, you’re perfectly positioned to start exploring the village. The manse and school/church are behind the jetty (to the right of the MoD buildings), along with the toilets, water tap, and small souvenir shop. To the right of the jetty, you’ll find the old storehouse and a WWI era gun emplacement (installed after a German U-boat bombardment of the naval wireless station in May 1918).

The Street

The Factor’s House sits behind the MoD buildings, today providing accommodation for the resident NTS staff. Curving around to the left is Main Street, lined with houses. A few of them have been restored and act as accommodation for volunteers and scientists who stay over the summer. The rest are lying in ruin, with no roofs but walls still standing. Sitting in between are the remains of the old blackhouses, pre-dating the more modern gable end homes. The names of the former residents are written on slate and propped up outside each house, with the date referring to when the house was last occupied.

House No.3 has been renovated and turned into a museum. It is full of interesting photos and information related to the natural and cultural significance of St Kilda, and is well worth a look.

A slate displaying the names of the former residents of No. 1, evacuated with the rest of the remaining St Kilda community in 1930

A slate displaying the names of the former residents of No. 1, evacuated with the rest of the remaining community in 1930



A slate displaying the names of the former residents of No. 1, evacuated with the rest of the remaining St Kilda community in 1930

A slate displaying the names of the former
residents of No. 1, evacuated with the rest
of the remaining community in 1930



Soay Sheep

When St Kilda was home to a crofting community, the large wall surrounding the village, or head dyke, kept sheep and cattle out of the cultivated strips of land extending from each house. These days, Soay sheep roam freely around the island of Hirta, a primitive breed of wild sheep that are smaller than domesticated mainland sheep. Those around Village Bay are all tagged and monitored, part of a 30+ year research project by the University of Edinburgh and Imperial College of London. The lambs are especially cute in spring, with the elders looking particularly bedraggled when their coat starts moulting in early summer.

Young Soay sheep in the St Kilda islands, eating on the grassy shores of Village Bay on Hirta, with Ruaival seen in the distance

Young Soay sheep on the grassy shores of Village Bay, with Ruaival seen in the distance



Young Soay sheep in the St Kilda islands, eating on the grassy shores of Village Bay on Hirta, with Ruaival seen in the distance

Young Soay sheep on the grassy shores of
Village Bay, with Ruaival seen in the distance



Cleit (Cleitean)

Surrounding the village and dotted up the hillsides are the cold storage chambers made of rock and turf roofs called cleitean (singular cleit). With more than 1,300 recorded on Hirta, they are an impressive sight. Cleitean were used to store food and supplies, as well as to dry peat and turf. These days you’ll often spot fulmars nesting on top of them and Soay sheep hanging about inside.

Rows of cleitean line the hill below The Gap



Rows of cleitean line the hill below The Gap



CLIMB TO THE GAP

1 – 1.5 Hours Return

This is a highly rewarding but not too long walk on Hirta. Known as The Gap, the saddle between Conachair and Oiseval lies to the northeast of the village. It’s a pretty steep climb up the grassy hillside, passing drystone sheep enclosures and numerous cleitean. A couple of bonxies (great skuas) live around here and take delight in swooping down and whooshing past your head, purposefully just missing you. As you climb, the view back over the village and bay is wonderful.

People looking back down to Village Bay from The Gap on St Kilda

Looking back down to Village Bay from The Gap



People looking back down to Village Bay from The Gap on St Kilda

Looking back down to Village Bay from The Gap



As you reach the top, Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee reveal themselves in the distance, and you’re met with a sheer drop at the clifftop. Take great care with your footing and avoid getting too close to the edge – it can be very windy up here, with strong gusts. The view is spectacular, the perfect spot for a picnic and a bit of birdwatching, with fulmars flying around as they make their way to and from their cliffside nests.

Allow 1 – 1.5 hours to walk up to The Gap and back, including time up top to enjoy the views. It’s also possible to carry on up to the left, continuing on the circular route to Conachair (outlined below).

An amazing view of Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, rising from the water, seen from Hirta, the largest of the St Kilda islands

An amazing view of Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, seen from The Gap



An amazing view of Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, rising from the water, seen from Hirta, the largest of the St Kilda islands

An amazing view of Boreray,
Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee



SUMMIT CONACHAIR

Approx. 3 Hours Rtn via The Gap

Conachair (430 m) is the highest summit on Hirta, rising to the north of the village. From The Gap, you can continue up the increasingly steep grassy slopes to reach the trig point at the summit. The highest sea cliffs in the British Isles plunge straight down to the ocean from here, and the westernmost St Kildan island, Soay, becomes visible. The views are of course magnificent, given the right weather.

Continue west from the summit to the radar station on Mullach Mor (357 m), where a road leads back down to the village.

Allow about 3 hours to make a loop from the village via The Gap, Conachair, and Mullach Mor. It is not advisable to attempt a summit of Conachair in poor visibility as it can be dangerous close to the sheer cliffs. You can download a GPX of the route here.

RUAIVAL

Approx. 1.5 Hours Rtn

Ruaival (135 m) rises to the southern side of Village Bay, with the elongated island of Dun stretching out before it. A walk up here provides an alternative perspective over the bay and Dun, and the chance to see the fabled Mistress Stone. Tradition has it that before St Kildan men could marry, they had to prove their ability to provide for a family by balancing on this natural rock arch on one foot. Who knows whether it’s true or not, but for a community that was heavily reliant on skilled cragsmen hunting seabirds, it’s certainly possible!

Allow around 1.5 hours to walk from the village to Ruaival and back.

BOAT TRIP AROUND BORERAY, STAC LEE AND STAC AN ARMIN

The boat trip around Borerary and the sea stacks is a real highlight of the trip to St Kilda. Having already looked from afar, down over the cliffs of Hirta’s northeastern side from The Gap, or from the summit of Conachair, viewing them up close and from below provides a whole new impressive perspective. Tens of thousands of gannets nest on Boreray, Stac an Armin, and Stac Lee, and witnessing them flying overhead as you work your way around these outlying St Kildan isles is truly breathtaking. You’ll have the chance to see guillemots, puffins, shags, razorbills, and more, as well as Boreray sheep clinging implausibly to steep grassy slopes and rocky precipices.

A gannet passes overhead, seen from the boat as it navigates around Boreray and the St Kilda sea stacks

Birds swarm around the dramatic, rocky pinnacles on the St Kilda island of Boreray

The peak of Stac an Armin in St Kilda, 190 metres high, with countless birds nesting among its rocky cracks and crevices and filling the air around

A gannet passes overhead, seen from the boat as it navigates around Boreray and the St Kilda sea stacks

A gannet in flight


The peak of Stac an Armin in St Kilda, 190 metres high, with countless birds nesting among its rocky cracks and crevices and filling the air around

The peak of Stac an Armin, 190 metres high


Birds swarm around the dramatic, rocky pinnacles on the St Kilda island of Boreray

Birds swarm around Boreray’s rocky pinnacles



Look carefully at Stac an Armin and you might spot one of the small stone bothies used for shelter by St Kildan men on their summer fowling expeditions. Here, the skill and bravery required to sustain a community in such an inhospitable and isolated place really hits home.

CAMPING ON ST KILDA

There is no accommodation on St Kilda, however there is a small, basic campsite where you can stay for up to 5 nights. You must book in advance through the NTS, then book a confirmed seat (not standby) with a boat tour company for your outbound and inbound dates, paying double the fare.

You’ll have access to shared shower and toilet facilities and a fresh water tap. There is nowhere to buy supplies on St Kilda, so you must bring everything you need with you. This includes food, camping and cooking equipment, and enough extra supplies to cover double your intended period of stay, in case your return boat trip is cancelled due to bad weather.

Camping on St Kilda costs £20 per person, per night, with the fee payable in cash direct to the warden on your arrival. The NTS limits the number of people camping to 6, with a maximum 5 night stay permitted. You can check availability and make a booking by emailing stkildainfo@nts.org.uk.

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WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO ST KILDA

CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR

The weather on St Kilda, much like anywhere in Scotland, can be unpredictable and change quickly. It can be fiercely windy, rainy, misty, sunny, warm, and cold all in one trip. It’s best to dress in comfortable ‘outdoor clothing’, and pack warm layers like a fleece and down jacket, plus a waterproof jacket and trousers. A hat, gloves, and sunglasses are also recommended. Sturdy walking shoes are a must. You’ll need to climb in and out of the dinghy/zodiac boat, and will spend your time on Hirta walking around the island on uneven terrain. During the trip around the outlying islands and sea stacks, you’ll be moving around on the rocky boat deck and can get wet from sea spray.

FOOD AND DRINKS

A trip to St Kilda lasts all day, with no possibility of buying food or drinks, so be sure to pack your own. You can refill your water bottle at the tap on Hirta. There’s no better place to enjoy a picnic than at The Gap, looking down over the village on one side and out to Borerary and the stacks on the other. Remember to take all your rubbish off the island.

CAMERA, BINOCULARS, AND SPARE BATTERIES

Binoculars are handy for bird watching, and there’s every chance you may deplete a fully charged camera or phone battery, so it’s best to pack a power bank, phone charging cable, and extra camera batteries just in case.

SEA SICKNESS TABLETS

The crossing can sometimes be rough, so you may wish to take travel sickness tablets, or whatever motion sickness remedy works for you.

PLAN A TRIP ON THE NORTH COAST 500

HOW TO GET TO ST KILDA

The only way to get to St Kilda is by boat. Most people visit on a day trip from Skye, Harris, Eriskay, or Barra, although some companies offer multi-day sailing itineraries that include a visit to St Kilda.

DAY TRIPS TO ST KILDA

There are four companies offering scheduled day trips to St Kilda between April and September. These trips usually operate 3 times per week, and can be up to 6 times per week if the weather allows.

Each boat can carry a maximum of 12 passengers, and trips often book out well in advance, especially during the peak months of July and August. Pre-booking is essential, with many people booking up to a year in advance. Last minute bookings are possible though, especially from April to June, and in September.

Each of the day trip operators offer a 2 day booking window. This means that if your trip is cancelled due to bad weather on the first day, the trip will run on the second day instead (if the weather allows). Standby reservations are possible for the second day, but you will only be able to go if the boat goes on the first day with the confirmed passengers, and the weather on the second day allows the trip to operate with the standby passengers.

All of the boats operating day trips to St Kilda have covered seating, an outdoor area, and a toilet onboard. Be sure to arrive at the departure point at least 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

Three boats anchored in Village Bay at St Kilda, operated by Hebridean Sea Tours, Sea Harris, and Kilda Cruises

Boats in Village Bay operated by Hebridean Sea Tours, Sea Harris, and Kilda Cruises



Three boats anchored in Village Bay at St Kilda, operated by Hebridean Sea Tours, Sea Harris, and Kilda Cruises

Boats in Village Bay operated by Hebridean
Sea Tours, Sea Harris, and Kilda Cruises



DAY TRIPS TO ST KILDA FROM SKYE

Go St Kilda runs day trips to St Kilda from Skye, departing from Stein in Waternish. The boat departs at 7am and returns at 8 – 8:30pm. The journey is around 4 hours in each direction, the longest travel time of any of the four day trips.

 Go St Kilda day trips cost £280 per person, and they offer an optional guided walk on Hirta for £5 per person.

The Isle of Skye is connected to mainland Scotland by a bridge, making this the most accessible departure point for anyone not already in the Outer Hebrides.

DAY TRIPS TO ST KILDA FROM HARRIS

Two companies operate day trips to St Kilda from Harris. Both depart from Leverburgh at the southern end of the island.

Sea Harris departs at 8am and returns around 7pm. The journey lasts about  2.5 hours in each direction, the shortest travel time of any of the four day trips.

Sea Harris day trips cost £220 per person.

Kilda Cruises also depart at 8am and return around 7:30pm. The journey takes about 2h45m in each direction.

Kilda Cruises day trips cost £285 per person.

Harris and Lewis share the same landmass, so a day trip with either of these companies is ideal for anyone already visiting Lewis or Harris.

You can get to Lewis or Harris by CalMac Ferry. These operate from Ullapool (mainland) to Stornoway (Lewis) and Uig (Skye) to Tarbert (Harris). A CalMac ferry also connects North Uist (Berneray) to Leverburgh (Harris). Alternatively, you can fly to Stornoway (Lewis) direct from Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Inverness with Loganair.

DAY TRIPS TO ST KILDA FROM BARRA OR ERISKAY

Hebridean Sea Tours operate day trips to St Kilda from Barra, with an optional pick up on Eriskay. Their trips operate only once a week, on Mondays (standby day Tuesdays). They depart from Ardmhor on Barra at 7am, picking up at Eriskay ferry terminal around 7:10am. The boat returns to Eriskay around 7:30pm, and to Barra around 7:40pm. The journey is about 3 hours in each direction. Note that the Eriskay pick up/drop off option is not mentioned on the main booking page, but you can select this option at the confirmation stage.

Hebridean Sea Tours cost £205 per person, the cheapest St Kilda day trip available.

People on a St Kilda day trip taking in the views of rocky Boreray from the deck of the Spirit of the Hebrides, the boat operated by Hebridean Sea Tours

Taking in the views of Boreray from the catamaran operated by Hebridean Sea Tours



People on a St Kilda day trip taking in the views of rocky Boreray from the deck of the Spirit of the Hebrides, the boat operated by Hebridean Sea Tours

Taking in the views of Boreray from the
catamaran operated by Hebridean Sea Tours



Barra is at the southern end of the chain of islands that make up the Outer Hebrides. Eriskay is connected to South Uist, Benbecula, and North Uist by causeways, making this day trip the ideal option for anyone already visiting Barra, Eriskay, the Uists, or Benbecula.

You can get to Barra, South Uist, and North Uist from mainland Scotland/Skye by CalMac ferry. The routes are Oban to Barra (Castlebay ferry terminal), Mallaig to South Uist (Lochboisdale ferry terminal), and Skye (Uig) to North Uist (Lochmaddy ferry terminal). There is an inter-island CalMac ferry service between Barra (Ardmhor ferry terminal) and Eriskay. You can also fly direct from Glasgow with Loganair, to Barra (landing on the beach!) and Benbecula.

MULTI-DAY ST KILDA BOAT TRIPS

There are a number of companies offering multi-day boat trip itineraries to St Kilda and elsewhere in the Outer Hebrides. You live onboard, and have meals included. These usually run just a few times throughout the season, so booking well in advance is recommended. A few options are listed below.

Based out of Lewis, Island Cruising runs weekly 6 day trips to St Kilda and around between May and August. You can see the MV Cuma in action towards the end of our St Kilda film, the green boat surrounded by sea kayakers at Stac an Armin.

One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below

The MV Cuma offloading kayakers near the towering Stac Lee



One of the two famous stacks of St Kilda, Stac Lee rises from the sea as birds swarm around and the tourist boat MV Cuma offloads kayakers below

The MV Cuma offloading kayakers
near the towering form of Stac Lee



What a fantastic experience it must be, sailing to St Kilda on the magnificent tall ship, The Lady of Avenel. Clearwater Paddling runs a couple of different sea kayaking St Kilda itineraries from Barra, with limited departures each season.

Departing from Oban on the west coast of the Scottish mainland, Northern Light Cruising Co. runs a few trips each season to St Kilda, on the ex-Norwegian ice-class rescue vessel, Hjalmar Bjorge.

Another beauty of a tall ship, the Bessie-Ellen sails from Oban to St Kilda a couple of times each season.

Go West Sailing runs a few yacht sailing trips each season to St Kilda from Oban/Largs.

ST KILDA RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING

For those interested in reading more about St Kilda, the National Trust for Scotland St Kilda articles archive is a great place to start. You can also read more about the cultural and natural significance of St Kilda on the UNESCO St Kilda page.

Some excellent books written about St Kilda include the coffee table publication by Historic Environment Scotland, ‘St Kilda: The Last and Outmost Isle’, and Charles MacLean’s, ‘Island on the Edge of the World: The Story of St Kilda’. Other notable books include the first-hand account of life on St Kilda in the early 1900s by Rev. Donald John Gillies, ‘ The Truth About St. Kilda: An Islander’s Memoir’, and Tom Steel’s, ‘The Life and Death of St. Kilda: The moving story of a vanished island community’.





HOW TO VISIT ST KILDA

We hope you enjoyed our guide to visiting St Kilda and found it useful. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments below, and if you’ve been to St Kilda, we’d love to hear about your own experience on the islands.

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Birds fly around Stac Lee at St Kilda

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