• St Kilda Photographic Collection

    St Kilda Photographic Collection

    St Kilda’s collection reveals how essential the camera was in documenting unknown and curious places, recording certain ways of life believed to be extinct and for romanticising the remote.

    Explore the Collection »
  • Exploring St Kilda\'s Sea Caves

    Exploring St Kilda's Sea Caves

    The waters around St Kilda are designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for their reefs and sea caves, which attract a wealth of spectacular sea life. Lisa Kamphausen of Scottish Natural Heritage spent time exploring the sea caves of St Kilda & Rona.

    Read the blog »
Visitors St Kilda

Whilst the online presentation of Alice MacLachlan’s diaries take a break - as she leaves St Kilda for a few weeks in the summer of 1907 - we are going to look at visitors to St Kilda in the decades after the MacLachlans were on the island through some of the Trust’s own archives and deposits of archival material to the National Trust for Scotland over the years. 

Going back in time we will look at visitors to the islands in the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s during the first couple of weeks in July. This will include records and photos of NTS work parties.

From mid-July we will examine visitors in the 1960s and 1950s which will focus upon Operation Hardrock, the Soay Sheep project and various school visits after the Trust acquired St Kilda in 1957.

From early August we will be looking at those who went to St Kilda in the 1940s and 1930s which includes visitors going to St Kilda after the evacuation of the islands and those who wrote to the owner of St Kilda at the time, the Earl of Dumfries, requesting a visit for the purposes of bird watching. 

From mid-August we will then look at St Kilda visitors from the 1920s back to the early 1900s and then from early September we will be re-starting the diaries. 

Visitors to St Kilda in the 1950s and 1960s  

The National Trust for Scotland accepted the bequest of the islands of St Kilda in 1956 from the 5th Marquis of Bute, officially taking over St Kilda in 1957. The islands were to be managed jointly by the NTS and the Nature Conservancy Council, whose representatives would assist with the management of St Kilda’s unique natural heritage. There was also an agreement with the Air Ministry that they would set up a radar installation and base on Hirta.  Alongside later work party visits and expeditions by the St Kilda Club, in 1958, the NTS also facilitated the first school groups to visit to St Kilda.


Operation Hardrock  

The exercise to establish the radar installation in 1957 became known as Operation Hardrock.  The main objectives for the Air Ministry were to establish a beachhead area and temporary camp, make roads to the permanent area and technical sites and build the technical sites on top of Mullach Mor and Mullach Sgar. The images below were sent to the Trust in 2016 by a Mr Willie Wilson who recorded his involvement in Operation Hardrock: 

"I was sent to St Kilda to fix the clutch on the tractor. Sailed from Cairryan - 24 hour trip. Fumes from the engine really bad."

Our thanks go to Mr Wilson and others who have donated images and information concerning Operation Hardrock, through the St Kilda Club.

School Expedition in 1958  

In August and September 1958, the NTS facilitated a Joint Schools Expedition involving pupils from a number of schools in England and Scotland.  Their main aims were to help with the clearing of the village houses, the post office and the burial ground.

One of the schoolboys who took part in this exciting venture was Eddie Roberts, who was a pupil at Merchant Taylor’s School.  This is an extract from his journal detailing his visit to St Kilda in August 1958:

Thankfully a large evening meal had been prepared.  After a swill and change most of us strolled to the church for Major Riach’s talk.  He is a marvellous chap and entertained us with his slides of America and answered all our questions.  Cocoa and biscuits were provided.  But the surprise highlight was when two St Kilda Field Mice sneaked along a skirting board! Like the local wren, they are reputed to be bigger than their mainland cousins, but how can you tell unless both are side by side?

Wednesday 13th August
After breakfast, worked on clearing the houses again with an event bigger bonfire, I’m puzzled why the timber isn’t stacked or nabbed by the Task Force.  It was another hard morning’s work.  Alex was pleased with the progress, but it all seems random and cosmetic to me, yet so was the ‘tidying’ I had done in the cemetery since the nettle will return; but it made ‘Trog’ my St Kilda wren friend very happy, and will aid the plotting of the random grave marker-stones.  Hopefully the flat iris I left will flourish.  After lunch the weather improved considerably so went over to Gleann Mor. Though it faces north it is a much greener and gentler valley. Bill, John, Dick and I listened to Alex’s explanation of a clustered settlement of seemly pre-historic stone beehive houses close to the stream and a spring. The largest was fancifully named the Amazon House by Martin Martin in 1697. It certainly wasn’t a house but a crawl-in, flagged floor, turf-topped earthy igloo just about big enough for a couple of people to curl up in if you hadn’t cracked your skill on the stone lintel like me. Our gang’s den in 1948 built with Blitz bomb waste was bigger. Were they emergency shelters for ship-wrecked Vikings, or an earlier Iron Age structure, or by a religious hermit, or was it for survivors of a doomed voyage ruled by a tough female whose husband had droned; was he the mysterious Kilda or misspelt Hilda?

Also shown is a postcard sent in August 1958 by a ‘JW’, possibly a member of NTS staff, who was on the August 1958 expedition. This postcard was sent to Jamie Stormonth-Darling, the Trust Secretary, describing the success of the trip to that point.

Soay Sheep Project    

From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s there were a number of expeditions by representatives from the Nature Conservancy Council and others, under the leadership of John Morton Boyd, who began the investigations of the remarkable Soay sheep.

One of the members of the party, Dr Graham Gunn, donated some slides and other material relating to these expeditions.  The following image shows the setting up of the tents in a seemingly precarious position.


From mid-August we will be looking at visitors to the islands in 1940s and 1930s.


Read about Alice Maclachlan's life on St Kilda from 1906-1907 in the St Kilda Diaries. 


Introduction: The St Kilda Diaries
The Evacuation of St Kilda
Life on St Kilda

Garve 1906 
Transcripts & Original Diaries

St Kilda 1906
Aug: Transcripts Original Diaries
Sep: Transcripts & Original Diaries
Oct:  Transcripts Original Diaries 
NovTranscripts Original Diaries
Dec: Transcripts Original Diaries 

St Kilda 1907
Jan: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Feb: Transcripts & Original Diaries 
Mar: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Apr: Transcripts & Original Diaries
May: Transcripts & Original Diaries
Jun: Transcripts & Original Diaries

Visitors to St Kilda
1990s, 1980s & 1970s

  Read more about Alice and her hometown of Haddington in a post on the East Lothian Archive blog.  


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