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7 Jun 2019

From the edge of the world: part 2

Written by Sue Loughran
The sun sets over the radar mast on Hirta, St Kilda
Hello! I’m Sue, the ranger on St Kilda. I’m writing a blog to share what it’s like to work on these incredible islands. This week, I describe my first impressions of the islands.

I had many expectations about how I would feel when walking along the Street (where the row of cottages and remains of blackhouses can be seen today). I had, of course, read accounts of the evacuation, and I fully expected to experience a sense of sadness, emptiness and loneliness. The powerful black-and-white photographs and cine images added to my feeling that this may be a place of great unhappiness.

A row of stone houses on Hirta, St Kilda
The Street on St Kilda

I was very surprised to experience quite the opposite feeling, when I started to explore. 

A few of the houses have been sensitively restored by volunteer work parties into simple dwellings, a museum and a work store, where they provide shelter for the work parties, Soay sheep researchers (‘the Sheepies’) and organised groups. The church and school are also open to visitors, and have been preserved as they would have been at the time of the evacuation.

For me, St Kilda is still very much a living and working island. As with islands the world over, it brings together people from all over the world – whether as contractors working on the new MOD base, as cruise passengers, or as one of the steady stream of day visitors. 

The island acknowledges both its past and its future, and welcomes people into its present.