Back to St Kilda

Conservation work

The 5th Marquess of Bute bequeathed St Kilda to the National Trust for Scotland in 1957. In the same year, it was designated a National Nature Reserve.

St Kilda is now one of 43 National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in Scotland. As well as the important seabird colonies, the unique sheep, fieldmice and wrens, there’s a wealth of marine life around the archipelago. It’s the function of NNRs to safeguard these features, together with the botanical, geological, archaeological and cultural interests, and also to promote good management, research and public enjoyment.

St Kilda has received many national and international designations in recognition of its outstanding natural and cultural heritage.

In 1986 St Kilda was designated by UNESCO as Scotland’s first World Heritage Site, conferring an international obligation on the Trust to ensure the natural heritage of the islands is protected and preserved. This was extended in 2004 to include the surrounding marine environment, and in 2005 St Kilda was awarded dual World Heritage Site status for its natural and cultural significance.

Today, the National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Ministry of Defence work in partnership to further a continuing programme of conservation and research on the islands and to ensure the care and protection of this World Heritage Site.

Work parties

These are residential working holidays organised by the National Trust for Scotland to help in the conservation and management of St Kilda.

How to apply

St Kilda Work Parties 2019: applications are now closed. Details for 2020 will be posted in November 2019.

Do I need any special skills?

Building, carpentry, plumbing and roofing skills are all very useful. But don’t worry if you don’t have any of these – an ability to try and enthusiasm to learn are just as important. A good level of fitness is also needed.

What sort of work do work parties do?

The buildings need constant care and maintenance in the harsh Atlantic climate. The roofs are retarred annually, woodwork repainted, drains cleared, turf roofs repaired – and the tool shed always needs tidied! Sometimes the archaeologist and ranger also need a helping hand.

Work parties are also expected to help in the day-to-day running of the island – this includes cleaning public areas, helping in the shop and welcoming visitors. Spare time is usually spent exploring the island.

Fitness

St Kilda is a challenging place. The long boat journey can be exhausting and once you arrive everywhere seems to be uphill. You’ll be asked to do outdoor work which may include drystane dyking, wheel-barrowing and digging.

Travel to St Kilda

The boat journey to St Kilda can take several hours, the crossing can be arduous and many people suffer from seasickness. We recommend that people who are diabetic and others who may suffer from lack of fluids/solids consult their doctor prior to departure.

Accommodation and facilities

Two of the reroofed 1860s houses serve as accommodation for the work parties. The single sex rooms have space for up to 7 people (at a squeeze!) in single beds. Each house has electric light and heating. Please note that the accommodation is very simple and basic and you’ll need to bring a sleeping bag and sheets.

The ablutions block is used by the work parties and any campers. On a bright sunny morning it’s a pleasant walk; in the rain at night it can seem a long way. We recommend bringing a torch to stop you falling in the burn.

Facilities include: 2 toilets; 2 showers; 3 hand-washing sinks; clothes-washing sink; spin dryer; pulley; clothes line. There is constant hot water. Please note there are no separate facilities for men and women.

What’s the food like?

Each work party has a designated cook who orders all the food beforehand and arranges for it to be delivered to the boat. If you have any special dietary needs these should be included in the application form. There are no shops on St Kilda and food cannot be delivered during your stay.

All food is included: breakfast (cooked), lunch, dinner and snacks. Each day two work party members will help the cook prepare the food – don’t worry if you can’t cook, you’ll learn!

What if I fall ill?

There is no doctor on St Kilda but there is a nurse and you’re required to fill in a medical form. If you have a pre-existing medical condition that requires medication you must ensure you have an adequate supply with you. In an emergency appropriate arrangements will be made.

But most of all …

St Kilda work parties offer a unique opportunity for people to stay on the island for 10–14 days. Most other visitors to St Kilda stay on their vessels in the bay and usually only have one or two days ashore. If you’re successful in your application to be part of a work party, you’ll have an unforgettable experience.