St Kilda – Watercolour

This group of islands, known as St Kilda, lie 40 miles to the west of the main Outer Hebridean Island of North Uist. There are are a number of islands and sea stacks in this group, the four main ones are Soay – towards the rear left of this painting, Hirta – which is shown stretched across this page showing the “Village Bay” and Dun – the one in the front left. The other main island, Boreray, lies to the right of this painting and is not shown. I have never visited St Kilda – this is from a friend’s photograph, although a pilgrimage is at the top of my “Things to do before I die” list.

The island of Soay was home to a type of feral sheep whose origins can be traced back to Neolithic times. Boreray still has some ancestors of the Hebridean “Dunface” type which have become feral in their own right. Hirta contained the only inhabited part of the archipelago and the remains of stone built dwelling attract visitors and volunteer restoration workers each year. In 1930, the population became non-viable and the last 36 residents were evacuated to the mainland ending a unique way of life. Rare film exists showing the extraordinary skills of the islanders, rowing across to the other islands and scaling the sheer cliffs to harvest sea birds, a main part of the diet. Evidently these folks had no fear of heights.

The islands are considered to be of such great national importance that they have been awarded “Dual World Heritage Status for Unique Scottish Islands” (for natural and cultural qualities – 2004). The islands were inhabited for thousands of years and this is thought to have peaked around 180. The way of life was a true democracy with it own “parliament”. These days it is possible to visit although this is not easy. For those so inclined see: