Highlands & Islands

Historic St Kilda link to Skye restored

Media captionSt Kilda was abandoned by its dwindling population in 1930

A historic link to the remote islands of St Kilda has been restored, with the launch of a new service from the Isle of Skye.

The service takes just over four hours to reach St Kilda from the port of Uig.

St Kilda is owned by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and lies more than 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides.

Food shortages, disease and emigration forced the final 36 islanders to leave in 1930.

The archipelago was awarded dual World Heritage Site status by Unesco in recognition of its natural and cultural importance and attracts growing numbers of visitors.

Derek Gordon, of Go to St Kilda from Skye, operates the new service, which competes with established rivals sailing from Harris.

He said: "We're finding that a lot of local people from Skye are sailing with us, perhaps because they have a family connection with St Kilda.

"Most of our passengers tell us they have wanted to visit St Kilda all their lives.

"The provision of a service from Skye has allowed them to turn that ambition into reality and they've come on board."

The National Trust for Scotland is working to ensure increasing visitor numbers do not threaten St Kilda's buildings or wildlife.

The islands are home to some of the world's most important seabird colonies.

Paul Sharman, a ranger with NTS, said: "I think it is a good thing that people are coming to experience this unique world heritage site.

"But most people stay in the village area, which does cause some wear and tear."

Gambling and drinking

St Kilda was owned by the MacLeods of Dunvegan Castle on Skye for centuries.

Kevin Grant, the resident archaeologist on St Kilda, told BBC Scotland: "The MacLeods were the owners from the time of the Lords of the Isles in the 1400s.

"They had a fraught relationship with the people of St Kilda a lot of the time.

"St Kilda was sold by the MacLeods of Dunvegan to other MacLeods in the 1770s, largely because the Chief of the MacLeods had wasted all his money gambling and drinking.

"That meant the fate of the islanders could be dependent on whether the clan chief won or lost at cards."

St Kilda will be the focus of BBC Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme at 06:30 on Saturday 10 August.