St Kilda is a group of five remote islands – Hirta, Soay, Boreray, Dun and Levenish – in the North Atlantic, 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland. It is one of the few World Heritage Sites to hold mixed status for its cultural and natural qualities.
The last residents of St Kilda were evacuated in 1930, bringing to an end about 4,000 years of human occupation. They had survived what appears to be a very harsh environment by catching seabirds for food, feathers and oil, farming crops and raising livestock.
The archipelago is a spectacular landscape of vertical cliffs and sea stacks surrounding the safe haven of Village Bay. Clear oceanic waters support a diverse and stunning range of animals and plants. Cliffs host the largest colony of seabirds in Europe. The sheep, field mice and wrens on St Kilda are unique to the islands.
As well as being a World Heritage Site, St Kilda is a:
- National Nature Reserve
- National Scenic Area
- Site of Special Scientific Interest
- European Union Special Protection Area
The St Kilda archipelago is situated 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland.
Western Isles Manager
National Trust for Scotland
40 Huntly Street
2 Inscription and significance
St Kilda is one of the few World Heritage Sites to hold mixed status for its natural and cultural qualities.
UNESCO originally inscribed St Kilda as a World Heritage Site in 1986, for its natural heritage.
This was extended in:
- 2004 – to include St Kilda’s surrounding marine environment
- 2005 – to recognise its importance as a cultural landscape
St Kilda has exceptional natural beauty and significant habitats. It is unique in the very high bird densities that occur in a relatively small area, thanks to its range of complex and varied ecological niches. The complex ecological dynamic in the marine zones is essential to maintaining both marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
The cultural landscape is an outstanding example of land use, which results from a type of subsistence economy based on the products of birds, agriculture and sheep farming, and reflects age-old traditions. The built structures and field systems, the cleits and the traditional stone houses bear testimony to 5,000 years of human occupation in extreme conditions.
3 Visit St Kilda
St Kilda offers stunning scenery, a unique range of marine and terrestrial bird and animal life, and a rich cultural landscape.
The best way to see St Kilda is by either:
- joining one of the many privately run boat tours and cruises
- applying for a place on one of the St Kilda Conservation Work Parties
To find out more, visit the National Trust for Scotland website.
4 Management of St Kilda
The National Trust for Scotland owns the archipelago of St Kilda. It manages the World Heritage Site in partnership with:
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Historic Environment Scotland
- Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)
- Ministry of Defence and its agents QinetiQ
Find out more on the St Kilda World Heritage Site website run by the National Trust for Scotland.
Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and management plan
Each World Heritage Site has a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, which:
- clearly states the reasons for the site’s inscription on the World Heritage List
- identifies what must be protected, conserved and managed to protect its Outstanding Universal Value for the long term
UNESCO also requires each site to have a management plan. This provides a shared framework for a site’s active: