I finally made it to St Kilda.

January 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

St Kilda - Island on the edge of the World

I finally made it to St Kilda, it happened early last June when, along with 2 other members of the Galloway Photo Collective I headed to Harris via Skye hoping to reach this remote  archipelago.  Thwarted by  grim weather,  worst for many years,  the outlook was pretty bleak, so we abandoned the trip after only one rather good day & night on The Isle of  Harris.

I had work to do on Skye so I stuck around there for the next 10 days, finally there was a break in the weather and I made a dash for it. It was a real wave-thumper of a sail out, most passengers on Angus Campbell's Kilda Cruises power boat were sick. I was lucky riding shotgun so kept my eye on the horizon, this did the trick.

I'd logged many images of St Kilda in my mind over the years so there was a familiarity which took shape straight away, but this was my time to do my thing so forget those!  I have faith that nowhere ever looks quite the same ever again, so I'm always game for bit of "re-interpretation" and my excitement at being here did not subside for the entire 3 days.

In the care of our National Trust for Scotland its future as a World Heritage Site is assured. Their role is to defend and further comprehend its unique ecology and archeology.  During the summer a dozen or so work-party volunteers enliven the human wildlife of the island. I was privileged to join one of these very sociable gangs for a ramble to some hotspots on the other side of the Island. Apparently there is a long waiting list for this work such is their popularity, a fair few return many times.

I have been asked which bits I liked the best - always a hard one in such an intensely interesting destination such as this.  Off the top of my head here are three;

1) The outrageous Bonxies, aka Great Skuas are a bit of legend I would say. Probably for the first time in my life, for a second or two at least, I actually knew what it feels like to be attacked by a wild animal. I can't claim it was bad luck, I was warned that up a certain Glen they would have a go at me, of course the wee boy in me just had to check that one out didn't he! Whack and whack again across the top o'ma heid they came one after another working as a team, crafty and forceful, watching my every move, angling to come at me from directly into the sun to avoid detection. I was both shocked and exhilarated - what a game this is - how to get a shot of these menacing bruisers and not lose an eye in the process.  I reckon they are the living embodiment of a WW2 Heinkle bomber. Anyway if you want peace,  stick your walking pole up high in your backpack above the head and they  leave you alone.

2) The Village on Hirta is simply breathtaking, with the texture & graphics of the rudimentary dry stone cleats & cottages, the echoes the past are redolent in an almost intoxicating way. For me, images of that lost civilisation are never far from mind and the inherent sadness of its failure is palpable. But I found joy in touching stone and marveling at those outer/outer Hebridean people's resilience and practicality in the face of what we might regard as hard core austerity.

3) The outlying satellite island cluster of Boreray demanded attention but the light was full and bright i.e. not forthcoming for dramatic interpretation. Sunrise would be right behind and so that might work. A groan inducing alarm call at 3.45 was close to being ignored but with some rare discipline I'm off up the hill up to "The Gap". The curious and wonderful thing about this exact place is that invariably  "virgin gappers" report a powerful sense of shock and revelation when the rocks of Boreray emerge to view as they reach the crest of the hill having huffed and puffed their way to the edge of the cliff for the first time. I did that too and wow, a full-on crimson dawn getting into its stride, no choice, it had to be a time-lapse sequence.

 

I'd like to go back.

 


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