Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Day on St Kilda

In October of 2014, some ten months ago, I signed up for an Outer Hebrides trip on Hjalmar Bjorge operated by Northern Lights Charters. The cruise was for this August, and included a visit to St Kilda. As the date approached I started paying attention to the weather news from Scotland. The news was not good: a record number of day-trip cruises to Kilda were being cancelled due to the bad weather. A week before the trip the weather looked like it was still going to be terrible, and the Northern Lights cruise during that week was unable to get to Kilda, and had to spend a good deal of time hiding from the winds in and around Skye.

But we were lucky. As we set out from Oban on August 8 the weather took a turn for the better, and we were able to get to Kilda. Greeting us as we arrived in Village Bay was the beautiful tall ship Bessie Ellen.

Bessie Ellen in Village Bay
The first few hours on the island were a bit crowded. For in addition to the passengers on Bessie Ellen, there were another 90 people ashore, as all the day-boats had taken advantage of the break in the weather to make the trip. I had about seven hours, long enough to escape the crowds and make a long walk around the island.

Once past the Helipad and beach, I started up the grassy slopes to Ruabhal and the Mistress Stone.

The Mistress Stone
From Ruabhal a gentle grassy slope leads to Mullach Bi and the dramatic west ridge of Kilda.

Day Boats from Harris, Lewis and Loch Alainn - Hjalmar Bjorge at far right

Looking NW to Soay
From the above viewpoint over Soay I made a steep descent into Glen Mor to take a close look at its cluster of horned structures that, from a distance, resemble ant-heads with giant pincers.

Glen Mor
Ruins in Glen Mor
Horned Structure - 1
Horned Structure - 2
Scattered across the glen are bits and pieces of the Sunderland flying boat which crashed here in June of 1944.
Sunderland Wreckage - 1
Sunderland Wreckage - 2
From Glen Mor it was a stiff climb of some 1200 feet up the slopes to the top of Mullach Mor, where I encountered the not-so-picturesque radar complex at the top of the hill

Summit of Mullach Mor
From Mullach Mor an enjoyable walk led to the top of Conachair, the highest point on Kilda. To the NE there was an amazing view over to Boreray, and the south side offered a view directly down to the village. I could see that all the day-boats had now left, and the only ships at anchor were Halmar Bjorge, Elizabeth G, and two others.

Boreray seen from Conachair
Village Bay seen from Conachair
From the top of Conachair it was a steep descent down the grassy hillside to the Gap. There I took a seat at the cliff edge to enjoy the view of Boreray.

Boreray seen from the Gap - with one of the day boats on its way to the stacks
Bonxies had harassed me all day, and as I descended to the village I had to keep a fist in the air to ward off their attacks. I still had an hour left, and so I leisurely wandered through the village before making my way to the cannon by the feather store.

Village Street
Site of the post office
Number 5
The canon - with Hjalmar Bjorge & Elizabeth G at anchor
I was soon back aboard Hjalmar Bjorge enjoying a cold beer and a wonderful dinner. The next morning we motored out of village Bay to head for the Monachs. The plan was to spend the night there, but the conditions were too rough, so we ended up at Loch Maddy, where I was offered the opportunity of making a through-hike across the hinterlands of North Uist. It would be a trek from Loch Maddy to Loch Euphort via North and South Lee, which will be the subject of the next post.

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