St Kilda, an isolated archipelago 64 km WNW of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean, contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom and three other islands, Dùn, Soay and Boreray.
Since the evacuation of Hirta, the last remaining inhabited island, in the early thirties the only residents besides sea birds and sheep have been the military.
Research scientists and conservationists spend time there during the Summer, along with parties of volunteers who work to restore the many ruined buildings that the native St Kildans left behind.
But essentially the islands are uninhabited.
It is entirely possible that the islands were permanently occupied for at least eighteen hundred years prior to the thirties though this is unconfirmed. The islands’ human heritage includes numerous unique architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods, although the earliest written records of island life date from the Late Middle Ages.
The entire archipelago is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, and in the mid- eighties it became one of Scotland’s five World Heritage Sites.
A Neolithic breed of sheep, the Soay, and an Iron Age breed, the Boreray, still exist on the islands as do many important seabird species including the world’s largest colony of Northern Gannets (or Solan Goose : see recipe), totalling some 30,000 pairs, which amounts to 24% of the entire world population.