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  • Johnnie

St. Kilda

The St Kilda archipelago can be seen frequently through the kitchen window and from the garden when looking northwest. As fine weather approaches, Boreray is the first of the St Kilda islands to appear on the horizon, followed by the unmistakable profile of Hirta. On very clear days the sea stacks can also be seen with the naked eye.

North Uist is the nearest landmass to St Kilda, which lies just 38 nautical miles away. The estimated journey time is only 1.5 hours by RIB, operated by the Uist Outdoor Centre in Lochmaddy. The only faster way to St Kilda is by Helicopter. Boat trips from the nearby island of Harris take around 3 hours each way.

A trip across the sea to St Kilda should be on everyone's agenda. Many have waxed lyrical on the internet and in books about the magic and wild beauty of St Kilda and in our view it's all true, every word.

It's often pure luck whether trips to St Kilda run or not. All we can do is book a place (well in advance) and hope. The decision to sail or not is made by the individual boat Captain on the day according to the sea conditions and we are either lucky or we are not. Some people take several attempts over a number of years before they successfully make it to St Kilda.

Top tip: If there is any doubt about a sailing on the day before a trip (based on the weather forecast), then more often than not, if the Captain does decide to sail on the day the crossing can be rough. On such occasions, passengers are usually elated by their good fortune as their boat sails but if prone to seasickness, can quickly turn green with nausea. If the Captain does sail in marginal conditions, everyone (except natural sailors) should get effective seasickness medication and make sure it's working before the boat sails.

However, in our view no one should think twice about booking a trip to St Kilda. As they say "if you get the chance to go, just go".

All boat trips include a visit to the nearby Stac Lee, Stac an Armin and Boreray, the highest sea cliffs in Britain and home to the worlds largest colony of breeding northern Gannets numbering about 60,000 pairs. As one local sailor has written, "the sight of the (St Kilda) stacks and their birds leaves you breathless and speechless."

As distance swimmers, Julie and I were blown away by the news last summer that 7 swimmers had completed the 55 mile sea crossing from St Kilda to Harris as a relay team in just 13 hours. Chapeau to them! Fantastic!

A swim from North Uist to St Kilda anyone (it's only 38 miles)?

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