St Kilda Ghost Island - Scotland
Not so much a ghost town but a whole ghost island! St Kilda is famous around the world to ornithologists and is safeguarded by the National Trust for Scotland. It’s a dual World Heritage Site, once for its natural wonders and again as a cultural and historic settlement. This status makes it rare amongst heritage sites.
St Kilda is a small group of very small islands a hundred miles of the mainland coast of Scotland and just over forty miles from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.
People had lived there for hundreds of years as tenants of a wealthy landowner who collected his rent not in money, for money didn’t exist on St Kilda, but in goods that would be collected once a year by his ‘tacksman’ who would visit in the summer bring supplies and leave with the rent and other goods the islanders ‘sold’ to him in exchange for supplies.
At its height St Kilda had two churches and a school, to support its community of nearly 200 inhabitants. They made their living by catching seabirds and selling them for food or collecting the feathers and oil from the birds. Each island had a colony of a different bird and so each were visited over the breeding period for collection. The land was farmed and oats and barley was grown. Hebridean sheep roamed the rougher ground and they provided milk and cheese for the islanders whilst their wool would be used for weaving tartan and other apparel.
Gradually, the outside world began to encroach on the islands, the navy were regular visitors in the first world war and shortly after pleasure boat companies offered trips to the islands. This gave the islanders a taste of what life was like on the mainland and many hankered to leave. Some took advantage of the chance to emigrate to Australia where today there is a suburb of Melbourne and Adelaide called St Kilda.
Eventually in 1930, with the population unable to sustain itself the remaining 38 people signed a letter asking to be repatriated to the mainland and so the amazing story of the inhabitation of St Kilda came to an end.
Then in 1956, the Marquis of Bute signed ownership of the island over to the National Trust for Scotland in whose hands it remains today.