A voyage to the St. Kilda archipelago is unique and different. Indeed, it is the end of the earth. Photographs don’t do it justice, it is overwhelming, awesome, humbling.
I boarded the Good Ship Cuma and set sail for St. Kilda with high expectations. Weather played a big role in the trip. The first day out was rough at sea and the Cuma had to return to safe haven.
The next day I had great hopes for good light and doing photography.
My companions and I were fortunate, our Captain Murdo Macdonald, has decades of experience traversing the dangerous waters off the coast of the Isle of Lewis.
As we approached the St. Kilda Archipelago, the wind died down and we were gifted with wonderful light on the stacks of Boreray. Can one imagine 100,000 gannets at nest on one island? It cannot be described.
As the Cuma moved into Village Bay, we got our first view of the famous village on the Island of Herte.
Once on the island of Herte, my friend decided that we should go find Puffins, so next thing I know I am trekking along a steep cliff, trying light the dickens to keep from plunging 200 feet into the water. I still remembers how frightened I was while walking along the edge of the shore towards the southern end of Herte, where hopefully one might find nesting Puffins.
Alas, the Puffins were nowhere to be found, seemingly they avoid humans and nest on Dun, a separate island that once adjoined Herte.
Rather than traverse the trail to the end of Herte, my friend suggested that we climb to the top of the southern end of the island and follow a road shown on her map. And what a climb it was! Herte is mostly grass and wet muddy surfaces, meaning that the steep slopes are dangerous if one falls as it is likely that one would keep rolling down the slopes into the sea. Once on top, the light began to fade as a mist began to settle on the island.
Returning to the village, enough light was available for a few photographs of houses once occupied by the people of St. Kila, who evacuated the island in 1930, ending over 2,000 years of occupation on this remote place.
The island is covered with hundreds of cleits, which the St. Kildans used to store feathers, hay, manure, and remains of Gannets which were a staple food source for the inhabitants.
Our second day on the Island of Herte was a big disappointment. A heavy mist had covered the island during the night and a light rain greeted the us as we once again landed on the island.
After five hours of traversing the island in the rain, the we decided that hot coffee and a late lunch on board the Cuma seemed appealing.
The following day we set sail from Herte and journey across the North Atlantic to the Isle of Lewis. Disappointed in the weather, we shared part of the journey with another party on a wonderful old sailboat.
As we left Herte, the light began to change, as it always does in Scotland. We cruised around the archipelago in awe of the cliffs, the sea, and the utter remoteness of the islands.
A journey to the St. Kilda Archipelago is a rare event. Only about 3,000 persons visit the islands each year.
If one seeks adventure, then by all means go. If one is prone to seasickness, the trip is not advised, be prepared for rough seas and hours of tossing in the North Atlantic.
If you go, Photo Travel Review Magazine highly recommends that you book with Murdo Macdonald on board the Cuma.
How to get there.
One must get to the Isle of Lewis, best achieved by Ferry arriving at Stornoway. Murdo can arrange to meet you at the ferry for the drive to where the Cuma is anchored.
What to expect.
Outstanding food. Hardy and plenty of it, be prepared for basic Scottish meals served hot.
Fresh water showers and flushing toilets.
Cabins are small, but adequate. Located below deck, each cabin has two bunk beds. Large enough to accommodate Bill’s six-foot two frame.
Rough seas and wet weather. Make sure you pack waterproof gear.
A large lounge for meals and relaxing.
An experienced and seasoned crew who know the islands well. The area is treacherous and PTR recommends that you inquire about the credentials of anyone who offers trips to St. Kilda. We think Murdo is the best.
What will it cost?
A six-day trip costs 795 Great British Pounds. Considering that both room and meals are included, this is a bargain!