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St Kilda

Panoramic view of St Kilda World Heritage Site

St Kilda is a group of five remote islands: Hirta, Soay, Boreray, Dun and Levenisha, which lie in the North Atlantic 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland.  

The clear oceanic waters around the islands support a diverse and stunning range of animals and plants while the cliffs are home to the largest colony of seabirds in Europe. The sheep, fieldmice and wrens on the islands are unique to St Kilda. The last residents were evacuated in 1930, bringing to an end  thousands of years of human occupation. They had survived in this seemingly harsh environment by catching seabirds for food, feathers and oil, farming crops and raising livestock.

The archipelago is a spectacular landscape of vertical cliffs and sea stacs, surrounding the safe haven of Village Bay. In addition to its mixed World Heritage status, St Kilda is a National Nature Reserve, a National Scenic Area, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Union Special Protection Area.

Inscription and Significance

St Kilda was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986 for its natural heritage, and extended in 2004 to include its surrounding marine environment and in 2005 to recognise its importance as a cultural landscape. St Kilda is one of the few World Heritage Sites to hold mixed status for its natural and cultural qualities.

St Kilda is of Outstanding Universal Value for its exceptional natural beauty and significant habitats. It is unique in the very high bird densities that occur in a relatively small area, linked to its range of complex and varied ecological niches. The complex ecological dynamic in the marine zones is essential to the maintenance of both marine and terrestrial biodiversity. The cultural landscape is an outstanding example of land use resulting from a type of subsistence economy based on the products of birds, agriculture and sheep farming and reflecting age-old traditions. The built structures and field systems, the cleits and the traditional stone houses bear testimony to over two millennia of human occupation in extreme conditions.

Read the full Statement of Outstanding Unviersal Value [pdf, 186kb]


The St Kilda archipelago is situated 100 miles off the west coast of Scotland.

Managing the Site

The National Trust for Scotland owns the archipelago of St Kilda and manages it  in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Historic Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Ministry of Defence and its agents QinetiQ.

The Site Management Plan guides sustainable management to maintain the Outstanding Universal Value. The current Plan and supporting documents can be found here.

Visiting the Site

St Kilda offers stunning scenery, a unique range of marine and terrestrial bird and animal life and a rich cultural landscape. The best way to see this first-hand is through one of the many privately-run boat tours and cruises, or on a working holiday. See the St Kilda website for more information.

Further images of St Kilda can be found on the Scottish Ten website.

For further information contact:
Western Isles Manager
National Trust for Scotland
40 Huntly Street
IV3 5H

World Heritage Site Logo

Contact us

World Heritage Site Coordination Team
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8763

Free downloadable resources

Free downloadable leaflets about St Kilda can be found on our Information & resources page