Cycling the Hebrides: Day 5 St Kilda

Day 5 St Kilda – cycled to the ferry only

I clung onto the bench with one hand, getting sprayed by waves breaking on the boat, cup clenched with the other hand, mouth firmly placed over the cup’s opening. Out poured the breakfast I’d shovelled in two hour previous with a naive hope of a steady crossing. The young lad takes the filled cup and hands me another one with a slice of kitchen roll and tossed the cup and contents over board. He did this with a smile, one of kindness and not a hint of a smirk as he got on with looking after the three of us who all were feeling the effects of the swell. “We didn’t go out yesterday or the day before, winds too strong, the swell takes a bit to even out” he said as if giving us a reason to be ill and making us feel a bit better knowing that the sea was choppy.

We arrived in village bay thankfully to calmer waters but we all couldn’t wait to get off the boat not only to see Kilda and hope that the journey was worth it but to also get on some solid land.

The weather was clear, overcast and only a slight breeze. The amphitheater that is village bay is a sight for sore eyes, the cliffs on three sides rise 1400ft where the top is adorned with circling birds and radar golf balls.

We made for the summit allowing the majority of the day trippers to peruse the village and Main Street, our thinking that the village wasn’t going anywhere and well see it on the way back. In any case I just needed to walk and get fresh air to rid me of my sea sickness feeling.

The road, presumably made by the military now used by defence contractor Quinteiq to reach the radar equipment was steep and winding up the side of the bay. We stopped and walked backwards to give our calves a break and taking in the breath taking view. Each twist of the road took us higher revealing more of the island of Hirta and Neighbouring islands of Soay. At the top we headed north west to the top of the cliff which gave us a fantastic place to get some food back into our depleted stomachs and to see the Isle if Bororay and it’s sea stacks whose cliffs house colonies of sea birds making them look white with their poo.

It’s incredible to think these people who lived here did so willingly and were able to survive until their numbers dwindled which meant being self sufficient was harder to maintain. There’s books about the history and I won’t regurgitate it here.

The Main Street is like a forgotten town, all derelict as if it had been abandoned for longer than the 80 years it has been. They have chalkboards with the names of the last resident before they were evacuated as if to keep a piece of them still there. I wondered who now owned these houses and if descendants could claim ownership and if they could rebuild and have holiday homes there. Maybe not.

It was hard to relax on Kilda with the ever looming return journey to get through. We had a few hours to kill even after seeing each house so we made our way to the view point above the village overlooking the high cliffs and sat and watched the world go by.

Waiting by the dock I was approached by an older lady brandishing an open packet of orange looking stuff. “Fresh ginger” she exclaimed. “Helps sea sickness, or rather supposed to, but if you believe it, it might help?!” I took some and chewed on it “it doesn’t taste too good tho” she shouted as an after thought. I was up for trying anything and while the ginger burned my mouth it was worth it for a trip of non sickness.

Back on the boat wed all positioned ourselves outside for our tour around the sea stacks. The young lass who was also sick offered me some sea sickness tablets and offered some words that ginger won’t work or something to that affect. I duely took those and swallowed without even looking at the packet, I could have been taking anything though I doubt she had anything sinister in mind seeing as though we were in the middle of no where. Or maybe she did.

The sea stacks were fantastic, huge, and covered in birds. Birds in the air, birds on the water, and birds clinging precariously on anything that was less than 45degress. The noise, the smell and the taste was rife.

The lad who’d helped me with my sick was now doing is other job of telling us about life on these stacks, how the kildan’s used to land here to Harvest the Ganets and stayed here for days collecting them, pointing out holes in the sides and calling them bothies. Amazing stuff.

I’m pleased to report the return journey wasn’t as bad as the outward. I managed to keep everything down and I’ve no idea what it was, ginger, tablets or the empty stomach. I was glad to be on dry land. And yes, I do think it was worth it.

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