The Outdoor Access Code at St Kilda

There have been recent significant changes to access legislation in Scotland resulting in the Outdoor Access Code (2005). This has forced the owners of St Kilda, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), to review their access provision and amend their bye-laws.

In theory the NTS are now legally obliged to permit visitors to set foot not only on Hirta, but also Dun, Soay, Boreray and the stacs. In practice, however, it would be very difficult to access these islands and stacs without disturbing nesting seabirds which is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Different species of bird breed at slightly differing times meaning there is breeding activity at these locations variously between April and September.

As a main provider of transport and cruises to and around St Kilda we broadly agree with the NTS with regard to access. Even disregarding the issue of wildlife disturbance (which we would never condone) it is extremely difficult for a person to safely get on, and back off, Dun, Soay, Boreray or the stacs without (1) specialist equipment and (2) perfect weather and sea conditions. There is no mobile phone reception to call for assistance and the nearest Coastguard helicopter is based at Stornoway.

That said, in exceptional circumstances, pre-arranged and agreed with the NTS, we may be prepared to facilitate access to islands and stacs other than Hirta. If you are planning to visit any of these locations it is essential you get in touch with NTS so they can give you the information you require to attempt this.

St Kilda, having World Heritage status, does still have a few special rules and regulations which supersede the Outdoor Access Code. Landing dogs, having open fires and engaging in wild camping are all considered unacceptable.