Last summer, I had a trip of a lifetime. My husband kindly surprised me for my birthday with a trip to St Kilda. We were in the middle of a family holiday on North Uist which was the inspiration for this blog post. For those of you who don’t know, St Kilda is tiny group of islands lie that almost 50 miles west of the Outer Hebrides in the middle of the Atlantic.
Tomorrow I’m heading off to Barra, which is another island that’s located the southern most tip of the Outer Hebrides. I’m working with various Early Years practitioners, primary teachers and other interested people. It’s a pleasant mix of practical sessions and training. It has been organised by the Barra Children’s Centre with the Cosy Fund subsidising the travel costs. (Thanks to both organisations). So today I’m a little short on blogging time and remembered I had this post lurking in draft form for such a relevant emergency!…
Getting to St Kilda is quite a challenge. It’s a military base so the army get helicoptered in and out. I went by power boat from North Uist. This relies on good weather and being togged up like a biker. It takes a couple of hours to complete the journey, one way.
For me this was more than a birthday treat. It was like going back to school and being on an educational visit. If you think back to your own childhood, I’m sure you remember almost all your visits, whether they are day-long or residential. There is something about being removed from a normal routine and having a completely different experience that makes the memories.
History has never been one of my strongest subjects. I don’t automatically jump to watch a period drama. I’ve never seen the film, The Titanic. When I was a teaching head teacher I tended to do the science work and let the relief teachers lead the history projects. When I was part of an archaeology unit, I used to feel guilty about my disinterest in the prehistorical artefacts. It was the soil that interested me!
When we arrived on the island, we were given an informal tour of the village. This gave the party an insight into life on the island and some of the ins and outs of its remarkable history.
This can been seen from the remnants of the deserted main street, and the fascinating cleats which are scattered everywhere across the island and were central to the survival of the human population.
After that we were left to explore as we wanted, provided we kept away from the small military base. As it was such a beautiful day, I went up the hills to get the views, see the sea stacks and get a feel for the lie of the land. Millions of years ago, the islands were part of a large volcanic crater, and this can be seen from up high.
The above photo also shows one of the cleats! These were used for drying seabirds, mutton, ropes and anything else that needed protection from the elements. These structures are unique to St Kilda and one of the reasons that it is a cultural as well as a natural world heritage site.
Since visiting St Kilda last summer, I’ve taken the opportunity to read several books about this set of islands. I’ve looked and mulled over the photos I took. It’s made me think and reflect about Scottish life and our history and culture in a way that has never happened before.
So for me, this trip has indeed been a life-time experience. It’s also reinforced why that such opportunities – to do something unique and different need to be part and parcel of the education we provide for our children. It might spark an interest, passion or discovery that helps a child find out more about themselves.