Am Baile, St Kilda, Scotland, United Kingdom
Am Baile means “the village” which suffices because it represents the only habitation used in modern times in this extremely isolated archipelago, alone in the sea some 40 miles westward from the Outer Hebrides. But people did live here in the past, for many centuries. The last few dozens of them were evacuated in 1930 after visitor-borne disease nearly wiped them out. It was the third such third fatal exposure the islands had endured, one each in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The origin of the name St. Kilda is more obscure. Various theories abound, many anchored to childa, the Gaelic word for a spring or well. There is no known saint named Kilda. These islands were the first place in Scotland to earn UNESCO World Heritage inscription, which has since been expanded to a Mixed status recognizing both their natural and cultural significance. In summer, the islands’ sheer cliffs and sea stacks (the highest in the U.K.) are densely populated by huge colonies of nesting seabirds including gannets, puffins, fulmars and petrels, which in earlier times supplied a major source of protein and fertilizer for the islanders. Going ashore on the island of Hirta by Zodiac, participants in a Ventures by Seabourn excursion can walk with their Ventures team archaeologist among the ruins of the medieval village, the unique stacked-stone cleitean structures and remains of earlier occupations. They are also likely to see examples of the island’s two feral populations of sheep: the Soay which date from the Neolithic age, and the Boreay from the Iron Age. Ruggedly beautiful, tall and windswept, the islands of St. Kilda will surely leave a lasting impression of this isolated corner of our world on all who visit.