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St Kilda. Outer Hebrides

St Kilda (Scottish Gaelic: Hiort) is an isolated archipelago 64 kilometres (40 mi) west-northwest of North Uist in the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The largest island is Hirta, whose sea cliffs are the highest in the United Kingdom and three other islands (Dùn, Soay and Boreray), were also used for grazing and seabird hunting. The islands are administratively a part of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar local authority area.

St Kilda may have been permanently inhabited for at least two millennia, the population probably never exceeding 180 (and certainly no more than 100 after 1851). The entire population was evacuated from Hirta (the only inhabited island) in 1930. Currently, the only year-round residents are defence personnel although a variety of conservation workers, volunteers and scientists spend time there in the summer months.
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The origin of the name St Kilda is a matter of conjecture. The islands' human heritage includes numerous unique architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods, although the earliest written records of island life date from the Late Middle Ages. The medieval village on Hirta was rebuilt in the 19th century, but the influences of religious zeal, illnesses brought by increased external contacts through tourism, and the First World War all contributed to the island's evacuation in 1930. The story of St Kilda has attracted artistic interpretations, including an opera.

The entire archipelago is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It became one of Scotland's five World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is one of the few in the world to hold joint status for its natural and cultural qualities. Two different early sheep types have survived on these remote islands, the Soay, a Neolithic type, and the Boreray, an Iron Age type. The islands are a breeding ground for many important seabird species including Northern Gannets, Atlantic Puffins, and Northern Fulmars. The St Kilda Wren and St Kilda Field Mouse are endemic subspecies.[3] Parties of volunteers work on the islands in the summer to restore the many ruined buildings that the native St Kildans left behind. They share the island with a small military base established in 1957.
The Outer Hebrides, often called the Western Isles make up an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. It is also a parliamentary constituency. The northern island is Lewis and Harris. South of Lewis and Harris is a series of islands, such as South Uist, Benbecula and North Uist. The Outer Herides includes a number of even smaller islands.

The isles form part of the Hebrides, and are separated from the Scottish mainland and from the Inner Hebrides by the stormy waters of the Minch, the Little Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides.

Formerly the dominant language of the Islands, Scottish Gaelic remains spoken even though it has now been largely supplanted by English in some parts.

Sea transport is crucial and a variety of ferry services operate between the islands and to mainland Britain.

he main islands form an archipelago of which the major islands include Lewis and Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and Barra. Lewis and Harris has an area of 217,898 hectares (841 sq mi) and is the largest island in Scotland and the third largest in the British Isles, after Great Britain and Ireland. It incorporates Lewis in the north and Harris in the south, both of which are frequently referred to as individual islands, although they are joined by a land border.
Nicolson's Leap on the east coast of South Uist. In the background are Beinn Mhòr at left, and Hecla on the right.

The largest islands are deeply indented by arms of the sea such as Loch Ròg, Loch Seaforth and Loch nam Madadh. There are also more than 7,500 freshwater lochs in the Western Isles, about 24% of the total for the whole of Scotland. North and South Uist and Lewis in particular have landscapes with a high percentage of freshwater and a maze and complexity of loch shapes. Harris has fewer large bodies of water but innumerable small lochans. Loch Langavat on Lewis is 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) long, and has several large islands in its midst, including Eilean Mòr. Although Loch Suaineabhal has only 25% of the Langavat's surface area it has a mean depth of 33 metres (108 ft) and is the most voluminous on the island. Of Loch Sgadabhagh on North Uist it has been said that "there is probably no other loch in Britain which approaches Loch Scadavay in irregularity and complexity of outline."[ Loch Bì is South Uist's largest loch and at 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) long it all but cuts the island in two.

Much of the western coastline of the islands is machair, a fertile low-lying dune pastureland.Lewis is comparatively flat, and largely consists of treeless moors of blanket peat. The highest eminence is Mealisval at 574 m (1,883 ft) in the south west. Most of Harris is mountainous, with large areas of exposed rock and Clisham, the archipelago's only Corbett, reaches 799 m (2,621 ft) in height.North and South Uist and Benbecula, (sometimes collectively referred to as The Uists) have sandy beaches and wide cultivated areas of machair to the west and virtually uninhabited mountainous areas to the east. The highest peak here is Beinn Mhòr at 620 metres (2,034 ft).The Uists and their immediate outliers have a combined area of 74,540 hectares (288 sq mi).Barra is 5,875 hectares (23 sq mi) in extent and has a rugged interior, surrounded by machair and extensive beaches.
Much of the archipelago is a protected habitat including both the islands and the surrounding waters. There are 53 Sites of Special Scientific Interest of which the largest are Loch an Duin, North Uist at 15,100 hectares (37,000 acres) and North Harris, which is 12,700 hectares (31,000 acres) in extent