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A St Kilda Trail (Slighe Hiort) linking North Uist, Harris and Uig in Lewis has been formally endorsed by representatives of three projects.
A Memorandum of Understanding, which defines areas of collaboration, was signed when they met at Seallam in Northton last week.
Slighe Hiort is part of the Outer Hebrides Destination Development programme, which is proposed to receive funding of up to £8m from the UK and Scottish Governments as part of the Islands Growth Deal – a 10-year investment programme jointly funded by the UK and Scottish governments, the three island councils and their partners from the
public, academic and business sectors.
Each of the St Kilda projects, which have benefited from financial and
developmental assistance from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, will interpret different aspects of St Kilda’s natural and cultural heritage.
The clifftop location of Ionad Hiort in Uig evokes remoteness and isolation while still being accessible to visitors.
It will be principally a Gaelic centre, reflecting the language of St Kilda, and will provide extensive digital and archival interpretation both internally and externally with interpretation incorporated into pathways and upgraded wartime buildings.
Iain Buchanan, chairman of Ionad Hiort, said: ‘Although we’ve had our MOU [memorandum of understanding] in draft format for a number of years, it is always reassuring to see signatures on such documents and I very much hope the Hiort groups can work collaboratively for many years to come.’
Then there is Sealladh Hiort – the St Kilda Viewpoint Centre in North Uist – which is closest to the St Kilda archipelago and has the best direct views of the islands
on clear days.
The proposed centre has been located and designed to maximise the potential of this view and digital technology will be used to enhance it.
Whilst keeping St Kilda as its core theme, other displays and interpretations in the viewpoint centre will differentiate this from the other Slighe Hiort projects by also focusing on other outlying Hebridean islands which have had similar cultural and natural histories to St Kilda, several of which will be visible from the centre, and also St Kilda’s modern role in defence and maritime matters.
Alasdair MacEachen, chairman of Sealladh Hiort, said: ‘Members of the Uist St Kilda Centre project, Sealladh Hiort, are delighted to reach this stage and to sign off our agreed collaboration with both Lewis and Harris projects, as we jointly move forward with our plans to promote the various aspects of the story of St Kilda, the place and its people.’
Lastly, the Harris project, Seallam Hiort na Hearadh, will have its base at the world-renowned genealogical centre in Northton.
Bill Lawson, who founded Seallam with his late wife Chris, said: ‘Chris and myself spent a lifetime creating a resource on St Kilda and other islands. My main interest now is in preserving that for the future.’
The project will use digital technology to create interactive experiences enabling understanding of who the people of St Kilda were, how they lived and what became of them.
The MoU commits the three projects to, ‘raise the profile of St Kilda and its cultural and natural history, through co-ordination of the activities of its member groups for the benefit of the whole Western Isles’.