St. Kilda -- those enigmatic 'Islands on the Edge of the World' -- looked magical, bathed in early morning sunlight on a calm, sunny morning. The greens of the vegetation contrasted brilliantly with the grays of the cliffs and rocks of Dun, Hirta and Soay as we cruised slowly past Boreray with the 'fang' of Stac An Armin to starboard and circumnavigated Stac Lee. We marveled at the tens of thousands of nesting northern gannets on the flat faces of spade-like Stac Lee, at the hundreds of northern fulmars wheeling stiffly past both us and their breeding ledges, and at the guillemots and puffins whirring by busily en route between nests and feeding grounds.

But Hirta and the old village awaited us. Landing was relatively easy at the pier. The energetic ones explored the area of An Lag above the village and viewed the dramatic cliffs of Conachair -- over 1,300 feet high -- and Oiseval from The Gap, with a splendid view across to Boreray and its Stacs and of the hundreds of fulmars nesting on the cliffs. Others were guided round the village with Andy Robinson, the Nature Reserve Warden, visiting the restored kirk and school room, the feather store-being repaired by a National Trust Working Party -- and the restored cottages, learning en route something of the history of human occupation of the island.

With sadness we had to leave it all at mid-day. But all were thankful for the fine weather and the opportunity it had afforded us: some for an ambition fulfilled-to see St. Kilda, let alone land on it; others for the shear joy of being there again; all for the opportunity to experience the magic of these remote and enigmatic islands.