PLANS to improve visitor access to St Kilda have been announced as part of a ten-year strategy by the National Trust for Scotland to conserve the remote Scottish island.

Developed in conjunction with Historic Environment Scotland, NatureScot, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Ministry of Defence, the plan seeks to conserve both the nature and history of St Kilda while also opening up opportunities for more people to experience the island.

The small archipelago sits 99 miles off the west coast of mainland Scotland and is one of only 39 mixed UNESCO World Heritage sites across the globe.

St Kilda is home to Europe’s most important seabird colony, which includes the world’s largest number of gannet nests in the world.

It is also home to three species which are entirely unique to the island: the Soay sheep, the St Kilda wren, and the St Kilda fieldmouse.

Evidence suggests that the island was occupied continuously for more than 4000 years until the last inhabitants collectively decided to leave the island in 1930.

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Since 1957, the island has continually hosted researchers, conservationists, volunteers and military personnel.

However, climate change and invasive species are big threats to the island’s biodiversity, with avian flu also impacting seabird populations over the past two years.

Philip Long OBE, chief executive of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The publication of the St Kilda Management Plan marks the beginning of a ten-year journey to find out more about this wonderful and inspiring place, to share knowledge of its wildlife and culture and help contribute to the wider community in the Western Isles and its sustainability.

“Because of St Kilda’s historic interdependency of landscape, wildlife and culture, it is inscribed as a mixed World Heritage Site, the only one in the UK to have this status.

"This exceptional significance means it is essential that its management balances these different conservation needs, so working together with our partners we will ensure that we take full responsibility for passing the site onto future generations in the best possible condition.

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“In our ten-year strategy, we set out bold ambitions in caring for and preserving not only Scotland’s built heritage, but also its vast natural landscapes.

"By focusing our conservation efforts in these special locations, we’re both improving habitats and biodiversity and taking further steps in our charity’s efforts to address the climate crisis and its effect on nature and biodiversity.”

Evidence of previous habitation is still visible on the island with cottages and storage units known as cleits still standing.

Last year, archaeologists found the remnants of an Iron Age fort on the main island of Hirta.