For the first hour or so, the water was relatively calm. After departing from the small fishing village of Stein on the Isle of Skye, we sped through a strait known as the Little Minch toward the main band of the Outer Hebrides, the thick curl of rocky skerries that hovers like an apostrophe over the northwestern coast of mainland Scotland.
But as we pressed onward, traveling west beyond the islands of North Uist and Lewis and Harris, the water suddenly grew rougher. Here, fully exposed in the North Atlantic Ocean, we had no refuge from the swells: Every few seconds, for more than two hours, the hull of our tour boat slammed against the oncoming waves with enough force to rattle my teeth.
I looked to my right, across the boat’s narrow aisle, and saw my brother and sister huddled uncomfortably in their seats. None of our fellow passengers — there were around 12 of us, all told, crammed into a surprisingly small boat — looked happy. But my siblings, clutching their disposable vomit bags, looked ill.
(“Ill is an understatement,” recounted my sister, Emelia, with a laugh. “I’d say we looked doomed.”)
For centuries, the archipelago of St. Kilda, one of the most remote and unforgiving outposts in the British Isles, has electrified the imaginations of writers, historians, artists, scientists and adventurers.
Some 40 miles west of the chief islands of the Outer Hebrides, St. Kilda has a tantalizing history, replete with a rich cultural heritage, fiercely independent people, distinctive architecture and haunting isolation — as
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