Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 10:24 UK

Visitor centre for remote islands

St Kilda. Picture by Norman Chalmers
An opera was staged on Hirta, St Kilda, in 2007

The internationally protected islands of St Kilda could get a visitor centre - but miles away in the Western Isles.

The archipelago lies 41 miles off the Outer Hebrides and has dual Unesco World Heritage Status recognising its natural and cultural significance.

Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - is considering the creation of a visitor centre.

Building it on Hirta, the main island of St Kilda, has been ruled out because of the difficulties reaching it.

A feasibility study will look at where to site the centre and the benefits it could bring to the Western Isles in terms of tourism.

Outside world

St Kilda's owners National Trust for Scotland work in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on a programme of conservation and research on the islands.

Its sea stacks and towering cliffs provide habitats for tens of thousands of birds, including puffin.

The islands' human inhabitants left in 1930 after their way of life collapsed following increasing contact with the outside world.

In 2007, the history of the islands was celebrated in an opera performed simultaneously at six venues across Europe.

St Kilda - A European Opera - cost £1.5m to put together and was performed on Hirta, Lewis on the Western Isles, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria.

During the performances, images were beamed to the venues via satellite.

Crew members left for St Kilda by boat several days earlier because there was no guarantee that weather conditions would have allowed them to reach the islands in time.

The production was broadcast live online on BBC Alba.

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