One of the finest sand tombolos* in Europe, and the largest active tombolo in the UK makes for an interesting and beautiful way to reach St Ninian’s Isle. This sandy feature is typical of the coast and voes of Shetland, where you are never more than 5 km from the sea.
But it wasn’t always like this – back in glacial times, a large amount of water was locked away as ice with sea levels much lower. Only when the ice began to melt 12,000 years ago, did the seas rise and the inlets, or voes, you see today start to form.
Absolutely picture-postcard perfect, the natural sand causeway takes you over to St Ninian’s Isle, a small island on which a rich Pictish treasure hoard was found in the ancient chapel. There’s a 2.5 hour walk to take you onto the island and around the coast, where you’ll find fine cliff scenery and the remains of St Ninian’s Chapel, so you can see where the most precious archaeological find was made. The chapel was used before the coming of Christianity, and had Shetland’s oldest Christian burials. The original Pictish finds are at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, but you can see excellent replicas at the Shetland Museum in Lerwick.
The south of the island gives stunning views out over the rocky islets of Coar Holm and Inns Holm, while the western end cuts around the head of a deep bay with views over Hich Holm and the open ocean. The northern tip of the island – Loose Head – is the highest point, before you head back to that remarkable tombolo.
*A tombolo is a bar of sand or shingle joining an island to the mainland.