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St Ninian's not strictly an island because it is joined to the Mainland by a spit or tombola of white sand described as one of the most beautiful in the world, lies about 6 miles north west from Sumburgh off a side road which rejoins the main road to Lerwick.
This was long known as the site of one of the early Celtic churches in Shetland, but the church itself was buried in sand and its exact location lost for many years.
The ruins of an ancient chapel attracted the attention of a group of students from Aberdeen University and, under the late Professor O'Dell, they undertook a systematic dig in l958 and an archaeological find of the greatest importance was revealed, with priceless treasure trove.
Explore St Ninian's Guide
- St Ninian's Shetland Geolocation Latitude 59.972427 N Longitude -1.346998
- St Ninian's Shetland Postcode ZE2 9JA
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The chapel foundations revealed a medieval apse, altar and nave and nearby a Bronze Age burial ground with the remains of a pre-Norse one: these alone were notable achievements, but then a local schoolboy helping with the dig prized up a stone slab, and there was what has become known as the St Ninianis Treasure.
This was an amazing hoard of silver, bowls, beautifully worked, brooches, a spoon probably used at Communion, and other superbly fashioned items of uncertain origin.
Ownership of the treasure was eventually decided in favour of the Crown, after a lengthy lawsuit to decide whether the Crown could claim ‘treasure trove‘ in Shetland, where Udal law still applies: the treasure is now preserved in the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, and a fine set of replicas placed in Lerwick Museum.
It is generally assumed that the treasure was that of the monks of St Ninian's, buried by them in the face of Viking marauders before they were wiped out and their church destroyed.
Staying In And Around St Ninian's
St. Ninian's in Shetland offers a serene setting for a relaxing stay, surrounded by natural beauty and a sense of tranquility. Here's an overview of accommodations in and around St. Ninian's:
1. Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs): Several cozy B&Bs dot the area, providing a personal touch to your stay. Expect warm hospitality, home-cooked breakfasts, and often, stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
2. Guesthouses: There are a few guesthouses in close proximity to St. Ninian's, offering comfortable rooms and often providing local insights and guidance about exploring the area.
3. Self-Catering Cottages: For those seeking independence and flexibility, self-catering cottages are available. These quaint accommodations give you the freedom to explore at your own pace while enjoying the comforts of a home away from home.
4. Hotels and Inns: While St. Ninian's itself may not have large hotel chains, nearby towns might offer hotels or inns that cater to travelers seeking more traditional hotel amenities.
Tips for Booking:
- Book in Advance: Especially during peak seasons or festivals, accommodations tend to fill up quickly.
- Location Preferences: Consider whether you want to stay closer to St. Ninian's or if you prefer a slightly farther location with easy access for day trips.
- Facilities and Amenities: Depending on your preferences, check the facilities offered by accommodations, such as Wi-Fi, parking, dining options, etc.
- Transportation: If you're reliant on public transport, ensure your accommodation is conveniently located near bus routes or has easy access to transportation.
Exploring the Area:
- St. Ninian's itself offers scenic walks, beautiful beaches, and the awe-inspiring tombolo connecting the mainland to the Isle of St. Ninian during low tide.
- The surrounding areas boast historical sites like Jarlshof, archaeological treasures dating back thousands of years.
- Wildlife enthusiasts can indulge in birdwatching, with seabird colonies and chances to spot seals and otters along the coast.
Closing Note: Staying in and around St. Ninian's allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural wonders and rich history of Shetland. Whether you seek a quiet retreat or an adventure-filled exploration, the area offers a perfect balance for a memorable stay.