St Ninian's Isle

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Shetland Islands
OS Name: St Ninian's Isle
Shetland Name: St Ninian's Isle
St Ninian's Isle Map.jpg
UK Grid Reference: HU365210
Area (ha): 72 ha
Population: none, inhabited until late 18th century
Community Council:
Ferry Services: none

Shetland Museum photo of an Ordnance Survey map of St Ninian's Isle
Picture by Shetlandpeat.

St Ninian's Isle is a small island off the west coast of Dunrossness. It is linked to Shetland mainland at Bigton by the finest example of a tombolo in Shetland. Indeed, it is the largest sand tombolo in Britain.

The island was settled in pre-norse times and the remains of an old chapel are still visible. In 1958, the St Ninian's Isle Treasure was discovered below the doorsteps of this chapel.

The last family to live on the island, that of Henry Leask, left the island in 1796. Henry Leask was married twice and had 13 children. It is understood that the isle was abandoned due to the supply of peat for fuel becoming exhausted.

Once the Isle was abandoned, the chapel fell in to disuse, and it is understood that much of the stone from it's walls was utilised by the Laird of Bigton to help construct a wall with a rather grand gated entrance, along the east coast of the Isle where it met the tombolo, so that he could turn his cattle loose to graze the Isle in its entirety. Much of this wall has subsequently been buried in blown sand, but it still can be seen at its most southern extremity and in a few dips among the dunes. The graveyard continued in use until circa the early/mid 1880's.

The Endeavour wrecked on the isle on January 13th 1782, as did the Gesina on the south coast on March 9th 1863.

During their research Venables & Venables recorded the following species of birds breeding on St Ninian's Isle 1949-53.

Regular and common: Fulmar; Starling; Cormorant; Shag; Eider; Oyster Catcher; Lapwing; Ringed Plover; Greater Black-backed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Herring Gull; Kittiwake; Common Tern; Arctic Tern; Black Guillemot; Puffin; Rock Dove; Skylark; Hooded Crow; Wren; Wheatear; Pock Pipit and Twite.

Irregular or rare: Razor Bill and Raven.

See also

External Link

Picture by Shetlandpeat.
Ruin of the St. Ninian's Isle Chapel
Picture by Shetlandpeat.
Looking South to Scousburgh from the Isle


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