As its name suggests, St. Ninian's Isle has ecclesiastical connections, which may, like others in the Northern Isles, Hebrides, and Faroes, have connections to Celtic Christianity. However, the island's history is far older than Christianity, and Neolithic graves have been found within the walls of the chapel.
The site was excavated between 1955 and 1959, revealing the foundations of a 12th Century church, overlying a pre-Norse church, which in turn overlay an Iron Age site, possibly a wheel house, yielding pottery datable to about the 2nd Century A.D. Each level was accompanied by contemporary graves, those of the Iron Age being centred on a crouched burial of late Bronze Age type, which lay southwest of the chancel of the medieval church. Sculptured stones, including those from Early Christian corner-post shrines, and later Norse crosses, were also found. Below and to the south of the church an Iron Age site was identified. There are burials at the site associated with each period.
The site is most famous for the St Ninian's Isle Treasure, which was discovered under a cross-marked slab in the floor of the early St. Ninian's Church in 1958 by a local schoolboy who was helping visiting archaeologists. The beautiful silver bowls and trinkets found are believed to date from approximately 800 A.D. The treasure is now in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Replicas are to be found in the Shetland Museum in Lerwick.
About St. Ninian's Isle
Shetland Heritage: St. Ninian's Isle
Journey to St. Ninian's Isle
St Ninian's Isle is a small island located near the village of Bigton in the South Mainland area. The isle is connected to the mainland by the largest active tombolo in the U.K. that is 1/3rd of a mile long. Except at extremely high tides, the sand is above sea level and accessible to walkers. See the Walk Scotland website for assistance.
National Museum of Scotland: St. Ninian's Isle Treasure
Megalithic Portal: St. Ninian's Isle
The Modern Antiquarian: St. Ninian's Chapel Christianised Site (St. Ninian's Isle)
Wikipedia: St. Ninian's Isle
Ordnance Survey Map (HU3639520941)
Visitors information may be fopund at the geograph.org.uk website. General information on Shetland may be found at the Visit Shetland website.
Additional Photos of St. Ninian's Isle
Descriptive Sign at Start of Walk to St. Ninian's Isle
St. Ninian's Isle
Tombolo to St. Ninian's Isle
Descriptive Sign at St. Ninian's Isle Site
12th Century Church Remains, St. Ninian's Isle
Post Marking Treasure Site, St. Ninian's Isle
Remains of 12th Century Church Altar, St. Ninian's Isle
Site of Pre-Christian and Early Christian Levels to South of Church, St. Ninian's Isle
Pre-Christian Cist, St. Ninian's Isle
Display of St. Ninian's Isle Treasure in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh