Kirk Road to St Ninian's Church
Start location: Bigton (HU 378 211)
End location: St Ninian's Church (HU 369 209)
Geographical area: Shetland Islands
Path Type: Rural Path
Path distance: 0.7km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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The path starts at a small car park at the end of an unclassified road from Bigton and makes its way down to the beach and across to St Ninian's Isle by a tombolo (defined as a bar of sand or gravel connecting an island to the mainland). This means there is tidal action on both sides of the bar, unlike a normal sandspit and lagoon. The sand bar consists of white sand and it is almost always possible to cross dry-shod except in big storms. The island and sand bar is known as one of Shetland's most famous beauty spots.
OS Landranger 4 (Shetland - South Mainland)
The path rises steeply through loose sand to reach the ruins of St Ninian's Church which was the scene of a famous archaeological discovery in July 1958. A schoolboy volunteer working with an Aberdeen University archaeological dig, discovered a hoard of Pictish silverware which had been there since approximately the 9th century, when it is thought they were hidden underneath the church to avoid them falling into the hands of Viking raiders.
The church was probably first built in about the 8th century AD and remained in use till the Reformation. The remains currently visible date to the 12th century, but excavations have shown that the history of burial on St Ninian's Isle dates back to at least the Iron Age. The island has been uninhabited since the late 18th century when peat supplies, essential as fuel, ran out. Though the chuch has been unused for hundreds of years, burials continued nearby until the mid 19th century.