Scousburgh - Ward of Scousburgh and St Ninian’s Isle

There are many tough hills in Shetland, but this circuit in the south of Mainland provides one of the toughest climbs and one of the most magnificent views to be found on these islands.

Distance: 18km / 11.2 miles  (Circular route)

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From Scousburgh the route requires a 2 mile (3km) climb up the Ward of Scousburgh. The climb is pretty steep for the first 0.75 mile (1.25km) past Vanlop but there is a relatively easy climb for the next 1 mile (1.5km) to the road junction to the right that takes you steeply up past the abandoned army base to the telecommunication masts.

On the ascent there are remarkable views across the broad sweep of farmland below to St Ninian’s Isle and the villages of Bigton and Ireland. On a clear day from the north side of the summit there are panoramic views beyond St Ninian’s Isle to Foula 46 miles (74km) away, and around to West Mainland hills and north across the Burra Isles to Ronas Hill 40 miles (65km) in the far distance. There are amazing views too across the hilly ‘spine’ of Shetland to Mousa and beyond to the Bard of Bressay and the high peak of Noss.

From the south side of the summit there is another amazing panorama looking across the lochs of Spiggie and Brew to the steep slope of Fitful Head and around to the Ness of Burgi, Sumburgh Head and Compass Head.

It is a very steep descent down the east side of the hill to meet the fast A970. Continue north for a short distance and take the junction to the right to follow the loop road through Levenwick. After about 1 mile (1.5km) there is a short diversion to the right to Leven Wick beach, one of the nicest and most sheltered in Shetland. Rejoin the A970 at Northpunds for the section north to Channer Wick and the left turn onto the B9122 .

The return to Scousburgh can be made by leaving the B9122 after 1 mile (2km) to take the loop through Bigton to visit St Ninian’s Isle. There is a shop and toilets in Bigton. A sign on the corner just before the shop will direct you down the tarmac track to the left where you can take in the spectacular view of St Ninian’s Isle and the sand tombolo that joins the island to Mainland.

St Ninian's is one of the finest sand tombolos in Europe, and it is the largest active tombolo in the UK.

St Ninian's Isle is connected to Mainland by the largest active sand tombolo in the UK; a 600 yard (500m) long sandy causeway that makes one of the most beautiful of all the picture-postcard beaches to be found in the Scottish Islands. Over the tombolo and on the hillside above is the ruin of a 12th Century chapel. It was here in 1958 that a schoolboy attending an archaeological dig brought St Ninian’s Isle national fame by discovering a hoard of Pictish silver bowls and ornaments. The treasure, possibly from around 800AD, is kept in Edinburgh but replicas are displayed at the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick.

After Bigton turn right onto the B9122 and take the long straight and climb towards Scousburgh. After this climb the route is very scenic as it winds above the beautiful beach at Rerwick, which is a popular sun-bathing spot for seals, giving great views over the Bay of Scousburgh and its golden sand beach with the Loch of Spiggie behind.

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