St Ninian's Ayre

Among Shetland’s many striking coastal features is the ayre, or tombolo, that connects St Ninian’s Isle to the Shetland mainland; it’s five hundred metres long and the finest of its type in Britain. This unique beach is also the holder of a Keep Scotland Beautiful Seaside Award, and in 2022 was ranked as Scotland's best beach. Composed mostly of shell sand, its symmetrical curving form is particularly striking when seen from above, a good viewpoint being the Ward of Scousburgh. For most of the year, the tombolo is dry, but it can sometimes be submerged in winter. It makes an excellent, often bracing, walk but there are plenty of sheltered corners for picnicking or sunbathing. The tombolo offers access to St Ninian’s Isle, on which can be found the site of a chapel. Here, in 1958, a Lerwick schoolboy discovered a horde of Celtic silver, presumed to have been hidden by monks to keep it safe from Viking raiders. The original horde is kept in Edinburgh, but there are replicas in the Shetland Museum and Archives.