Paddleboarding St Ninian’s Bay – Shetland

Paddleboarding in Shetland at St Ninian’s Isle

One of the first images you may see when researching beaches in Sheltand is the beach at St Ninian’s Isle. As a passionate paddleboarding person the next logical thought is likely ‘is St Ninian’s a good place to SUP?’ Well at least that’s what I thought when I came across this ‘tombolo’ or sandy isthmis which connects St Ninian’s Isle to the west coast of Sheltands Mainland.

The Main Points

  • Location – St Ninian’s Isle, Mainland, Shetland
  • Cost – Access from carpark
  • Conditions – Salt water bay
  • Other users – Beach goers, walkers
  • Entry Point – Sandy beach
  • Surrounding amenities/Bathrooms- Village of Bigton has bathrooms and a wee shop



Paddleboarding St Ninan’s Bay

The sandy isthmus divdes the water into two distinct bodies. There is St Ninan’s Bay on the south and Bigton Wick on the north. We opted for St Ninan’s Bay which seemed to be a bit calmer. As is so often found in the islands of Scotland, the water was crystal clear and the beach a pure silica white. I think we are getting spoilt with such beautiful places to paddle! Although almost tropical looking the water is still pretty cold. Even though we look out of place in the photos, we are glad to have our 5mm thick wetsuits on.

We were pretty lucky to happen to be in Shetland during a spell of really great weather. While Glasgow was recording 30 degrees celcius, we were enjoying a pretty balmy 18.

There is a medium sized car park at St Ninian’s and a couple of hundred meters walk down onto the beach, depending on where you park. The car park is where we stayed for a couple of nights in our fully contained campervan however there is camping accomodation at the Cunningsburgh Tourist Park which has a marina and boat ramp for futher paddleboarding sessions 12km to the north east.

St Ninians Isle is famous for its 12th-century chapel site and the incredible discovery of one of Scotland’s most significant Pictish treasure hoards: the St Ninian’s Isle treasure. The island itself is quite large and has a 3 hour (6km) circular walk around it.

Planning your Paddleboarding adventure to Shetland

Our trip to Shetland was part of a longer road trip around Scotland where we spent 5 months in our campervan. During this time we had a couple of plans as to where we wanted to go but no fixed schedule. As such booking the ferry from Aberdeen wasn’t possible last minute so we opted to go for the less expensive option of catching Alfred the Pentland Ferry from the Gills Bay on north coast to St Margartets Hope, Orkney and then catching the Northlink overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick, Shetland.

If you have a short amount of time to visit Shetland then leaving from Aberdeen might be a better option and booking well ahead is advised.  We stayed on Shetland for 2 1/2 weeks and felt that was a farirly good amount of time to see most of what we wanted to see on Shetland’s Mainland and the Islands of Yell and Unst to the north.

Watch our Paddleboarding adventure film of St Ninian’s here

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If you haven’t yet watched part one of our SUP Safari Scotland Travel Video Series  check it out here.


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