Picture This: The Ayre of St. Ninian’s Isle

by Keith Savage · 10 comments

The wind hisses as it passes through the tall beach grasses. A golden bracelet of sand rises from the sea as the tides recede. This narrow ayre connects the claw that is mainland Shetland to St. Ninian’s Isle, a blot of land named after that enigmatic papar. Across the expanse a ramshackle 12th-century chapel moulders in its secrets: caches of ancient silver, neolithic graves. Visitors cross the divide in pairs, plodding to the deserted isle in silent pilgrimage. Two tiny, black specks against the gold.


We can only cross from what is to what will be when the time is right. The sea must pull back, the stars align, the moon rise. Our impatient tempers cannot force the issue without unwanted consequences. Perhaps St. Ninian knew this, cut off from the world, as he was, for the better part of each day. On this sunny afternoon I stumbled and combed my way across the sandy umbilical, searching for its sea glass bones. And I sat with my back against the grasses watching the sea cut the world away.

Goa hotelsNo Gravatar June 21, 2011 at 2:17 AM

What a picturesque description of St.Ninian’s Island! It will surely make many hearts soar to visit Scotland. I have heard that Scotland has many beautiful places but this takes the cake and the bakery too! It really reflects the solitary mood you feel … those lines where you refer of leaning against the wild grass and watching the sea. Am I right?

KatherinaNo Gravatar June 15, 2011 at 6:27 AM

I love the way you captured the grass movement – it really looks like a very special place.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 15, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Thanks Katherina!

Dream Travel VacationNo Gravatar June 14, 2011 at 7:38 PM

I went to Scotland 4 years ago. Too bad I didn’t know about St Ninian’s Isle. Now I do and I will want to go there. It looks awesome and someplace I would enjoy.

EricaNo Gravatar June 13, 2011 at 3:02 PM

The grasses are always such a fantastic embellishment to any beach pic. Looks awesome Keith.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 13, 2011 at 10:55 PM

The grass is my favorite part here!

Ted NelsonNo Gravatar June 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

That is cool that the tide affects when visitors can see the Isle. Somehow it makes the place more enchanting.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar June 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Scotland has many of these cut off islands, but this one is special. Love them.

Andi of My Beautiful AdventuresNo Gravatar June 11, 2011 at 7:24 AM

So beautiful, the picture and the words!

KenNo Gravatar June 10, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Nice imagery. Had to look up “papar”, though.

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