Richard Gaston's Top 5 Scottish Beaches
Author of the new Wild Guide Scotland, Richard Gaston, shares his top 5 Scottish beaches.
Scotland has some of the most beautiful and unspoilt beaches in the world. In the Outer Hebrides, white arcs stretch for miles, with pristine sands rinsed by the North Atlantic and high undulating dunes backed by colourful flowering machair. Others are hidden within sheltered rocky coves where the sea is azure-green and crystal-clear, perfect for a peaceful and refreshing swim.
About the book
Wild Guide Scotland: Hidden Places, Great Adventures & the Good Life Paperback by Kimberley Grant, Richard Gaston, David Cooper charts 750 of Scotland finest wild places and is published 1st May by Wild Things Publishing (£16.99). Readers can receive a 20% discount and free P&P with code 'calmac' at Wild Things Publishing.
1. Smirisary White Sands
A walk downhill through a deserted village leads to two small beaches at Port Achadh an Aonaich. The wild and rugged hills on Eilean Shona sit to the south, on a good day there are great views of the Small Isles and the opportunity for a bracing dip in the beautifully clear waters.
From Smirisary Township (near Glenuig) turn R at end of field towards a white cottage, then L at a small sign. Follow path uphill along a ridge, passing a ruined house on L. Continue along coast until path drops down to two beaches.
90 mins, 56.8171, -5.8638
2. Sandwood Bay
The iconic Sandwood Bay is a wild and remote beach on the most north-western edge of mainland Scotland. This magnificent stretch of pink-hued sand is bounded by the Am Buachaille sea stack and backed by a broad belt of rolling dunes, where it's possible to find shelter for wild camping. In a melancholy touch, receding waves often uncover the remains of a Spitfire engine in the sands, the last relic of a 1941 crash landing. Rip currents can develop here so be careful if you decide to go for a swim.
Leave the B801 at Kinlochbervie, dir Oldshoremore (IV27 4RS). Continue on this road for half a mile beyond turning to Polin, to Blairmore and John Muir Trust car park on L. The well-marked 3-mile track to Sandwood, across moorland, begins over the gate opposite. Turn L at end of second loch. Visit the Johnmuirtrust.org for more information.
1 ½ hrs, 58.5384, -5.0650
3. West Beach, Berneray
Ideal for long walks, this magnificent 3-mile, white sand beach with turquoise waters is backed by high dunes and an impressive border of machair - home to an assortment of wildflowers in the summer months. Views over the Sound of Harris are truly incredible, with the mountainous South Harris providing a remarkable backdrop for a long stroll.
After crossing the causeway from North Uist, take the second L past the village of Borve (HS6 5BJ). Follow the minor road 10 miles from the turning to informal car park by the fields. From here follow path towards coast. This is the S end of the beach, so follow sands N for as long as you wish. Return same way, or continue around the island in a loop back to the car park.
5-120 mins, 57.7099, -7.2210
4. Sands of Forvie
Forvie is a lonely place where the shifting sands reveal lost ruins - a church is all that remains of a village long reclaimed by an ever-changing lunar landscape. To reach the beach is a pleasure in itself as the route takes you over a vast ascending bay and down through large dunes which eventually reaching the golden sands of Forvie. Now a nature reserve, this is a starkly beautiful location to watch seals and birdlife.
Begin at the Forvie visitor centre on B9003 towards Collieston (AB41 8RU). Follow the red waymarked route which passes the N side of Sand Loch, head R along the clifftop path and R at red marker to reach a ruined church. Alternatively follow path leading S from the carpark along the River to the sand dunes.
40 mins, 57.3174, -1.9857
5. Fidden Beach
On a sunny day the bay at Fidden could be easily mistaken for the Caribbean. Facing west over an archipelago of skerries and small islands towards Iona and beyond, the sunsets are spectacular. Pink granite outcrops give the water an ethereal hue and this is a perfect place for kayaking and fishing. If you fail to catch, head to Creel Seafood Bar at the nearby ferry terminal in Fionnphort and tuck into some delicious fresh shellfish. Fidden farm campsite has simple facilities and beachside pitches.
Turn L in Fionnphort before the ferry, signed for Fidden and Knockvologan (PA66 6BL), and follow signs for Fidden Farm until you reach small car park by the farm and campsite.
30 mins, 56.3085, -6.3670