When I think of Scotland, I think: rugged mountains, whisky without the ‘e’, men in kilts, haggis and ‘neeps’, Robbie Burns, Highland cows. I don’t think ‘beaches.’
I’d be wrong.
On our first night in Scotland, we stayed in Dornoch, which is on the east coast, a few miles down the road from the Glenmorangie distillery (which we visited, of course…) Dornoch is famous for its golf course. We got in early, so we asked the owner of our B ‘n’ B to recommend a walk. He sent us to the beach. Between the golf course and the sea is a miles-long, golden-sand beach. Who knew?
The following night we stayed at Bettyhill, which is a small village on the northern coast. There is a beach here too, which we discovered when we went for dinner and were seated at a window with the following view:
So the next morning, we decided to hike over that hill you can see on the left hand side of the above photograph to see what the beach is like on the other side. Wow.
Like most of the Scottish beaches we’ve visited, the sand is pale and silky, and the water is an azure shade of blue like the Caribbean. The Bettyhill beach was virtually deserted – except for a herd of horses that grazes there.
Another day, another beach. Now we were expecting them.
Our next stopover was Durness, near the north-western tip of Scotland. At Faraid Head, the beach is backed by an extensive network of grassy dunes.
When we were in Bettyhill, the B ‘n’ B owner told us we had to walk into Sandwood Bay, which is about 10 miles south of Durness. She told us that the beach there is one of the most beautiful in Scotland. It’s a 4-mile hike in. When we arrived, we met a Scottish couple who were just leaving, which left the beach empty for us. They told us that the beach is haunted, but they couldn’t remember the story. Sandwood is a wild, deserted place that has been the site of many shipwrecks. So it’s not surprising that visitors report ghostly sightings of a bearded man in a naval jacket with brass buttons. Maybe a drowned sailor from one of those shipwrecks? Or maybe just James MacRory-Smith, a hermit who lived near the beach for almost 40 years.
The Hebrides is a beach bonanza. On the Island of Lewis, we did a walk with our friends Stu and Debs that took us across three headlands to three adjacent beaches.
The view from the headland:
And Beach #3, this corker:
A grand time was had by all.
But nothing can top the beach at Luskentyre on the west coast of Harris.
But before you cancel next winter’s trip to Mexico and book into a Scottish B ’n’ B: beneath the Gore-Tex jacket, I’m wearing 2 t-shirts, a long-sleeved merino wool top and a down puffy jacket. And I’m sitting on the lee side of the cairn to get out of the wind.