By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 2nd May 2018

Discover one of the most remote beaches in Europe!

A bewitching place, Sandwood is an increasingly popular destination for tourists in the northwest Highlands.We spoke to Niamh from the John Muir Trust for more information.

Sandwood Bay has been named as one of the most beautiful and remote beaches in Europe in numerous international lists.

One of its charms is the walk in – a nine mile round trip over undulating moorland – to the mysterious mile-long beach flanked at one end by the towering sea stack, Am Buachaille (the herdsman).

Photo: John Muir Trust

The name Sandwood comes from the Norse ‘Sandvatn’ meaning sandy loch, and refers to the land around the famous bay that draws visitors to this striking part of Sutherland all year round.

It’s a wild place. Just south of Cape Wrath, Sandwood often feels the full force of the Atlantic weather systems that roll in. The colour of the landscape changes almost daily, while the lack of light pollution means that night skies can be spectacular – particularly when the Northern Lights appear.

Almost half of the moorland around the beach is covered by blanket bog, although there are also hills, lochs, dunes, weathered sea cliffs and machair – a flower-rich habitat found only in certain parts of Britain and Ireland. The machair here holds more than 220 species of wildflower and bursts into a riot of colour in the summer. It’s also home to eight species of bumblebee, including the rare great yellow which is now confined to this very specific habitat.

Sandwood is home to a healthy number of otters, a small but stable population of mountain hare, and a range of other mammals such as stoat, weasel, fox, mice and water vole.

There is a huge variety of seabirds and raptors such as peregrine falcon, golden eagle and sea eagle. From the shore, common and grey seals are often spotted, while lucky visitors can also catch a glimpse of various cetaceans, sometimes including orca and bottlenose dolphin.

Sandwood Bay is owned and managed by conservation charity John Muir Trust. Acutely aware of the fine balance between encouraging visitors to experience the beauty of this breathtaking seascape while limiting damage to vegetation and habitats, the Trust has invested heavily in upgrading the Sandwood footpath. It also has a car park and toilets at the trail head.

Help us protect and conserve this beautiful wild place for future generations by becoming a member and supporting our work.

Dog owners: Please keep dogs under close control. This is important all year round and even more so March – May during lambing time. This land is worked by crofters and there can be sheep anywhere.


Photos: John Muir Trust

Sandwood Bay at a glance

  • The walk-in to Sandwood involves a 9-mile round trip crossing exposed moorland on rough and often wet terrain, so make sure you are suitably equipped.
  • Toilets / car park at the trail head
  • The nearest town – Kinlochbervie – has shops and eating facilities.
  • Watch a film and find out more about Sandwood

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