By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 15th July 2018

Top 12 beaches along the North Coast 500

Given the spell of hot weather we’ve been enjoying recently, there’s no better time to visit some of the wonderful beaches that Scotland has to offer! The North Coast 500 abounds with spectacular seaside for you to enjoy. In this post, we’ve outlined some of the finest beaches along the North Coast 500 – although we’re sure that you’ll stumble across your own favourite beaches as you continue to explore off the beaten track in the North Highlands…

Rosemarkie Beach, Black Isle

This incredible sandy beach, near Fortrose on the Black Isle, stretches out into the mouth of the Moray Firth. Rosemarkie Beach marks the beginning of the Hillockhead circuit, a circular walk continuing along rough, rocky coastlines. Wander through country lanes and wooden glens, and past waterfalls (the Fairy Glen), before arriving back at the beach. Perfect for all the family – enjoy sunbathing along the sandy sheltered beach or splashing about in the rock pools and fossil hunting – fossils can be found along the beach to the north. With many caves located between Rosemarkie and Eathie – the most accessible is Cairds Cave – about a two mile walk from the beach.

At the opposite end of the beach is Chanonry Point, a great place to spot dolphins. Walk the famous ‘Dolphin Mile’ from Rosemarkie Beach to Chanonry Point – the best land based view point in mainland UK to see dolphins. Plus you could see an array of seabirds like guillemots and cormorants and the odd seal and otter too.

More information on Rosemarkie Beach here:


Photos: Rosemarkie Beach by Andrew Dowsett Photography (image 1 -3) & Chanonry Point by Charlie Phillips/WDCs

Portmahomack Beach

This broad, sandy, gently sloping bay peppered with rock pools is rarely overcrowded. With natural barriers at each end, Portmahomack Beach is perfect for families with young children. The beach faces west along the eastern coast, so if you’re looking to take in a spectacular sunset while you’re exploring the east coast, this is the place to go. At Portmahomack, you’re also ideally placed to complete the Tarbat Peninsula Walk –there is a second beach near the lighthouse, stonier but equally as beautiful and is known locally as a great spot for seeing dolphins.


Photos: Portmahomack by Andrew Dowsett Photography (image 1-3) & John Dougan

Their ice cream is a treat to behold!….Stop for a homemade ice cream at Seaweed n stuff in Rockfield, a few miles from Portmahomack – no run-of-the-mill flavours here! Made using only natural ingredients – with strawberry and rose, blueberry and violet, bramble and raspberry cocktail and pear and ginger being just a few flavours you can choose from!

The words “hidden gem” could not be more suitable in describing this wee garden beach hut. Crammed with  chutneys and pickles incorporating different types of sea weed. Julie’s preserves are far from ordinary too, made using natural ingredients – try the apricot and amaretto, bramble gin or strawberry and Pimm’s preserve.

Dornoch Beach, Dornoch

Passing by Embo beach and heading towards the mouth of the Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve, Dornoch Beach has been granted Seaside Award status as a clean bathing beach. The area is also a haven for wildlife; adjacent to the sands, you’ll find a site of specific scientific interest featuring nesting birds, flora and fauna.

The seaside town of Dornoch is a popular destination to venture off the beaten path – with an array of unique high street retailers, world class golf and superb Highland hospitality. Find out more here.

Photo: Dornoch Beach Big Skies By Visit Dornoch

Golspie Beach

The fishing village of Golspie, and its namesake beach, has some of the cleanest sand on the east coast.

With calm waters, it’s a great place for a leisurely, scenic stroll. Why not complete the coastal walk from Brora to Golspie, which meanders through small harbours and sandy beaches? You will also pass the iron age brcoh at Strathsteven and the majestic Dunrobin Castle. The walk is six and ¾ miles long, you may want to make use of the train for the return leg of the journey. More information can be found here (not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs).

Photo: Golspie Beach by Golspie Gallery

Sinclair’s Bay/Reiss Beach, Caithness

Sinclair’s Bay – known locally as Reiss Beach – is spectacularly beautiful. Long stretches of white sand and azure waters make the coastline look almost tropical and home to 16th century castles at both ends of the beach.

Regardless of the time of year you choose to visit, you’ll experience wonderful lights – from sun that doesn’t set until almost midnight in June, to the incredible Northern Lights during the winter months. As well as this, Reiss Beach is a popular spot for surfers and dog walkers.


Photos: Keiss Beach by Ian Maclean (image 1&2) & Florence Fisher (image 3&4)

Melvich Beach

Melvich Beach is accessed via a rough, narrow road – so take your time as you drive towards the sands! It’s well worth the journey, however. Once you’ve parked your car, the beach can be accessed by a short walk through the dunes. Popular with year-round walkers, surfers and fair weather sunbathers alike, Melvich Beach is one of the finest beaches in the north. The small stretch of unspoilt pristine white sands boasts clear turquoise waters, backed by grassy dunes.. Keep your eyes peeled – you might be lucky to catch sight of an otters, seals and an array of nesting birds.

Melvich Hotel and the North Coast Touring Park are ideally located should you wish to stay the night here. Whether you prefer a cosy hotel with wood fired pizzas (they do takeaway too) or a spot to plug in your motorhome, pitch your tent or indulge in a glamping experience. The North Coast Touring park is right next to their Halladale Inn for food, drinks and a friendly local welcome.

Photo: Melvich Beach by Melvich Hotel

Strathy Bay, near Melvich

With steep cliffs at one end and the River Strathy at the other, Strathy Bay is perhaps best known for its beautiful views out over the Pentland Firth. Wildflowers bloom just behind the beach during the months of May and June, while numerous caves and sea stacks are dotted along the coastline – perfect for getting off the beaten track and exploring. The award winning beach can be accessed by turning off the main A836 to Strathy and following the meandering single track road past the cemetery to the car park.

Strathy has more to offer than just its award winning beach and magnificent views. The area has fascinating history, geology and bird and marine life. The area maybe not be widely known to bird watchers nevertheless there is a varied and interesting range of bird life. Strathy point juts out from the northern coastline, visiting its light house makes for an easy walk with unparalleled coastal views, including the dramatic arch and the opportunity to watch for orcas, with whales and dolphins being frequently seen during the summer months. For the more adventurous travellers – Strathy Bay is becoming increasingly popular with surfers.

Situated on the clifftop, rest your head for the night and enjoy your own private cove with jetty (Port Ghrant) at Salmon Landings Guest House.

Strathy Bay by Salmon Landings Guest House

Torrisdale Bay, Invernaver

This mile-long beach on Sutherland’s north coast is a fantastic place to spot seals and sea otters; a quiet stretch of coastline, Torrisdale Bay is popular with experienced surfers, ready for the challenge of the strong tides. The sandy Torrisdale Bay is not to be confused with the pebbly Torrisdale Beach nearby, but make sure to visit both beaches while you’re in the area! You will also come across the iron age broch. Find out more about the beach here.

Torrisdale Bay Jade Campbell

Sandwood Bay, near Kinlochbervie

Often hailed as one of the most magnificent beaches in the UK, this popular stretch of sandy coastline rarely seems busy, as the beach is large enough to give its many visitors a degree of privacy and seclusion. Sandwood Bay is reputedly the most remote beach on mainland Britain and one of the most remote beaches in Europe – accessed via a 4-mile-long gravel path from the Hamlet of Blairmore, north-west of Kinlochbervie.


Photos: Sandwood Bay (photo by Michael Birney, @eastcoastelle, John Muir Trust, Robin Maclennan)

Redpoint Beach, Badachro

Red Point takes its name from the iron in the hills that has turned the sands a reddish-brown colour. Redpoint Beach has over 16,000 acres of sand which are managed by the National Trust for Scotland.The beach has high dunes that on a clear day serve as lookout points from which guests can spot the Outer Hebrides, Skye and Loch Torridon on a fine day. Did you know the beach was featured in the British comedy-drama, “What We Did on Our Holiday” starring David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, and Billy Connolly.

For more movie locations, read our blog.

Photo: Red Point Beach by Shieldaig Lodge Hotel

Big Sand Beach, Gairloch

Take in the views of the Torridon mountains from Big Sand Beach, which is sheltered from the wind by Longa Island. Nearby facilities include showers, toilets and a shop, so you can spend as much time here as you like. Big Sand Beach has no restrictions on dog walking, so it’s an ideal place to bring your four-legged friends. Why not spend the night at Sands Caravan and Camping? Choose a sheltered spot amongst the sand dunes or a spot with a view across the Minch … Where ever you choose, their award winning beach is a stone throw away! For something different, try one of their wigwams or for a touch of luxury choose between one of their holiday caravan homes.

Photo: Big Sands by Sands Caravan and Camping Park

Achmelvich Beach

In the last couple years Achmelvich beach was voted the best beach in Scotland. The beach is popular popular among visitors and locals – and it is no wonder why! Could it be its pristine turquoise waters, its large expanse of white sand, spectacular sunsets, fascinating geology or the water sports and walking opportunities?

The beach is located in the North West Highland Geopark, three miles from Lochinver – nestled among the rocky bays of the Assynt coastline. Did you know the beautiful crescent of white sand is actually mostly made up of crushed shells which gives it the white colour? For those who like their beach time to be a little more leisurely, sit back, relax and take in the views of Suilven in the distance, or discover Europe’s smallest castle – Hermit’s Castle!

(Note. Dogs must be kept on leads – the land surrounding the beach is croft land with livestock roaming the around)

Why not stick around and set up camp at Shore Caravan Site?

Photo: Maggie Harrison, Achmelvich Beach


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