Beachcombing in the Highlands & Islands

Posted by True Highlands in Kit and Caboodle | 7 comments

The Highlands & Islands are blessed with some of the best beaches in the world. Some keep coming back for the amazing views, to play with their children, walk their dogs or to go fishing, but for a small group of enthusiasts it’s the beachcombing that is the major attraction.

Part of the appeal of this activity lies in its simplicity, no skills or preparation is required and you don’t have to be super fit. All ages can delight in the simple pleasures of strolling around a beach, collecting whatever interesting items the tide has washed up.

Our previous blog, Whisky Galore, is an example of a very rare find! The Hebrides are still brilliant for collecting bounty from the sea but it is unlikely to yield anything as interesting or valuable as shipments of whisky, but part of the appeal is in not knowing what you may come across. Stinky Bay, Benbecula has long been a top spot for finding all kinds of booty. It faces the Atlantic so fierce storms can regularly deposit things from Canada and America. Old or young, if you walk the beaches of Scotland long enough you will find some sort of treasure.

Eathie Beach on the Black Isle is the place to go for fans of geology and fossil hunters. This beach, made famous by the geologist Hugh Miller, who lived close by in Cromarty, is a site of special scientific interest and it is possible to find Ammonites, fossilized mussel shells and fish scales at low tide.

Lily’s Driftwood Bay is a children’s animated tv programme that is based on the fictional island of Arranish (can you guess where it is based on!). In it, our young heroine lives in a shack on a beach and collects what she can find washed up there. As well as being very entertaining, the programme is a pointer to what some may regard as a kind of golden age of children’s entertainment. Beachcombing is great for kids, the sense of adventure and not knowing what you may find, the thought of treasure under every rock or the chance to run wild and free and maybe even discover something new. It’s what holiday memories are made of! (Not to mention you finding sand and bits of seaweed in the boot of the car forever more!).

Messages in bottles are perhaps the most intriguing that children can come across. The purpose of these can vary, from scientific study to people looking for love. The longest time a message has floated in the sea before being recovered is over 100 years so these can indeed be postcards from another era. A reminder of what the world was like before email.

The remote island of St Kilda used to depend on contact with the rest of the world in the winter months by placing mail in a buoy, throwing it into the sea and depending on luck and goodwill for it to reach its intended destination. Believe it or not, most letters sent this way made it in the end.

Amongst the things you can find are coloured bits of glass and shells. The glass is often smooth and these items make a great mosaic or jewellery. Some people set them into concrete steps in their gardens or simply put in a nice jar for decorative use. Driftwood is another great find and this is used for all sorts of things. An unusual piece may just become an ornament, whilst some go as far as making mirror frames, benches and fences! Even old rope has been used on the Isle of Gigha to create a statue!

Unusual finds are even more exciting, like mermaids purses, whelk egg cases and a skull or bone never fails to enthral kids of all ages! So get out there, you never know what’s hiding in the seaweed.

Essentials: Bucket or bag for carrying the booty, spade, gloves, waterproof jacket, sun cream and sense of adventure!

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Comments (7)
  1. Carole Gledhill says:

    Beach pottery is my favourite thing to hunt for on a beach and the pieces can look lovely set in rows in a frame.

  2. Nick Forwood says:

    Eathie beach is, quite rightly so, a fantastic place to look for fossils. However, it is worth pointing out (as you do) that the beach is a SSSI – a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This means that the area has a legal protective status.

    A hammer may be worthwhile for breaking open individual loose lying stones – this is permitted. Unfortunately, I have come across people who were using a hammer to try and remove visible fossils from a larger fixed piece of rock. This is strictly forbidden and against the law.

    These visible fossils must be left for future generations to discover and evoke the excitement that your blog post conveys.

  3. Marion says:

    Another great favourite place for finding fossils is the beach at Loth in Sutherland around the north promontory.

  4. Katherine Anger says:

    HI I am headed to Scotland from the outback of Australia in September (end of the month)and I love beachcombing particulary sea pottery. I am spending time in Fife and driving up along coast to John O Groats, Thurso and Durness. Does anyone know any good beaches in those areas that might be worth checking out? I understand that around Fife there used to be a lot of pottery works and a lot of the shards are now washed up there on the beaches.

  5. Nick says:

    Well known pottery and glass finds are on the East Lothian (east of Edinburgh) coast around Prestonpans to Aberlady. As far as Highlands go, apart from the ones already mentioned, there is a nice coral beach near Plockton. I don’t know of pottery in Highland.
    Otherwise, beach combing is more opportunistic here.

  6. Katherine says:

    Thank you Nick! In Fife at present. Lots of good finds around Kirkcaldy, just might try Prestonpans!

  7. Pingback: Black Isle Activities - Flowerburn Holiday Homes

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