Beaches and Lochs in the Northern Highlands

There are no end of stunning beaches and lochs to be seen across the Highlands and Islands. Many are easily accessed but some will require a sturdy pair of walking boots! Whether fishing, swimming or relaxing with a book, bear in mind that the Scottish weather can change in the blink of an eye, so a backpack with towel, waterproof and sun cream should cover all bases!


Balnakeil Beach

Just a mile west of Durness and north-west facing so sometimes windswept! Known locally for its spectacular sunsets.

camus a charaig beach

Camas A’Charaig Beach

44 miles south west of Ullapool, and just across the peninsula from Aultbea, a small fishing village. With white sand, clear water and a sheltered position, this is a lovely place to stop for a picnic or a swim!

Ceannabeinne Beach

Meaning ‘head of the mountains’, Ceannabeinne is a small, sheltered beach a few miles east of Durness and accessible from the A838, by which there is a car park. The beach is marked as Traigh Allt Chailgeag (the beach of the burn of bereavement and death) on OS maps – Named after the story of an elderly woman who fell into the burn while it was in spate, before her body was washed to the shore.

ceanna beinnie beach
sandwood bay

Sandwood Bay

Just 5 miles north of Kinlochbervie, Sandwood Bay is renowned as one of Scotland’s most beautiful spots A special area of Conservation and managed by the John Muir Trust, the beach is a mile-long stretch of golden sand backed by dunes. Despite its beauty, it rarely feels busy due to its size and access being by a 4-mile footpath from the car park at Blairmore – uneven in places and sometimes wet, so please dress appropriately.

Sangobeag Beach

A few miles east of Durness, this small sandy beach is well sheltered. Historians and archaeologists will find the area fascinating, with its remnants of agriculture and highland clearances. Access is not particularly easy, through croft land, which means that those willing to make the effort will be rewarded with empty sands! However, the owners have built a parking area beside the house there, specifically so folk can go down and park away from the road.

sangobeag 1
dornoch beach

Dornoch Beach

Dornoch, sat on the east coast of Sutherland, is a National Scenic Area and a popular seaside resort thanks to its famous 4km long white sandy beach. With a play park, caravan and campsite and golf course nearby, this is a popular destination for holidaymakers and day-trippers. Located within the town with car parking nearby, the beach is conveniently located. A SEPA designated bathing area.


Golspie Beach is a typical gradually curved long east coast beach with a mixture of golden sands and shingle. Panoramic views across the Moray Firth make it an excellent destination for long beach and coastal walks, you can continue all the way up to Brora if you are feeling fit.

golspie beach
embo beach


This broad beach of golden sand stretches north from the village of Embo to the mouth of the River Fleet. Behind the beach there is a network of paths through the high sand dunes, a good place to take in the fantastic views. The car park, overlooking the beach, is at the north east corner of the village.

Loch Fleet

Loch fleet is an RSPB reserve, the shores are rocky but worth a visit as in addition to birds you can see deer, pine martins and an abundance of rare flowers.

loch fleet
loch migdale

Loch Migdale

This loch, close to the main road near Bonar Bridge features an Iron Age Crannog and excellent trout fishing in season.

Loch Scardroy

A long drive down a single track road but an an excellent and secluded wild swimming spot, fishing permits are available in the Contin filling station.

loch scardroy
loch achility

Loch Achilty

A small picturesque loch set within sloping birch and oakwoods, not far from Contin. At the far end of the loch is a charming pebble beach with quiet picnic places hidden amongst the silver birch, rowan and heather

Loch Garve

On the Contin road this easily accessible loch is famous for its pike and perch fishing and the legend of the Kelpie who lives beneath it’s waters.

loch garve
armadale bay

Armadale Bay Beach

A sheltered beach 24 miles west of Thurso and popular with surfers. There is a picnic area and the small village of Armadale is close by.

Farr Beach

By the village of Bettyhill, 30 miles west of Thurso, Farr beach is accessible only by a 350m walk from the main road. It is worth the effort, however, and along with many other north coast beaches, is popuar with surfers.

farr beach
sandside bay

Sandside Bay

Sandside Bay, is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is recognised by surfers as being home to a powerful high quality left-hand reef break.

Dunnet beach

The beach at Dunnet has a backdrop of sand dunes and across the road a small forest. The Highland Rangers also have a centre at this beach where they run various activities and walks throughout the summer months.

dunnet beach
sinclairs bay

Sinclair’s Bay

Known locally as Reiss Beach the white sands are sheltered from the wind by high cliffs, there is a popular surfing break and there are two ruined castles to explore.

Sands of Wright Beach

This sheltered beach is most famous for the annual Festival of the Horse & Boys Ploughing Match, a weird but traditional ritual unique to Orkney.

dingishowe beach

Dingieshowe beach

With easy access from the main road and toilets the sandy stretch of Dingieshowe beach is a popular choice but there is no shortage of space to roam. Just behind the beach is an ancient broch.

Birsay Bay

Birsay Bay has everything, dunes and links, rockpools, low sea cliffs, eider ducks, fulmars, kittiwakes, bonxies, turnstones, dolphins and even the occasional orca whale. North Atlantic sunsets are at their most beautiful here.

birsay beach
st ninians beach

St Ninian’s Isle

Named as one of the best places in the world to swim this tombolo – in which an island is attached to the mainland by a sand bar, is one of the most picturesque beaches on the islands and has a wide range of facilities nearby.

West Voe Sands

Next to the runway of Sumburgh Airport and alongside the archaeological site of Jarlshof this long sheltered crescent of white sand is easily accessed and popular with dog walkers and families. Picnic tables with views down over the beach are available for use.

west voe sands
tresta beach

Tresta Beach

A long white sand beach with stunning cliffs at its south end. This pretty, easy to access beach is in a calm shallow cove making it ideal for families and swimming. The annual Fetlar Foy is held at the links adjacent to the beach near midsummer when the sun hardly sets.

Sands of Breckon

Framed by the cliff scenery of north Yell, the sandy beach at Breckon is one of the island’s highlights. It holds a Seaside Award from Keep Scotland Beautiful and although the bay is open to the Atlantic, it is well sheltered from most wind directions and the dunes provide an infinite variety of picnic places on good days.

strathy bay

Strathy Beach

Another popular surfing beach! 20 miles west of Thurso, Strathy beach is sandy with numerous caves and rock stacks. Just a short walk from the car park takes you down to the beach. The highly rated Strathy Inn in the village makes a wonderful place to relax with a pint or dinner after your visit.

Thurso Bay

Adjacent to the north coast town of Thurso, this SEPA designated bathing area stretches from Rockwell Point to Little Ebb and is popular with walkers and surfing enthusiasts. The town conveniently provides access to amenities.

thurso bay