Around fifty paces from the front door of Reiff Steading lies Reiff Beach with its impressive backdrop of the lichen shrouded Parliament Rock. First impressions of the beach, at high tide, may not seem promising but as the tide goes out a sheltered expanse of fine white sand is revealed between a scattering of Torridonian sandstone boulders. The amount of sand varies from year to year, but on a sunny day the beach is a wonderful place to be with the comforts of home are only a step away!
If relaxing on a beach after a stroll seems more of an adventure, take a walk up the eastern shore of the Loch of Reiff along the sheep path for about a kilometre to Camas Eilean Ghlais, a fabulous little “secret beach” with stunning views of the Reiff sea cliffs and Eilean Ghlais, which the bay is named after. With the sheltered nature of the bay, sometimes the sea can appear like glass, and just when you think you have the place to yourself, you may be joined by sea kayakers exploring the coastline!
Between Polbain and Achiltibuie lies Badentarbat Bay. The beach is mainly stony, but at low tide a stretch of reddish sand is revealed. Badentarbat, with sheep cropped grass behind and a magnificent view of Tanera Mor is a great place to take in the ambience. Mobile reception can also be found here, so you may be briefly joined by people intent on keeping in touch with the wider world! The Coigach skiff rowers are often in the bay, practicing for skiff rowing regattas which take place around the country, through the summer months.
A hidden gem of a beach can be found at Acheninver. Drive through Achiltibuie and past Badenscallie then half a kilometre after the Acheninver Hostel car park, take the right fork in the road. After about 400 metres you will find a small area for parking on the left-hand side, just before the road bends to the left and crosses a small bridge. Park here, take the track to the right towards East Acheninver. Before the houses, turn left off the track onto a path across heather towards the shore. The ground can be a little boggy in places and it is rocky as you reach the shore, so sturdy footwear is recommended. Similarly to a lot of the beaches along the coastline, Acheninver is best appreciated at times other than high tide.
Achnahaird is a fabulous expanse of white sand that can be enjoyed at all times, regardless of tides. This sheltered bay looks over the wider expanse of Enard Bay to Assynt. The walk from the car park to the beach itself features a spectacular backdrop of the mountains of Coigach and Assynt. Unsurprisingly, the beach can get relatively busy on sunny days, but there are numerous options to find a quiet spot amongst the rocks and dunes that back onto the beach.
If you venture North of Lochinver, two fabulous beaches are very popular; Achmelvich and Clachtoll. A little further north along the road, Clashnessie beach tends to be a little less busy. Achmelvich, situated next to a Youth Hostel and a campsite, can get relatively crowded, but a 10-minute walk north east along the grass above the rocky shore is a smaller and quieter “secret beach” worth the walk if you crave stunning peaceful surroundings. There are toilets at the beach carpark, and an Assynt Ranger’s hut which contains information and leaflets on the flora and fauna that can be seen in the area.
Similarly, Clachtoll beach is adjacent to a campsite and has toilet facilities and a Ranger’s hut. The beach itself lies in a narrow bay flanked by an old salmon netting station on the northern side and the impressive “split rock” geological feature on the southern side. If you take a walk over to the split rock, across traces of the old crofting “lazy beds” then continue around the shoreline, another little beach can be found where you are more than likely to find yourself alone with only the seabirds for company!
For the more adventurous, who don’t mind a couple of hours driving through amazing scenery, there are some absolutely stunning beaches to be found in Northern Sutherland. Just Beyond Kinlochbervie lie the beaches at Oldshoremore and Oldshore Beg. This area is also the starting point for the 9 mile round trip to Sandwood Bay, cared for by the John Muir Trust which is arguably one of the finest beaches in the British Isles and is definitely well worth the walk for those who feel up for the adventure.
Durness, the most North Westerly village on mainland Britain, is another fabulous place with numerous white sand beaches, kept scrubbed clean by the power of the North Atlantic Ocean. The sands at Balnakeil Bay stretch for just over a kilometre along Faraid Head point. Close by is the Balnakeil Craft Village; if you have made the effort to drive to Durness, you must stop by Cocoa Mountain to stock up on fantastic handmade chocolates and indulge in a very delicious hot chocolate!
As you pass through Durness, the village is flanked to the north by the white expanses Sango Sands, into which rocky fingers cut to make a number of smaller beaches at high tide. Further East, Smoo Cave is well worth investigating; this large cave is quite unique in the UK; the huge entrance chamber was formed by the action of the sea, while action of rainwater has dissolved the Durness limestone rock to form smaller inner chambers. If there has not been too much rain, tours by small boat to the inner chambers are available.
Beyond Smoo Cave, Sangobeg beach fills a small crescent shaped bay; access to this beach is not overly straightforward and it is best to continue for another mile and a half or so until you reach Ceannabeinne Beach with ample car parking available. The beach is split in two, by a rocky outcrop which is passable at very low tides, although it is easy to reach the western half of the beach, from a small lay-by about half a mile back towards Durness. This approach, albeit longer, makes for an interesting walk as you pass through the low ruins of the abandoned Ceannabeinne Township along a purpose-built trail, with information boards and boardwalks over patches of boggy ground.