I lowered my camera and gazed out at what lay before me – a beautiful bay encased in the stony grip of rocky cliffs. With white sand stretching out into a two-tone block of turquoise and royal blue, green fingers of jutting hills reaching out into the sea, sunbathers on the shore behind me and children shrieking as they splashed in the water, I could have been standing on a beach in the Mediterranean. So where was this little corner of paradise? Achmelvich, in the North West Highlands of Scotland.
As I walked along the water’s edge, feeling the sun warm my back, I wondered how it was possible that this was my first visit to this unbelievably scenic area (and how unaware I had been that beaches like this were strewn along the coastline only a 3-hour drive from my home). I was celebrating my 30th birthday by spending a long weekend in the Lochinver area of Sutherland and it seemed that my gift was a weekend of glorious sunshine to really make the most of the amazing views. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
North West Highlands Spectacular Sutherland
We stayed in Stoer, north of Lochinver, midway along a road known as the Drumbeg Loop. This surely must be one of the most stunning drives in Scotland – circling around an expanse of land with awe-inspiring views of the coast and mountain-flanked terrain. As it’s a single track road, you have to drive slowly and can therefore soak up the spectacular scenery (and if, like me, you want to stop and take photos constantly, you can take advantage of the many times you will have to pull over into passing places!).
From Stoer you can take a short diversion off the Drumbeg Loop and onto an arm of land that reaches out further to the west – at the end of the road you will find Stoer Lighthouse (which I highly recommend visiting at sunset). The shop at Drumbeg is a good place to stock up on snacks and drinks, and has a lovely selection of handmade arts and crafts, as well as general groceries. Another great place to stop and stretch the legs on your way to or from the Lochinver area is the atmospheric ruin of Ardverk Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt.
Clachtoll Spectacular Sutherland
Along the Drumbeg Loop you’ll find a number of picture-perfect beaches, such as those at Achmelvich, Clachtoll and Clashnessie. At Clachtoll, you can follow a cliff top path leading away from the main beach and, as well as admire mountain-dotted coastline and the mesmerising shades of deep blues and turquoise framed by black rock, you can walk down to a smaller, more secluded beach. Achmelvich also has more than one beach, with smaller bays just a short walk from the main (usually much busier) beach. These West Coast beaches are truly amongst the most beautiful beaches I have seen, in an area of Scotland that is simply awe-inspiring. Just one word of warning before you dive into the ever-so inviting clear waters – I quickly discovered that the water temperature does not necessarily mirror the Mediterranean-type appearance of the beaches!
Emma Gibb writes about self catering holidays in Scotland for EmbraceScotland.