Scotland might not be the first thing that will come to your mind when you think of white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and dolphins. Scotland is mostly known for its towering mountains, ancient castles, rugged coastline and unpredictable weather.
But I kid you not… The North Coast 500 has some of the best beaches in the United Kingdom that we know you’ll definitely love!
For some of them, you would only need to add palm trees and it could be Jamaica. The photos online do not even give half of them justice to the real deal, beautiful, picturesque beaches along the NC500.
Right, let’s jump into the top 19 beaches on the NC500 route!
The Seaside Award says that Dornoch Beach is a clean place to swim.
It is near Embo Beach and goes towards the mouth of the Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve. The area is also a haven for wildlife. Right next to the sands is a site of scientific interest where birds, plants, and other animals nest.
The seaside town of Dornoch is a popular place to go off the beaten path because it has a lot of unique shops, world-class golf, and great Highland hospitality.
- Famous for its clean water and has been awarded a Blue Flag.
- Backed by miles of sand dunes.
- Located near the town of Dornoch. The town has quaint shops, cafes and restaurants. Plus a castle too!
The beach, named after the town of Golspie, has some of the cleanest sand on the east coast.
It’s a great place for a slow, scenic walk because the water is calm. Why not walk from Brora to Golspie along the coast, which takes you through small harbours and sandy beaches? You will also see the Strathsteven broch from the Iron Age and the beautiful Dunrobin Castle. The walk is six and a half miles long, so you should take the train on the way back.
- Boasts a lovely, long sandy beach and a number of scenic walks like Big Burn with its spectacular waterfalls.
- Golspie Beach is a mix of sand and shingles!
- Golspie Village, where Golspie Beach is, is a small, beautiful town with under 2,000 people.
This amazing sandy beach is near Fortrose on the Black Isle. It goes all the way out to where the Moray Firth meets the sea.
The Hillockhead circuit starts at Rosemarkie Beach. This is a walk that goes in a circle along rough, rocky coastlines. Before you get back to the beach, you can walk through country lanes and wooded glens and past waterfalls in the Fairy Glen Nature Reserve.
The beach is great for the whole family. You can sunbathe on the sandy, protected beach, play in the rock pools, or look for fossils along the beach to the north.
Between Rosemarkie and Eathie, there are many caves. The easiest one to get to is Cairds Cave, which is about two miles from the beach.
Chanonry Point is at the other end of the beach. It is a great place to see dolphins. From Rosemarkie Beach to Chanonry Point, walk the famous “Dolphin Mile.” This is the best place on land in the UK to see dolphins. You might also see seabirds like guillemots and cormorants, as well as the occasional seal or otter.
- Famous for its soft, golden sand and clear waters.
- Visitors of Rosemarkie Beach can also take a cruise on the Caledonian Canal or embark on a Highlands tour that includes a ride on the iconic Hogwarts Express Train!
- Rosemarkie Beach is also home to a range of wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins and seals. Visitors can sometimes spot these creatures swimming and playing in the waters off the coast!
Strathy Bay near Melvich is known for its beautiful views of the Pentland Firth. At one end, there are steep cliffs, and at the other, there is the River Strathy.
Back behind the beach, wildflowers bloom in May and June, and there are many caves and sea stacks along the coast, making it a great place to get off the beaten path and explore.
You can get to the award-winning beach by taking the Strathy exit off the main A836 and following the single-track road past the cemetery to the parking lot.
Strathy has more to offer than just a beautiful beach that has won awards and great views. The history, geology, and bird and marine life of the area are all fascinating. Bird watchers may not know much about the area, but there are a lot of different and interesting birds there.
Strathy Point sticks out from the northern coast. It’s an easy walk to the lighthouse, which has fantastic coast views, including the dramatic arch and the chance to watch orcas.
During the summer, whales and dolphins are also often seen. Surfers are going to Strathy Bay more and more, which is great for travellers who like to try new things.
- During the months of May and June, the beach is also adorned with wildflowers, adding to its natural beauty.
- The beach itself is quite wide and sandy, making it a great spot for beachcombing and walking along the shore.
- Strathy Bay is known for its stunning views of the Pentland Firth and its numerous caves and sea stacks that are scattered along the coastline.
This wide, sandy bay with a gentle slope and rock pools is rarely too crowded.
Portmahomack Beach is a great place for families with young children because there are natural barriers at each end. Along the eastern coast, the beach faces west, so if you want to see a beautiful sunset while exploring the east coast, this is the place to go. You’re also in a great spot to finish the Tarbat Peninsula Walk.
- Portmahomack Beach is a broad, sandy beach that stretches westward from the charming fishing village of Portmahomack. The village can trace its roots back to 800 AD and is well-known locally for its picturesque setting!
- The beach at Portmahomack is gently sloping and has natural barriers at both ends, making it an ideal spot for leisure crafts.
- Portmahomack is the only village on the east coast of Scotland that faces due west, which means it has the privilege of enjoying some spectacular sunsets.
Sinclair’s Bay, which people in the area called “Reiss Beach,” is a stunningly beautiful place.
Long stretches of white sand and blue water give the coast a tropical look. At both ends of the beach, there are castles from the 1600s.
No matter what time of year you go, you’ll see beautiful lights here. In June, the sun doesn’t set until almost midnight, and in the winter, you can see the amazing Northern Lights.
A lot of people also go to Reiss Beach to surf and walk their dogs.
- Sinclair’s Bay is a large white-sand beach split in half by a stream.
- The bay is home to two 16th-century castles, one at each end of the beach. These are Castle Sinclair Girnigoe and Ackergill Tower.
- During World War II, Sinclair’s Bay was used as a training area for D-Day.
This mile-long beach on the north coast of Sutherland is a great place to see seals and sea otters.
Torrisdale Bay is a quiet stretch of coast that is popular with experienced surfers who are ready to face the strong tides. You shouldn’t confuse the sandy Torrisdale Bay with the nearby pebbly Torrisdale Beach, but you should go to both beaches if you’re in the area.
- Torrisdale Bay is an area of Special Scientific Interest due to its rare plants and archaeological remains.
- The bay offers a mixture of dunes, beach, riverside, and moorland, which can be explored by taking a circuitous walk that includes an iron-age broch.
Melvich Beach is reached by a rough, narrow road, so drive slowly as you get closer to the sand. But the trip is well worth it. Once you’ve parked your car, you can walk through the dunes to get to the beach.
Melvich Beach is one of the best beaches in the north. People go there to walk, surf, and sunbathe when the weather is nice. The small stretch of untouched, white sand beach has clear turquoise water and grassy dunes on either side.
Also, keep your eyes open! If you’re lucky, you might see otters, seals, and a lot of birds nesting.
- Melvich Beach is a stunning expanse of golden sands bounded to the east by the River Halladale and to the west by rocky outcrops.
- The dunes at Melvich Beach are known for their beautiful cowslip flowers that carpet the short turf in late spring.
This famous stretch of sand is often called one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. However, it rarely seems busy because the beach is big enough to give its many visitors some privacy and space.
Sandwood Bay near Kinlochbervie is said to be the most remote beach on mainland Britain and one of the most secluded beaches in Europe. It can be reached by a 4-mile gravel path from the Hamlet of Blairmore, northwest of Kinlochbervie.
- Sandwood Bay is considered to be one of the most unspoilt beaches in mainland Britain, and it’s only accessible by foot!
- The beach is about 1.5 miles long, with pink sands flanked by towering cliffs.
- The beach itself faces into the North Atlantic, so be prepared for wind when you visit.
Red Point Beach
The reddish-brown colour of the sands at Red Point comes from the iron in the hills. The National Trust for Scotland takes care of the more than 16,000 acres of sand at Red Point Beach.
On a clear day, people can see the Outer Hebrides, Skye, and Loch Torridon from the beach’s high dunes, which serve as lookout points.
Fun fact! Red Point Beach was in “What We Did on Our Holiday,” a British comedy-drama with David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, and Billy Connolly?
- Red Point Beach is located in a remote and peaceful location and can only be accessed by a single track road.
- The sand is a mix of red and pink, giving the beach a unique and striking appearance.
- The sand is also mixed with shingle and bordered by outcrops and dunes.
Big Sand Beach
You can see the Torridon mountains from Big Sand Beach, which is protected from the wind by Longa Island. You can spend as much time as you want in Gairloch because there are showers, toilets, and a store nearby.
Big Sand Beach has no rules about walking your dog, so it’s a great place to bring your furry friends.
- Big Sand Beach is sheltered from onshore winds by Longa Island and provides stunning views of the mountains of Skye and Torridon.
- The beach is accessed through extensive sand dunes that offer visitors shelter from the wind.
Achmelvich Beach is a favourite of both tourists and locals, and it’s easy to see why. Could it be the clear turquoise water, the wide stretch of white sand, the beautiful sunsets, the exciting geology, or the chance to do water sports and go walking?
The beach is three miles from Lochinver, in the North West Highland Geopark. It is tucked between the rocky bays of the Assynt coast.
Those who like to take it easy at the beach can sit back, relax, and take in the view of Suilven in the distance. They can also check out Hermit’s Castle, which is Europe’s smallest castle.
Did you know? The beautiful crescent of white sand is mostly made up of crushed shells. This is what makes the sand white.
- Achmelvich Beach is located close to famous hills such as Suilven, Canisp, Quinag, and Stac Pollaidh, making it a perfect holiday destination if you love the beach and also enjoy going on hikes and walks.
- Achmelvich Beach is an award-winning beach on the North Coast 500 with soft white sand and crystal-clear blue water.
- Achmelvich Beach is a popular spot for water sports such as water skiing, windsurfing, and kayaking during the summer months.
Bay of Sannick
Between John O’Groats and the lighthouse at Duncansby Head is the Bay of Sannick. You can park your car in a grassy area just off the single-lane road.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the NC500 is the Bay of Sannick. You can also walk to the sand dunes to see birds of the sea and seals. From here, especially from the Duncansby Head Lighthouse, you can look over and see the Pentland Skerries.
- The bay looks out over the Pentland Firth, a body of water well-known for its fast tidal currents and abundant marine wildlife.
- The beach is white and sandy and it’s a wonderful place to go for a peaceful walk.
On the NC500, Dunnet Bay is a beautiful arc of white sand beach. When the winds and waves are strong, it’s a great place for surfers. Also, you can sunbathe, paddleboard, swim, and do other beach sports on the two-mile stretch of protected sand.
Dunnet Head is the northernmost point of mainland Britain, and Dunnet Bay Distillery is one of the best gin distilleries in Scotland. Also, there is a caravan park and a place to camp here. Perfect for campervans and RVs!
- Dunnet Bay is a stunning two-mile long white sandy beach that is popular with tourists throughout the year.
- Dunnet Bay is located close to Dunrobin Castle, a fairytale castle that is popular with tourists.
Just outside of Coldbackie is one of the most beautiful beaches in this area. Coldbackie Sands is another beach on the North Coast 500 that is not as well known.
There are little coves where you can get away from everyone and enjoy the sun and rocky outcrops. This beach is usually a quiet and peaceful place to get away from the chaos of the NC500.
Coldbackie Sands is hard to find from the road because it is hidden, far away, and hard to get to. On the A836, there is a small parking area. From the pull-off, the beach is a steep 15-minute walk downhill.
Unfortunately, people with trouble moving around can’t get down to Coldbackie Beach because there are no stairs.
- Coldbackie Sands is a peaceful and spectacular place to unwind on pure white sands while enjoying views of the Rabbit Islands and the Orkneys.
- Visitors can explore soft golden sands, a couple of caves, rock pools, sand dunes, and clear water at Coldbackie Sands.
Ceannabeinne Beach is a beautiful beach with sand that is as white as snow and water that is as clear as glass. Also, you can see Eilean Hoan Island and the coast from here.
Huge rocks surround the bay and keep it safe. If it is quiet enough, you can camp on the cliffs and see the sunset and sunrise from a great spot.
- The beach is surrounded by towering cliffs and grassy slopes, offering breathtaking views of the coastline.
- Ceannabeinne Beach is a popular spot for wild camping, and it’s not uncommon to see tents set up on the grass in the evening.
Sango Sands is a beautiful beach with great places to take pictures. Because of its beautiful views, the Sango Sands campsite is one of the best on the route.
- Sango Bay is one of the most spectacular and varied beaches in the Scottish Highlands, with its cliffs, rocks, and sand dunes providing a stunning landscape for visitors to enjoy.
- The beach is a popular spot for surfing, with good waves and plenty of space for surfers.
Balnakeil Beach is a must-see on the NC500. It is one of the best places to visit. Long stretches of white sand and big sand dunes make it look almost like a tropical beach.
Also, the sand dunes are one of the largest systems of sand dunes in Scotland, and they are home to many different kinds of plants and animals.
Balnakeil Beach is a beautiful, clean beach with many places to find and learn about. The beach is also known for its beautiful sunsets.
- Balnakeil Beach is known for its natural beauty, with its crystal-clear waters, white sand, and impressive cliffs.
- You can take a walk along the white sandy dunes, which lead to open green fields overlooking the bay, providing a beautiful view of the ocean.
Clachtoll Beach is another beautiful beach near Assynt. People like to go to Clachtoll Beach, which has some rough terrain, like the Split Rocks.
The white sand and turquoise water make it a great place to take it easy. Also, from the headlands at each end of the beach, you can see beautiful mountain views for miles.
There is a free parking lot at the beach and a ranger’s hut where you can learn about the beach’s wildlife, geology, and history. Also, you can camp here and wake up to these beautiful views.
- Clachtoll Beach offers stunning views of the mountains in the distance from the headlands on either end of the beach.
- The beach features rugged terrain, including the Split Rocks, which make for a great photo opportunity.
- Clachtoll Beach is located near several tourist attractions, including the Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor Castle, and Loch Ness.
Mellon Udrigle Beach
Mellon Udrigle Beach is a quiet beach with some of the best views along this part of the coast. It is off the beaten path and on a road with only one lane, but the trip is well worth it. If you want to stay the night, there is a small place to park your car and a caravan site.
Fine silver sands are backed by soft dunes and grassy areas that slope gently into Gruinard Bay. When everything is just right, the water can look a light bright blue. Also, the views are very different because there are faraway mountains in the bay in the background.
- The combination of clear white sand, dunes, and majestic mountains in the distance make it a very popular spot for photographers.
- Mellon Udrigle is backed by dunes and framed by rocky promontories.
- The beach is known for its clear turquoise waters, which are perfect for swimming on a sunny day.
All The Beaches!
Scotland has some stunning beaches, and the North Coast 500 is a great way to see them all. Whether you want to swim in the cold or just walk along the beach, these beaches on the NC500 are a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You can go to Big Sand Beach, Golspie Beach, Rosemarkie Beach, Sango Sands, or Dornoch Beach if you like beaches like Brighton or Blackpool.
If you want to think about life’s meaning and purpose on Sutherland’s quieter, prettier beaches, try Achmelvich, Sandwood Bay, Balnakeil Beach, Ceannabeinne Beach, Melvich Beach, Strathy Bay, and Strathy Bay.
On the NC500, the roads can be narrow, windy, and hard to drive on. Make sure to be careful, treat other drivers with respect, and use the right passing places. Always give yourself enough or more time to get to where you’re going. Happy sunbathing!
Maximise Your NC500 Experience!
Our newsletter is packed with helpful tips and resources to help you save money and time when planning your NC500 experience. Sign up now and join our community of savvy NC500'ers.