Sandwood Bay: worth the hike?

by | Destinations, Scotland | 2 comments

Sandwood Bay on the North West Coast of Scotland is one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole of Great Britain. However, it does require some effort to reach this remote beach! There is no road in so you have to get there under your own steam. Is Sandwood Bay worth the hike? We thought so!

Sandwood Bay beach - sand and sea

What is it like at Sandwood Bay?

Imagine, about a mile and a half of pristine, pale golden sand stretching out before you and the waves gently rolling up on to the shore. The magnificent sea stack of Buachaille rises out from the sea to the left of the beach. Behind, the fabulous sand dunes slope down to this wonderful section of the Scottish coastline. In short, Sandwood Bay is stunningly beautiful.

Sea stack off beach at Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay is remote and not easily accessible, so if you make the trip, it is likely that you will have the place to yourself, but even if a few other intrepid explorers have ventured out, there is so much space, you will hardly be aware of them. Paradise!

Sea and sand at Sandwood Bay

Where is Sandwood Bay?

As mentioned above, Sandwood Bay is in the far north west of the Scottish Highlands in the county of Sutherland. It is just a few miles from Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point of Great Britain. It is possible to continue the hike from Sandwood Bay and reach Cape Wrath, I understand, but I have not tackled this section of the trail so cannot comment.

The nearest significant community to Sandwood Bay is Kinlochbervie, a harbour village several miles away. This is where we stayed when we visited the area. In fact, we stayed on the harbour where there is a stop-over facility for motorhomes. I can highly recommend this.

Map of Sandwood Bay

Click for interactive map of the area


How long is the walk to Sandwood Bay?

The hike to Sandwood Bay is about 7 km (a little over 4 miles) and it takes a couple of hours to walk. If you choose to cycle part of the way, as we did, you can reduce this time somewhat. Cycling the whole way is not advised (see below). Clearly, as one has to hike back out, this distance and the time taken to complete the whole trip will be doubled!

How difficult is the hike to Sandwood Bay?

The trail starts at Blairmore where there is a car park with donation box for the John Muir Trust.

Carpark at Blairmore

Donation sign for carpark at Blairmore

Just across the road from the carpark, there is a gate to pass through and the trail heads out towards Sandwood Bay over moorland.

Jane and bikes near gate for start of trail to beach

Initially, the track is quite wide, but it does eventually narrow and become a little more rugged.

Rocky trail to Sandwood Bay

Trail to Sandwood Bay

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. It would be difficult to get lost on this hike. The land is owned and maintained by the John Muir Trust. The trail is easy, a little rocky in places and there is some up and down, but no significant hills or climbs.  There are a couple of streams to cross with stepping stones, but nothing particularly difficult. The most challenging part of the hike is down through the soft sand of the dunes to reach the beach.

Path down through the sand dunes

Along the route, there are several other pretty beaches. As one approaches Sandwood Bay, Sandwood Loch, a body of fresh water comes into view and there are a couple of ruined buildings close by.

Sandwood Loch with ruins of old stone buildings

Then the beautiful beach that is Sandwood Bay comes into view.

Jane with beach in background

View over Sandwood Bay

Is it possible to cycle to Sandwood Bay?

Yes and no! We cycled from Kinlochbervie to the start of the trail at Blairmore and cycled for the first couple of miles along the trail. This was fairly straightforward for a mountain bike (or in my case, an electric bike!). Whilst we were cycling on the quiet roads to the trailhead, Jasper, our border collie was in his trailer. Once we were on the trail, he ran along with the bikes.

Jane on bike with dog running alongside

Jane on bike looking over to a beach with dog

Cycling enabled us to cover ground more quickly as we had set off late in the day. However, we eventually reached this sign:

Sign indicating bikes should be left here

The trail did become more rugged at this point.  Adventurous mountain bikers could probably continue, but hopefully people do heed the request not to do so.  Why would you when it is so clearly indicated that this is not advised? There are bike racks on which to secure the bikes so our recommendation would always be to comply with this polite request, leave the bikes and protect the environment.

Bike racks with bikes

Camping at Sandwood Bay

Wild camping is allowed – or at least, it is not prohibited. On our return journey (the hike to Sandwood Bay is an out and back) we encountered a couple of young people heading out with tents for the evening. My daughter camped there a couple of years ago. Quite an idyllic campsite! There are no facilities at the beach so it is essential that you take everything with you  – and, of course, to take everything away when you leave! Hopefully, the campers and visitors to Sandwood Bay respect its beauty and clear up after themselves so that camping continues to be allowed.

So is Sandwood Bay worth the hike?

The hike out and back is getting on for 10 miles, but it is a relatively easy hike – certainly not on a par with hiking one of the famous Scottish Munros! The reward at the end is this spectacularly beautiful beach which will be almost if not entirely deserted. Is it the most beautiful beach in the UK? Difficult to know, but it must be up there with the best. Definitely worth the hike!

Jane and dog paddling at edge of water

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  1. The first thing I gotta wonder, why is Cape Wrath called that? Bit frightened. This is indeed a gorgeous beach and I think would be well worth the hike, though the amount of miles is a bit daunting…not on the way there, but perhaps on the way back! I’d love to be alone in such a gorgeous spot. With so much over tourism, spots like this are ever more precious.

    • Yes, it is a peculiar name! I think the seas around the cape can be quite challenging, but apparently, the name has nothing to do with this. It is derived from an old Norse word meaning a turning point and mariners used the cape as a reference point by which to navigate. The only way to reach the actual cape is by boat. I don’t think there is much there other than a lighthouse. One day, I will make the trip, but we could not on this occasion as we had the dog with us!
      Sandwood Bay is utterly gorgeous; you would love it! I am always aware of over tourism too. I understand that people want to see and experience different places in the world – I am one of them – but it does rather spoil the specialness of such places. A double edged sword!


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Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

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