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The best North Coast 500 beaches

The best North Coast 500 beaches

Scotland has some of the world’s best beaches. Whether you are looking for turquoise seas and white sands, to go surfing or stand up paddle boarding, or to just let the pups and kids run a little wild, here is my guide to the best North Coast 500 beaches.

Planning your North Coast 500 adventure?

Map of North Coast 500 beaches

Find your favourite North Coast 500 beach on the map:

North Coast 500 beaches – best east coast beaches

Starting in the City of Inverness, driving up the east coast of Scotland to the very top of the UK, visiting some of the best NC 500 beaches and spotting dolphins and amazing castles along the way.

  • Rosemarkie Beach / Chanonry Point  – your first beach stop on the NC500 is located near the village of Rosemarkie on the Black Isle Peninsula and has stunning views across the Moray Firth. Visit the “Fairy Glen,” a wooded gorge that leads to a waterfall and Chanonry Point – one of the best places to spot dolphins in Scotland.
  • Portmahomack – to the east of Tain is the Easter Ross peninsula, a quiet, windswept haven away from the world rushing by on the NC500. Discover Portmahomack with its lovely beach and harbour before visiting the Tarbat Ness Lighthouse, then drive the Pictish Trail to find the beautiful scultpural Easter Ross Standing Stones.
  • Dornoch Beach – a pretty Victorian seaside town with a lovely beach and links, Dornoch is also home to the famous Royal Dornoch Golf Course, a championship links course with incredible views over the Dornoch Firth – see if you can spot Dunrobin Castle from the shore! More NC 500 beaches near Dornoch include Golspie Beach and Brora Beach.
  • Reiss Sands / Sinclair’s Bay – located near the village of Reiss in Caithness is bookended by two magnificent castles – Old Keiss Castle to the north and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe to the south – along with the restored Ackergill Tower which is now a guest house. 

North Coast 500 beaches – north coast 

Your next destination – the far north coast of Scotland to John O’Groats and the incredible Duncansby Head Stacks, then to Scrabster and Thurso discovering white sand beaches, before exploring the huge Smoo Cave, and trying the famous hot chocolate at Cocoa Mountain at Durness. Here are the best North Coast 500 beaches on the north coast.

  • Bay of Sannick – Located between John O’Groats and Duncansby Head Lighthouse, the Bay of Sannick is a good spot to see seabirds and seals out to sea. One of the best North Coast 500 beaches to escape the crowds. 
  • Scotland’s Haven – a natural harbour, these tidal pools once served as shelter for Scotland’s north coast fishermen. 
  • Peedie Sands – one of the best kept secrets of all the North Coast 500 beaches, clamber over the rocks to reach Peedie Beach, about a 20 minute walk from Dwarwick Pier near Dunnet village. 
  • Dunnet Beach – a huge white sandy beach which is great for surfing and SUP. 
  • Thurso Beach – with big Atlantic swells, the beach is one of the best places to go surfing in Scotland. More things to do near Thurso.
  • Melvich Beach – one of the north coast’s most stunning NC 500 beaches, it is just a short walk from the road to Melvich Beach.
  • Strathy Point Beach/Strathy Point Lighthouse – a great spot to see dolphins and whales in the summer months.
  • Ceannabeinne – visit a highland clearance site on a short walk with beautiful sea views and a great beach. Above the beach is the the Golden Eagle Zip Line – the most northely zip line – the Golden Eagle Zip Line – the zip line is weather dependent so opening times vary.
  • Balnakeil Beach – located near Durness, Balnakeil Beach has sands stretching over a mile overlooking Cape Wrath.

Best beaches on the North Coast 500 – west coast

Turning south down Scotland’s stunning west coast, you will travel through the otherworldly landscapes of Lochinver and Assynt and drive along a coastline pepper-potted with incredible white sand beaches with turquoise blue seas to Wester Ross. Then drive through the huge Torridon mountains, past fiord-like lochs to the beautiful Applecross Peninsula where you end your trip driving the famous Bealach na Bà – completing the Scotland Route 66. Here are the best beaches on the North Coast 500 – west coast.

  • Sandwood Bay – accessible via a 4 mile hiking trail, Sandwood Bay is a secluded beach that demands a bit of effort to reach. At the beach’s northern end is the striking sea stack known as “Am Buachaille”. 
  • Oldshoremore Beach – a pristine expanse of golden sands backed by rolling dunes. One of my favourite beaches in Scotland, it is worth strolling over the dunes to Pollin beach.
  • Scourie Beach – a beautiful sandy bay which is great for paddling, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.
  • Clashnessie Beach – the first of the famous NC 500 beaches on the Drumbeg Loop (otherwise known as the wee mad road) Clashnessie is probably the quietest. There is also a waterfall to visit beside the beach. 
  • Clachtoll Beach and Achmelvich Beach – near Lochinver, Clachtoll and Achmelvich beaches have turquoise waters and white sands and a popular spot for water sports, ideal for kayaking, snorkelling, and diving. Stay at Achmelvich Campsite.
  • Achnahaird Beach – with views of wester ross’s mountains, this is a lovely sweep of sand worth a detour. 
  • Mellon Udrigle Beach – backed by dunes, this is one of the NC500’s best beaches and definitely worth the detour off the main route. 
  • Gairloch beaches – Gairloch has some of Scotland’s best beaches, visit the Gairloch town beach, Big Sands and Red Point. More things to do in Wester Ross.
  • Applecross sands – one of my favourite NC 500 beaches in Scotland with views across to Skye. 
North Coast 500 Applecross

Planning your North Coast 500 adventure?

Love from Scotland x

Diane Weston

Sunday 10th of September 2023

Hi, my friend and I want to do NC 500 we have 2vechiles and 8 dogs of various sizes,any suggestions? We are happy to camp but we have had some negative comments about the amount of dogs. Thanks