Wild Guide Scotland's Best Wild Retreats
Cover Image: Corrour Bothy. All images © Wild Guide Scotland
Favourite Beach: West Beach, Berneray
Ideal for long walks, this magnificent 3-mile, white sand beach with turquoise waters is backed by high dunes and an impressive border of machair - home to an assortment of wildflowers in the summer months. Views over the Sound of Harris are truly incredible, with the mountainous South Harris providing a remarkable backdrop for a long stroll.
After crossing the causeway from North Uist, take the second L past the village of Borve (HS6 5BJ). Follow the minor road 10 miles from the turning to informal car park by the fields. From here follow path towards coast. This is the S end of the beach, so follow sands N for as long as you wish. Return same way, or continue around the island in a loop back to the car park.
5–120 mins, 57.7099, -7.2210
Favourite Dunes: Sands of Forvie
Forvie is a lonely place where the shifting sands reveal lost ruins – a church is all that remains of a village long reclaimed by an ever-changing lunar landscape. To reach the beach is a pleasure in itself as the route takes you over a vast ascending bay and down through large dunes which eventually reaching the golden sands of Forvie. Now a nature reserve, this is a starkly beautiful location to watch seals and birdlife.
Begin at the Forvie visitor centre on B9003 towards Collieston (AB41 8RU). Follow the red waymarked route which passes the N side of Sand Loch, head R along the clifftop path and R at red marker to reach a ruined church. Alternatively follow path leading S from the carpark along the River to the sand dunes.
40 mins, 57.3174, -1.9857
Favourite Sea Swim: Achmelvich
One of the most enticing beaches in the north of the country – and there’s a fair amount of competition. Achmelvich is a paradise of multiple small beaches with crystal clear water and pure white sands, nestled amongst the rocky bays of Assynt’s coastline. Perfect for an afternoon dip.
From the A837 just N of Lochinver take the B869 NW, then turn L after passing sign for Achmelvich, past IV27 4JB to park at the road end next to the beach.
5 mins, 58.1703, -5.3069
Favourite Lake Swim: Easdale Slate Quarries
Magical old steep-sided slate quarries are now filled with Mediterranean-blue sea water, and offer a more sheltered swim on the beautiful car-free Easdale.
Off the A816 S of Oban, follow B844 to Seil and Easdale (PA34 4TB). From conservation village Ellenabeich, where free car park is signed at N end, cross to island by ferry and walk NW to quarries, 400m. The L-shaped pool is the usual swimming one.
20 mins, 56.2939, -5.6595
Favourite Wild Camp: Sandwood Bay
The iconic Sandwood Bay is a wild and remote beach on the most north-western edge of mainland Scotland. This magnificent stretch of pink-hued sand is bounded by the Am Buachaille sea stack and backed by a broad belt of rolling dunes, where it’s possible to find shelter for wild camping. In a melancholy touch, receding waves often uncover the remains of a Spitfire engine in the sands, the last relic of a 1941 crash landing. Rip currents can develop here so be careful if you decide to go for a swim.
Leave the B801 at Kinlochbervie, dir Oldshoremore (IV27 4RS). Continue on this road for half a mile beyond turning to Polin, to Blairmore and John Muir Trust car park on L. The well-marked 3-mile track to Sandwood, across moorland, begins over the gate opposite. Turn L at end of second loch. Visit the Johnmuirtrust.org for more information.
1 ½ hrs, 58.5384, -5.0650
Favourite Bothy: Corrour
Deep in the Cairngorms, Corrour Bothy stands as a cosy outpost of shelter at the wildest heart of the Highlands. Much photographed and frequented, it lies directly below the shapely peak of the Devil’s Point. This small, one roomed stone shelter, which is engulfed by the vastness of the surrounding landscape, almost goes unnoticed as it appears a minute spec deep in the Cairngorm mountains.
Start by Rothiemurchus Camp and Caravan Park (500m E of PH22 1QN, layby parking). Head down the path next to the caravan park and follow all signs for Lairig Ghru through the Rothiemurchus Forest. There are clear paths, and the way should be obvious, eventually bearing E down Glen Laoigh Bheag to Derry Lodge and the Linn of Dee. Walking S from Pools of Dee you reach Clach nan Taillear (Stone of the Tailors). Cross the Dee shortly beyond this at an obvious path to the bothy, below Devil’s Point. You will need to arrange transport if you wish to return to the start, as there are no practical public transport options.
8 hours walk.
Favourite Seafood Restaurant: Fidden Beach
On a sunny day the bay at Fidden could be easily mistaken for the Caribbean. Facing west over an archipelago of skerries and small islands towards Iona and beyond, the sunsets are spectacular. Pink granite outcrops give the water an ethereal hue and this is a perfect place for kayaking and fishing. If you fail to catch, head to Creel Seafood Bar at the nearby ferry terminal in Fionnphort and tuck into some delicious fresh shellfish. Fidden farm campsite has simple facilities and beachside pitches.
Turn L in Fionnphort before the ferry, signed for Fidden and Knockvologan (PA66 6BL), and follow signs for Fidden Farm until you reach small car park by the farm and campsite.
30 mins, 56.3085, -6.3670
Favourite Hike: Corran Coast
This interesting ramble from the beautiful village of Corran along the shore of Loch Hourn takes you through some of the most unspoilt and grandest scenery in the Highlands, with numerous swimming opportunities from the pebbly beaches. Initially easy, the path takes on a rugged character the further you go.
In Corran park at car park N of the bridge (IV40 8JH). Cross the bridge and follow the path that weaves its way along the shore, which is rough and rocky in places. The path ends 2 miles along the coast; return the same way. Up to 60 mins to path end.
5–60 mins, 57.1239, -5.5539
Favourite Sunset: Stac Pollaidh
A short circular walk with spectacular unspoilt views over the moors of Assynt, especially at dawn as the sun rises behind the distinctive shape of Suilven. There is the option of climbing to the summit ridge, and even to take a tricky scramble along the fine ridge to the true summit.
On the A835 N of Ullapool, head W at Drumrunie signed for Achiltibuie. Continue on this road 5 miles to car park (past IV26 2XY). Cross the road and go through the gates to begin the almost immediate ascent. Ignore the path L, continuing uphill to eventually curve around the base of Stac Pollaidh. A junction is your opportunity to either ascend to the summit ridge L, descending to re-join the circuit further round, or simply continue the circuit back to the start.
2 hrs, 58.0443, -5.2081
Favourite Cave: Bone Caves
Named after a staggering number of animal bones that were discovered here over a century ago; northern lynx, Arctic fox, brown bear and even polar bear have been excavated. There are three main cave entrances in the limestone valley under the northern crags of Beinn an Fhuarain, named Badger, Reindeer, and Bones from west to east. The 4km walk-in leads through a beautiful limestone valley and soon ascends up into the caves and is an ideal day out for a family.
On the A837 near Inchnadamph (IV27 4HN), park at the signed car park. Follow path E through the gate upstream past the waterfall. As the valley narrows the caves become visible on the cliff. Cross the river bed (usually dry) and follow path up to caves – steep in places.
90 mins, 58.1080, -4.9411
Favourite Peak: Pap of Glencoe
This steep and prominent peak offers an incredible viewpoint that is well worth the ascent. Though short in stature compared with the surrounding hills, its position is the perfect place to look out on Ballachulish and Loch Leven. Being sheer at times makes this lovely walk often rough going, however the efforts are certainly rewarded.
Leave the A82 at Glencoe village, pass through the village and park at the car park on your L 400 metres after crossing river, next to an electricity substation. (PH49 4HX). Take the path that leads L out of the car park parallel to the road. The path eventually joins the road for a bit. Turn L at the second of 2 gates (second is signed for the Pap), and begin the ascent uphill. Further up, a bridge is reached, take a R and cross this. From here the path varies in quality, but follow it steeply uphill towards the ever more visible Pap, which rears up in front of you. Boulders and rocks are encountered on the final summit cone, but the going is straightforward.
2 hours, 56.6888, -5.0626
Favourite Cliffs: Duncansby
Magnificent isolated rock pinnacles emerge from the sea at the north-eastern extremity of the mainland. A truly wild and majestic place with an impressive natural archway, high cliffs, wild flowers and kittiwakes and fulmars circling in the sky. No photographer will want to miss this piece of coast.
From Duncansby Head car park (KWI 4YS) follow the signed path from the S of the lighthouse and continue on path for 1 mile.
30 mins, 58.6316, -3.0385
About the book:
Wild Guide Scotland: Hidden Places, Great Adventures & the Good Life Paperback by Kimberley Grant, Richard Gaston and David Cooper charts 750 of Scotland finest wild places and is available now, published by Wild Things Publishing.