There are times when the weather forecast suggests a ridge of high pressure will bring warm, sunny and stable conditions across Scotland. Listen carefully, because this is your cue to dig out your camping gear and organise a trip to the beach !
Camping at the beach can be a joy at any time of the year, particularly when it’s quiet and you have the beach to yourself (unlike many other, more populated parts of the world there are lots of quiet beaches in Scotland). But a stay at the beach is best when it’s ‘bucket and spade weather’ and you have time to organise your getaway.
So what makes for a good beach campsite ?
For me, nothing beats direct access to the beach. There are lots of sites within a mile or two of a beach but it’s more of an effort to pack up your car or campervan if you need to drive to the sea. This is the main criterion but it goes without saying that a good campsite also has to have great facilities to encourage you to make a return visit (clean, modern washblocks, a shop nearby, good information for visitors and so on).
In a previous post I highlighted the Top 10 Campsites in Scotland; here are my Top 10 Scottish beach campsites.
10. Sango Sands Caravan and Camping, Durness
On Scotland’s north coast, Sango Sands sits on top of the cliffs with amazing views and a lovely sandy beach below. It’s within the village of Durness with a shop, pub and tourist information centre all on hand. Facilities have recently been upgraded and there’s a bar/restaurant on site. There are also good beaches nearby (especially Ceannabeinne Beach) and of course Thurso is known as a top surfing destination.
9. Clachtoll Beach Campsite, Lochinver
Clachtoll is located five miles north of Lochinver just beside perfect white sands and among the stunning scenery of the northwest Highlands. It can be a popular site – and deservedly so. There’s no shop on site so make sure you take provisions with you.
A nearby alternative is the excellent Port a Bhaigh campsite, at Achiltibuie with gorgeous views towards the Summer Isles. The beach is smaller and more pebbly but the site is highly recommended.
8. Muasdale Holiday Park, Tarbert
On the west coast overlooking the isles of Gigha, Islay and Jura, this award-winning park is a great get-away-from-it-all location. I particularly like their website marketing:
- No Amusement Arcade
- No Club House
- No Shop (well stocked village shop 100 yards)
- No Restaurant (hotels nearby)
- No Swimming Pool (just the sea).
- No Play Area (just the beach).
- No Campfires
- Digital TV coverage.
- Free Wifi.
7. Cnip Grazing, Isle of Lewis
Now if get-away-from-it-all camping appeals to you then Cnip Grazing must surely top the list. It’s 40 miles north of Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis on prisine white sands. It’s a basic site, owned and run by the local community, with the beach the main attraction.
6. Sands Holiday Centre, Gairloch
With views towards Skye and the Western Isles, this campsite features pitches in among the sand dunes right on the beach. Gairloch is a good base for a holiday with walking (eg Torridon), fishing, Inverewe Gardens (Poolewe) and the beach of course all on the doorstep. The site offers bike and canoe hire, a well-stocked shop and a cafe due to open by Summer 2013.
5. Port Ban Caravan Park, Tarbert
The owners call Port Ban “a wee taste of heaven on the West Coast” and I would agree. (And thanks to the owners for featuring WildaboutScotland.com on their website !). Port Ban is situated at Kilberry on the Kintyre peninsular with amazing views west towards the Paps of Jura. It’s well organised with play equipment and a sandy beach, giving a very safe, family-oriented atmosphere. There’s a shop, cafe and restaurant on site but also, don’t miss the chance to eat out at the nearby Kilberry Inn, famed for its bar meals.
If you like beachside and island campsites with amazing views then a good alternatives to Port Ban is Kintra Farm on the Isle of Islay.
4. Seal Shore Camping, Isle of Arran
Seal Shore is right at the southern tip of Arran with great views towards Ailsa Craig. There is a slow, relaxed pace to this part of Arran, including at Seal Shore. The beach is sandy with lots of rock pools, perfect for a bucket-and-spade holiday.
3. Shore Campsite, Achmelvich
This site sits right beside white sands and aquamarine seas and is popular for water sports and hillwalking nearby. It’s a family site (note: no dogs) and deservedly popular during school holidays. There’s a shop and chip shop on site during the summer months.
2. Camusdarach, Arisaig
The white-sand beaches between Arisaig and Mallaig, with panoramic views to Eigg, Rum and Skye, must rate among the best in the UK. We’ve been here on a hot, summer’s day when you could easily be forgiven for mistaking Camusdarach beach for being on the Mediterranean coast … except that there are no crowds here. It’s a relaxed and well-run site with direct access to the beach. If you do feel able to leave the site there’s plenty to do nearby including island and wildlife boat tours, sea kayaking, a day trip to Knoydart or a trip on the ‘Harry Potter’ train, the steam train which runs between Mallaig and Fort William over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
There are several campsites along this stretch of the coast between Morar and Arisaig with fantastic views out to the Small Isles (Rum, Eigg), with Invercaimbe also recommended.
1. Fidden Farm, Isle of Mull
There are several excellent sites in Scotland that boast very little in the way of ‘official’ amenities – don’t expect much more than basic washing facilities – but this is more than compensated by spectacular scenery. Fidden Farm, right at the western end of the Isle of Mull just near the ferry terminal for Iona, is a perfect example. Stay when the sun’s shining and you will probably have the glorious white sand beach all to yourself to play on. (Conversely, when it’s wet or windy – or both – you’ll need to make your own entertainment !). A new washblock was being constructed when we last stayed here a couple of years ago. Just watch out for the sheep dogs if you have young children though; they’re working farm dogs and not used to kids (ie they can and do bite).
There’s also another, low-key campsite on Iona, just a short ferry journey from the western side of Mull, Cnoc Oran campsite.
Finally, bear in mind that I’ve only listed campsites that have direct access to a beach. There are plenty of good beaches in Scotland with campsites a short distance away, and some great beaches (eg Lunan Bay, Angus, and Yellowcraigs, East Lothian) in need of a decent campsite a hop, skip and a jump away. It’s interesting that all of these sites are on the West and North coasts. If you happen to be find a great beach campsite on the East coast or in Dumfries and Galloway please let me know.