When most people think of Scotland, they think of towering mountains, ancient castles, and a LOT of rain. There is, however, a side to Scotland (especially on the northern coast of the country) that would leave most people believing they have travelled the beachside paradise of the Caribbean.
Crystal clear water, crashing waves, golden sands, and complete isolation are all that awaits those who go in search of Scotland’s many beautiful beaches on the North Coast 500 road trip. One of the most spectacular of which is the hidden stretch of sand known locally as Coldbackie Beach, a true hidden gem on the North Coast of Scotland.
For more information on where it is, how to get to it, and why you need to, simply read this complete guide to Coldbackie Beach.
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Complete Guide to Coldbackie Beach – Scotland’s Hidden Gem
As you tour the northern coast of the highlands of Scotland, keep your eyes peeled for the hidden gem of a beach known locally as Coldbackie Beach. We stumbled across this beach by accident and it was possibly one of our favourite beaches in the world.
What is Coldbackie Beach?
On the northern coast of Scotland lie some of the best rated and most picturesque beaches in the world. With golden sands, clear blue water, and miles of stunning beaches with little to no sign of life, meaning you will have them all to yourself. One of the most spectacular of these beaches lies just outside of the town of Coldbackie and is know as the Coldbackie Beach.
Hidden from the roadside, this isolated, remote, and difficult to access stretch of sandy beach is the purest definition of paradise we could ever imagine. Hugely popular with surfers and local swimmers, this beach is usually a quiet and peaceful retreat for this willing to make the climb down the hillside to reach its hidden shores.
Where is Coldbackie Beach?
The beautiful beach of Coldbackie Sands lies just outside of the small town of Coldbackie, as you drive west towards Tongue. Just as you pass by the signpost that would welcome you back into Coldbackie if you were driving East, you will see a small stopping area on the righthand side towards the open water of Tongue Bay.
When we toured this route, there were a couple of picnic benches at this parking space, as well as a bench that you can use to relax and soak up the stunning view below if you wish. Stop off here and direct your attention towards the small path through the bushes that leads down the hill, seemingly towards the sea before disappearing behind a small hill at the bottom.
If you follow this path down, you will find the isolated paradise of Coldbackie Beach behind this small hill.
How to Get to Coldbackie Beach?
Once you have pulled over at the stopping place, make sure your car is parked responsibly so as to not block or cause a blond spot on the road leading past. If you are struggling for a parking space, the Weavers Craft Shop and Cafe lies just 1-mile along the road towards Tongue. If you use the facilities here and buy a coffee for your trip then there should be no issues leaving your car here.
Once you are at the aforementioned parking space, begin the hike down the hill, following the narrow and muddy track through the bushes to the bottom. Take extreme care on this path, especially in wet conditions, as the path can be slippery and treacherous underfoot. Make sure you are wearing appropriate footwear before attempting this walk.
Unfortunately, the climb down to the Coldbackie Beach is not accessible for those with reduced mobility impairments, as there are no stairs or handrails allowing access.
The climb to the bottom of the hill will most likely take you no more than 10 minutes, as the hill is of a very steep decline to the bottom. Once you are on the beach, relax and enjoy the crash of the waves, the sand between your toes, and the peace and quiet of this isolated paradise. Make sure to make the most of your time on the beach as the climb back up is a little more difficult..
Why Should I Go to Coldbackie Beach?
As I mentioned before, the beaches along the North Coast of Scotland as some of the most spectacular, undisturbed, and isolated beaches in the world, and each one is uniquely beautiful. The white sands of Coldbackie Beach are one of our favourite finds along the North Coast 500 road trip and, on a sunny day, the view of the beach will give you a whole new love for this country.
If you like tranquil beaches with soft sand, crashing waves, which are completely removed from the madness of the NC500 road trip then the Coldbackie Beach is one for you.
When Should I Go to Coldbackie Beach
With regards to the seasons here in Scotland, the driest months (and therefore most popular) are namely June through to August, which coincide with the school holidays of the UK. During these months, people flock to the NC500 in droves, which a lot of the time causes the serious issue of over-tourism and the environmental damage that results from it.
If we were to recommend a time of year that is the best time to visit Scotland, it would NOT be during this busy period. Instead, we would suggest heading north during the shoulder seasons of April, May and September. During these months, the winter rain has stopped and you will be blessed with the pleasant spring and early autumn weather that so many in Scotland prefer to the peak summer weather.
The other perk of visiting during the late spring months is that the biting insects have yet to wake up from winter, meaning that the intolerable “midges” will not ruin your trip. These tiny creatures are not to be taken lightly and are enough to drive the toughest of adventurers squealing back south to relief.
As for the time of day to visit Coldbackie Beach, we highly recommend visiting the beach during the golden hours of sunrise or sunset. The lighting during this time of the day is soft enough to do the beauty of Coldbackie Beach its true justice.
However, if you cannot make these small windows in the day, any time throughout the day is a good enough time to visit Coldbackie Beach. We would suggest researching the tide times, however, if you wish to swim in the sea, as at low tide the water might be a bit of a walk from the shore.
Nearby Sights to the Coldbackie Beach
In addition to the stunning shores of Coldbackie Beach, there are loads of other beautiful sights that you will need to visit close by, both to the west and further to the south. For a full list of all of the best North Coast 500 sights that you cannot miss, read our full guide here.
Snap a Pic at the John O’Groats Signpost
One of the most popular tourist attractions on the north coast of Scotland, this famous John O’Groats Signpost is a definite photo-stop on the NC500 road trip. Marking the end of the countrywide route from its sister signpost in Lands End, Cornwall, this signpost is a welcome sight to the weary travellers who have made this monumental journey.
If you are touring the North Coast 500 then this signpost should be a definite stop on your road trip, as it is the perfect place to stretch your legs, snap a photo and grab a bite to eat.
Visit the Duncansby Stacks and Lighthouse
Towering above the ferocious North Sea are the beautiful and majestic outlines of the Duncansby Stacks. Standing as a testament to the power of nature in this remote part of the world, it is believed that these sea stacks have existed for over 6000 years, slowly being eroding by the strength of the sea.
During your trip around the NC500, swing by Duncansby Head and visit the lighthouse that dates back to 1924, and wander along the coast to see these impressive sea columns for yourself.
Before You Leave on the North Coast 500
Before you head off on your trip around the NC500, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.
How Do I Get Around?
Given the remote location of the NC500 and the majority of the sights along the route, the best way to get around this road trip is by driving. There are of course other methods that are still popular, such as cycling and hiking, however, if you have a short amount of time on the route, neither of these are very suitable.
As for public transport, the use around the NC500 is understandably difficult due to how remote each location is, however, with the increasing problem of congestion along the route, this is a good option to research if you have time. If it is something that interests you, you can read a public formed itinerary of how to get around the NC500 by public transport over here.
If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip along the NC500, we highly recommend hiring through Bunk Campers. We toured with these guys around the up-and-coming Heart 200 road trip in Scotland’s central highlands and could not believe the comfort and customer service we experienced with their vans.
What Should I Pack for the NC500?
When it comes to packing for a trip to Scotland there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your North Coast 500 road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket.
As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.
Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C
Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C
Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C
Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C
As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
Where Should I Stay?
The remoteness in the highlands of Scotland will leave you with little choice of accommodation in each location along the NC500, however, there are still enough options to choose from to ensure a comfortable trip. These are mostly in the shape of B&Bs, Airbnbs, converted cottages and other quirky accommodations.
Depending on how adventurous you are, there may be more accommodation choices than just the above, often with an even better view. Caravan and camping sites are abundant along the NC500, drawing camping enthusiasts from all over the world. For some of the most spectacular bedside scenery along the North Coast 500, we recommend packing a tent and getting in touch with nature for the week.
As we travelled along the North Coast 500, camped in our trusty Vango tent on a mixture of campsites and wild sites. Wild camping is a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of the highlands, however, it must be done respectfully. Read our full guide to Wild Camping if you wish to give it a go so you know everything you need to for a comfortable and sustainable trip.
What is the Best Travel Insurance?
No matter what type of adventure you are heading on, whether it is a mountain adventure or a relaxing beach destination, one thing we all need to be aware of is that accidents can happen. The last thing you want is for an unexpected medical emergency to ruin your trip of a lifetime. Luckily, that is what travel insurance is for.
Whenever we travel abroad, we get covered with World Nomad’s Travel Insurance, a reliable, friendly and extremely affordable method of covering yourself on any adventure. With years of experience working for backpackers around the globe, the service they provide is perfect for whatever type of trip you have planned.
So there you have it, your complete guide to Coldbackie Sands. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know what you thought of the sights listed above, or if you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.
As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own North Coast 500 adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.
When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.
- Instagram Guide to the North Coast 500 – Most Photogenic Spots
- North Coast 500 Packing Guide – What You Will Need for the NC500
- 7-day North Coast 500 Itinerary – FREE, Detailed and Unforgettable!
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