Stand up paddle boarding, one of the fastest-growing past-times in the world, making waves across Scotland’s still waters and blissful lochs. Whether you are a paddle boarding expert or have yet to give SUP a shot, the beautiful glens and deep lochs of the Scottish highlands are the perfect places to get out on your board. With so many bodies of water spread around the North Coast 500, the most difficult part about paddle boarding on the NC500 is deciding where to go!

To help you get out and about this year, exploring the most beautiful parts of Scotland from the peace and tranquility of a paddle board, we have put together a list of our favourite places for paddle boarding on the NC500.

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SUP spots on the NC500

Scotland has so many beautiful bodies of water, it’s the perfect destination for SUP. In this guide, we will cover the following

Table of Contents

Paddle Boarding in Scotland

With the beautiful scenery, sheltered conditions from towering mountains and the bountiful supply of water (thanks to the 250 days of rain a year), Scotland is the perfect country to give SUP a shot. Although it may not have the warmest waters, with the average sea temperature sitting below 20oC, the popularity for SUP in Scotland is ever-present thanks to the magnificent scenery it has to offer.

There are loads of great quality and affordable paddle boards on offer online, all of which are perfect to start you off.

FPV of the BlueFin SUP equipment.

What is Stand-Up Paddle Boarding?

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding differs from the more conventional sport of paddle boarding in one very obvious way (it’s right there in the name..). With the help of a much bigger board and a good amount of core strength, the participant stands up on the board and uses a single, long paddle to propel themselves through the water.

Why Choose Stand-Up Paddle Boarding?

Out of the many reasons that SUP is a fantastic sport to try, the main one that attracts so many outdoor enthusiasts is how achievable it is. With varying sizes of boards, it is possible to get a SUP is a sport that is easy to pick up and can gradually become more difficult as the user improves. If you are new to the sport and do not have the best balance, the best thing about SUP is that you can start off kneeling down and gradually transition to standing up over time.

Compared to simple paddle boarding, SUP allows the user to have a much higher perspective over the water on the board. This gives you a much better view of your surroundings, makes it easier to chat with other boarders and also gives you a better view of what is under the water.

SUP sitting on the Inveruglus dock dock at sunrise

Where to Get Your SUP?

If you do not have your own SUP yet but would like to give it a shot, you can either choose to buy your own or rent one to see how you enjoy it. Due to the high popularity of the sport across Scotland, there is a huge range of rental companies all across the highlands. Wherever you plan on visiting for your SUP adventure, you will be sure to find a rental board.

If you are looking to buy a SUP board of your own, Bluefin SUP is a fantastic place to look. No matter your skill level, choice of size or budget, BlueFin is sure to have the board for you. They even offer ex-demo boards at a massively discounted rate for people who are not bothered about brand new equipment.

We would personally recommend an inflatable board for your trips away in Scotland, simply due to how practical they are. Inflatable SUPs allow you to pack a board of any size into a small car and then, in a matter of minutes, unpack and set up at a location of your choosing.

Read our full review of our inflatable, 12ft Cruise Board for all the information you need to know.

Ariel shot of Gemma out on Loch Lomond.

Where to go Paddle Boarding on the NC500


A small bay, perfect for stand-up paddleboarding. This quiet town is located on the Tarbat Peninsula on the northeast coast of Scotland.

There is a small amount of parking in Portmahomak, with easy access to the beach making it easy for carrying your paddleboard to the shoreline. The car park is free to use.

There is a beach promenade that is lined with benches and there are pubs and cafes in the area with outdoor seating looking out to the beach too, so you may have some spectators. Public toilets are available in Portmahomak within walking distance from the beach.

If you are camping in this area, Portmahomak Caravan Site overlooks the beach and is within close walking distance to the town.

portmahomak beach from above

Loch Brora

Loch Brora is a beautiful setting that sits only 10 minutes outside of the village of Brora. Nestled under the mountains, Loch Brora is an idyllic spot to get out on a Stand up paddle board or go for a swim. There is a small, free parking area at the side of the Loch as well as walking trails along the Loch side. Keep in mind that if it has been raining, the car park can become very boggy.

This is also a beautiful spot for wild camping on the NC500 however if you do so it is important to remember to wild camp responsibly. 


Your trip to Scotland will be a lot more comfortable with a midge net and midge spray. These little biting bugs can be enough to ruin a trip if you don’t have the equipment to protect yourself from them. A repelling candle can also be helpful if you are sitting oustide.

Check out the prices of them here.

Embo Beach

One of our favourite beaches on the east coast of the NC500 is Embo beach. This lengthy bay is a beautiful spot for paddleboarding during the summer months. The beach itself sits beneath the small village of Embo, sheltered by grassy sand dunes. There is free parking in Embo as well as public toilets and some shops. The beach is a 5 minute walk from here so be prepared to carry your board down to the beach from the car park.

embo beach from above

We would highly recommend getting yourself a Seashell dryrobe for keeping warm when you get out of the icy cold water! They even have pockets to store your keys! 

Check out the Seashell Dryrobes and Toweling Robes here.

girl standing in seashell swimming robe

Dunnet Bay

One of our favourite stretches of white sandy beach on the NC500 is Dunnet Bay. An absolutely beautiful beach for stand-up paddleboarding. This is the most northernly beach on the north coast of mainland Scotland. There are toilet facilities and a large car parking area for the beach which is popular among surfers and paddleboarders. If you are planning to stay in the area, Dunnet Bay Campsite overlooks this beautiful beach.

dunnet bay rainbow

Bay of Sannick

Bay of Sannick is a very secluded and untouched beach on the NC500. On the road towards the Duncasby Stacks is the unofficial parking area for this beautiful beached there is room for maybe 3 cars. Be prepared to carry your board 5-10 minutes across the grassy path and down the sand dunes onto the beach. The bay is small and reasonably sheltered with glistening clear blue water making it perfect for paddleboarding. 

Clashnessie Bay

Clashnessie Beach is a small and beautiful bay with a rocky inlet and plenty of pristine white sand meeting the tranquil turquoise water. A peaceful, sheltered spot to do some paddleboarding on the NC500. Clashnessie Beach has a mild micro-climate due to the closeness of the Atlantic Ocean Gulf Stream.

clashnessie beach

Destination North Coast Map

Make sure you have all the resources you need to make the most of your trip to the North Coast of Scotland. Our Destination North Coast Map is the perfect addition to any traveller’s toolkit. With detailed information on all the best spots, along the NC500, this map is your ultimate guide to exploring the rugged beauty of Scotland’s north coast.

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 recommend hiring through Spaceships

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Spaceships over here.

Where to Stay on the NC500

There is a wide range of accommodations around the NC500 route, so you will not be short on options. Depending on how long you are spending in each area will depend on how long you spend in that location. It is worth bearing in mind that some accommodations will require you to stay a minimum number of nights so it is worth researching this when you are planning your North Coast 500 itinerary.

Our new book North Coast 500 Where to Eat and Stay shares the best places to eat and stay around the NC500 and includes whether places are dog friendly, accessible, have wifi and EVC ad whether they cater to dietry requirements.

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 Should I Pack?

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 5-day Heart 200 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.

It is also important to stay hydrated, especially if you are out exploring, or SUP-ing, in the marvellous landscape of Scotland. We use Water to Go water bottles to fill up with water from running streams when we are hiking.

We would also recommend taking our NC500 guidebooks with you on your journey. This will help you plan your itinerary and ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the best places to go on the NC500. Our Destination NC500 guidebook is well paired with NC500 Where to Eat and Stay and you can buy the combo here.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

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.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

What is the Best Travel Insurance for the North Coast 500

I know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.

To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.

Get a quote for your travel insurance right here and get covered!

So there you have it, the best places for stand up paddle boarding along the North Coast 500. If you have visited the NC500 recently, let us know what you thought of the locations 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.

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