Wild swimming is becoming more and more popular everyday with more of us wanting to experience the benefits of that cold water dip. 

Well the North Coast 500 certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to cold water and the beaches are pretty spectacular too. Wild swimming in Scotland, especially on the north coast, will be incredibly cold, even in the summer months.

With so many stunning locations to choose from, wild swimming is a fantastic way to connect with nature and discover hidden gems that are off the beaten track. There are many beautiful locations for wild swimming, including secluded coves, freshwater lochs, and secluded beaches. The beaches at Sandwood Bay and Achmelvich are particularly popular with wild swimmers due to their crystal-clear waters and stunning surroundings. While the waters can be cold, the experience of immersing oneself in the natural environment is exhilarating and deeply rewarding.

It is important to note that there are no lifeguards present on the beaches around the NC500 so you are entering the water entirely at your own risk.

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Unmissable NC500 Wild Swimming Spots

The beaches around the NC500 are some of the most beautiful you will see in Scotland and despite how freezing the water is, the clear blue colour makes it very tempting to get in for a dip. In this guide, we will share the best beaches for wild swimming on the NC500.

  • Achmelvich Bay
  • Dunnet Bay
  • Coldbackie Sands
  • Ceannabeinne Beach
  • Sango Sands
  • Dornoch Beach
  • Embo Beach
  • Brora Beach
  • Preparing for your trip to the NC500

Where to Stay on the North Coast 500

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 and whether they cater to dietary requirements. Paired with our Destination NC500 guidebook you will have the perfect combo to start planning your road trip of a lifetime.

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.

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

Achmelvich Bay

Hidden along a narrow windy road on the north west coast of Scotland is one of the most popular beaches on the North Coast 500, Achmelvich Bay. Surrounded by sand dunes and cliff faces the white sandy beaches are met with the clearest blue water.

Achmelvich Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever swam at, mainly due to the incredible colour of the water.

Being on the west coast of Scotland, Achmelvich Bay is a great place to watch the sunset from the beach or go for a sunset swim. 

This beach is accessed by foot from a medium sized car park meaning you don’t have that far to travel when you get out the cold water.

achmelvich beach

Dunnet Bay

One of our favourite stretches of white sandy beach on the NC500 is Dunnet Bay. This is the most northernly beach on the north coast of mainland Scotland. A great beach for wild swimming on the NC500 as the sand is incredibly soft and the car park is very near. There are also toilet facilities and a large car parking area for the beach and if you are staying at the Dunnet Bay Campsite, this overlooks Dunnet Bay so very nearby for your morning swim.

We were so lucky on our morning swim here to have a huge rainbow over the beach, it was absolutely stunning!

dunnet bay rainbow

DON’T FORGET

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.

Coldbackie Sands

Coldbackie Sands is one of our favourite hidden beaches on the NC500, making it the perfect place for a cheeky nude swim! There is a small pull in area at the side of the road where you can park to access this beach. This beach is visible from the road at a distance and is accessible by climbing down a steep hill down the cliff through a rough footpath. 

Follow the path down to the beach and enjoy the white sandy beach overlooking the Kyle of Tongue all to yourself. There are no facilities at this beach. 

Ceannabeinne Beach

Ceannabeinne Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand sitting on the north coast of Scotland that will definitely temp you in for a wild swim on the NC500.

To get to Ceannabeinne Beach, follow the epic scenery on the A838 past Loch Eribol from Tongue and you will see the beach on your right hand side. Ceannabeinne Beach is one of the most impressive beaches you will come across if you are driving the NC500 in an anti-clockwise direction. The large expanse of sand is accessed by climbing down the grassy cliff along the man made dirt paths. There is free parking overlooking the beach and you can expect this to always to be relatively busy.

We would suggest swimming at Ceannabeinne Beach in the morning as this tends to be before the wind picks up which during the winter months is bitter!

There are no amenities within walking distance of Ceannabeinne Beach.

NC500 FAQ

Sango Sands

Sango Sands is an incredible stretch of sand sitting in between the cliffs at Durness. The sand is so clean and the water is so clear making it a beautiful spot for a wild swim on the North Coast 500. There is a campsite, Sango Sands Oasis, that sits overlooking Sango Sands Beach and from here you can access the Sango Sands Viewpoint. This viewpoint is a raised wooden platform overlooking the bays on either side. 

There is parking around the area and public toilets beside the Spar.

sango sands

Dornoch Beach

Dornoch beach is a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that goes on for miles! The soft white sand is met with a sand dunes and a lush long grassy embankment, one of the best things to do in Dornoch

The beach has gentle shallow water which is perfect for paddling or swimming. We would advise going at mid-high tide if you are wanting to swim, as when it is low tide, you will be walking quite a distance before you get any swimming done!

Dornoch Beach sits within walking distance from the quaint town of Dornoch, one of the first stops north of Inverness.

The beach is popular with dog walkers throughout the year and it is possible to walk along the beach at both high and low tide. 

There is a small beach car park level with the beach that is suitable for small vehicles. Dornoch Beach Wheelchairs is located here and is a brilliant way to make the beach accessible for everyone. If this interests you, make sure to book in advance.

There is a larger car park for motorhomes and overflow parking beside the children’s play area.

Feeling peckish after your swim? The Highland Larder sits in the car park for your food and drink needs whilst you are at the beach and the toilets are just further down the road from there.

If you want a hot drink to heat up we would highly recommend a hot chocolate from Cocoa Mountain!

Embo Beach

One of our favourite beaches on the east coast of the NC500 is Embo beach. This is a great beach for swimming at high tide as it is really easy to access the water.

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.

A Complete Guide to Visiting Embo Beach – Beautiful White Sand Beach on the NC500- highlands2hammocks

Brora Beach

A trip to Brora Beach is one of the best things to do in Brora. It isn’t necessarily visible from the main road of the NC500, turn right at the Co-op and follow the road towards the sea.

Brora Beach is an award winning beach on the north east coast of Scotland. The white sandy beach is pristine and stretches along a number of miles in front of the Brora golf course. Brora beach is beautiful beach for a swim, however if the tide is low we would recommend wearing water shoes as you may need to walk over some rocks on the beach.

Brora Beach can be accessed through Brora campsite or you can park in the golf car park to access the beach. Parking is free.

girl in water at brora beach

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 Motorhome Republic

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Motorhome Republic 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 (men’s / women’s).

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 your face on the long days in the open.

It is also important to stay hydrated, especially if you are out exploring 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!

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.

Read more about this map here.

So there you have it, all of the best wild swimming spots along the North Coast 500. 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.

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