Sandwood Bay

By Colin Hogarth

Bounded by rolling dunes and the crashing Atlantic waves, Sandwood Bay is a spectacular stretch of white sand in the far north. Its remoteness - the only way in is on foot - means that it remains wild and unspoiled.

The Sandwood estate was bought by the John Muir Trust in April 1993, ensuring that its wilderness is preserved for future generations to enjoy. Prior to the sale it was possible to drive up towards Loch a'Mhuilinn, but now a car park has been provided on the public road at Blairmore.

From here, cross the road and set off up a track signed to Sandwood. Go through a gate and follow the way through sheep grazing ground to Loch na Gianimh. As you pass along by the loch keep an eye out to the left for a rock with a painted sign indicating the way to Cape Wrath.

At the east corner of the loch, the track reaches a junction. Turn left and it passes down between Loch na Gainimh and a smaller patch of water to your right. A good track continues north towards Loch a'Mhuilinn. Soon, however, it deteriorates into a rather messy path, descending to the southern shore of the lochan. Follow the sandy beach anti-clockwise around the water and the path is picked up again as it rises away from the lochan over open moorland. Another couple of small lochans are passed and effort have been made here to rebuild the path, a victim of serious erosion.

The way reaches its high point above ruined Sandwood Cottage, said to be haunted by an old mariner. The trust has carried out some restoration work to stabilise the roofless structure, but there are no plans to rebuild it.

Carry on down over the dunes to the bay where, at the south end, a spectacular stack called Am Buachaille (the herdsman) rises from the sea. The breakers on the beach make it a popular spot with surfers during the summer.

Head west along the sand and, at the far end, cross the river just up from its outflow. The stream is wide but fairly shallow with plenty of well placed stepping stones.

The next optional stretch of the walk is over rough ground with no real path. Head south-east along Sandwood Loch and continue on through Strath Shinary to reach Strathan Bothy, an open bothy where shelter can be found.

A bridge below the cottage spans the Lon Mor and an obvious path climbs up out of the glen on the other side, rising through low heather and grass to reach Loch Mor a'Chraisg. The path around the water remains obvious but becomes less distinct as it crosses a wide peat bog at the far end. Head towards a small grassy mound and then occasional fence posts keep you on the right track. The path is a little frustrating here as it rises and falls over watery troughs in the peat but a track is eventually joined, running down to join the public road. When you reach the tarmac, turn right and walk back to Blairmore.


Distance 12 miles/19km. ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 9. ;
Start/parking Blairmore (grid ref NC 195601). ;
Grading A long walk through wild and remote country with some very rough terrain and a river crossing. Dogs are not allowed on the estate.

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