Ask anyone for the best surf spot in Scotland and they will invariably answer Thurso East, or something very nearby. And sure, you’d be right in thinking that Thurso is indeed one of the best waves in the world, nevermind Scotland or the United Kingdom. However, if you are looking for beauty, adventure and the unexpected as well as choice of waves on the mainland of Scotland – you’d be hard pressed to beat the very North West tip of Scotland, just before you hit the ominously named Cape Wrath.
Over in the North West, the water seems to be more turquoise, the sand seems to be more golden, the spectacular vistas of shimmering lochs more regular and through a camera lens at least – everything seems to be more exotic.
If you are contemplating a trip to the North West of Scotland, then you probably understand the concept of the greatest reward being given those to have paid the most dues. With ever changing waves and weather, this couldn’t be truer of this wonderful peace of the coast. However, when I say ever-changing, don’t expect it to be changing all too often in your favour. Nevertheless, when the sun does break through, you won’t find anywhere more rewarding in the world.
Driving up from Edinburgh or Glasgow, I’d recommend taking the route past Ullapool. The roads up here are a driver’s paradise, which explains why you see the odd classic car and thundering motorcycles. But even though facilities and shops are sparse on the ground, you’ll also see a few camping cars around, here to witness the spectacular scenery of Sutherland.
In my mind, there is nothing more spectacular than the classic Sandwood Bay – the break that the Stormrider guide labels as the most secluded surf beach in the UK. The wave at Sandwood is good – and I have never seen another surfer there (although they do definitely exist) – perhaps due to the 5 mile walk that it takes to get there. But when you have eventually past the last loch and the last hill and the last ruin and the last sheep, the classic beach will open out to you, complete with a stack at the far end for the physical geographers amongst you. The wave itself is heavier than it looks and can be a bit rippy at times, so don’t do anything kamikaze as you are a long long way from help here.
If you don’t fancy the walk to Sandwood Bay, there is lots to keep you entertained in the meantime – though it won’t be the nightlife. Arguably the most picturesque bay is Oldshoremore, which is also one of the first you will get to from Ullapool. Oldshoremore does require a fairly big swell to work, but when it does there is no real need to go any further. Indeed, if Oldshoremore is indeed firing, then the 5 mile trip to Sandwood Bay will probably be a waste of time as the swell will be too huge to handle. As a top tip, you can also camp down at Oldshoremore fairly easily, though in this part of the world there are lots of places you can park up for the night.
Finally, if you do need a bit of action – there is a SPAR at the village of Durness, just around the coast from Oldshoremore! There is also a mechanical wedge that works off the cliff here – which when it works is a thing of very regular beauty – although I haven’t seen it work as consistently as locals and the Stormrider seem to claim. Either way, it is worth a drive round here for the brilliant views.
So all in all, if free space and hassle free camping, good wave potential and a remote lifestyle is your cup of tea, then I’d highly recommend trying the North West coast instead of Thurso and the famous breaks around there. If you don’t like it or get tired of the breath-taking scenery, then it isn’t a long drive over to the North East anyway.
This time round I didn’t hit classic surf – hopefully you will!