Welcome to SUP Safari Scotland where we are spending four months exploring Scotland in our cute wee retro camper Harmony discovering all the best places to Stand Up Paddle along the way. With a little more time on our hands than we bargained for we head north towards Inverness to travel the North Coast 500. It has been a long time goal of mine to Stand Up Paddle along the North Coast 500 and finally we are getting to do it!
East Coast options for Stand Up Paddleboarding
We haven’t spent any time on the Black Isle and decide a wee side trip is in order. This small diversions reveals a couple of lovely sandy bays which are just perfect for a stand up paddle session! Fortrose Bay and Rosemarkie Bay. Although the two locations are separated by a narrow peninsular which has a strong current at times, by keeping to the bays under the right conditions, paddling here would be lovely. Each bay has a campsite with direct access to the water and the towns of Fortress and Rosemarkie are really lovely wee villages to explore.
Heading north the weather becomes pretty windy, we have a quick stop at Dornoch another really sweet little village. We check out the beach of Dornoch Firth which again is a huge sandy beach reminiscent of those back home in Australia but decide it’s a bit chilly for a paddle and continue on north.
Unable to get in the water for a paddle we visit Dunrobin Castle a beautiful fairytale building that looks like something out of a Disney movie. They had a Falconry display which turned out to be pretty interesting. I wasn’t too sure at first as birds in captivity doesn’t sit right with me but it was interesting to learn that birds were used for hunting well before there were guns. Part of the display was exercising the birds as the hunting season wasn’t yet started and they needed to stretch their wings – literally. We saw a Falcon and a Peregrin Falcon which is the fastest creature on earth, they’ve been clocked at 240 miles per hour in the old language – thats nearly 400km per hour!!
Dunrobin castle is a beautiful building and was owned by one of the richest families in Europe at the time. While appreciating the high level of skill involved in building the property we were also made aware of the darker past this place is linked to. One of its owners, the first Duke of Sutherland, was notoriously linked to the harshest of the highland clearances. This terrible time in Scottish history saw land owners forcefully removing tenants, who had lived on and worked the land for generations, from their homes to make way for more profitable heards of sheep. While the scenery in Scotland can be so breath taking, the history can be so heart breaking.
There are a lot of places to Stand Up Paddle along the North Coast 500. Whether it is SUP surf or a chill paddle there is a lot on offer. Sinclair Bay is better known for it’s surf and is worth checking out if you are a SUP Surfer. When we were there it was a bit on the wild side but I can imagine how beautiful it is on a calmer day. We made it up to John o Groats for the gratuitous selfie with Harmony and a sensational Haloumi Burger. The next part of the trip saw us heading west and finally getting away from that hammering wind.
North Coast options for Stand Up Paddleboarding
Dunnet Head with a light house for SUP Bloke and views to Orkney. Dunnet Bay looks like another great spot to check out if you are into your SUP surfing. It is a huge bay with a beautiful sandy beach.
Thurso is pretty famous for it’s surf beach. It doesn’t look too great while the tides out which it was when we were there, but it was great to check it out anyway. Thurso also has the largest supermarket before you hit Ullapool on the west coast. It is worth visiting to stock up on more specialised items that wee co-ops might not have.
We revisit Bettyhill which I wrote about in this blog. The sun came out for us but I had another place on my list that I really wanted to get to before the end of the day so we headed on to Kyle of Tongue another place which I have written about here.
Next on my SUPit list was a trip to the Rabbit Islands. This was quite a challenging paddle as there was quite a big swell of between 1.5 to 2 meters in the middle of the crossing. The swell was bigger than we had experienced previously and we almost decided to turn back. We had our PFD’s on – bought specially for this trip, and noticed that each wave was quite gentle so decided to continue on. We got to the island and saw some seals which was pretty cool, and some tracks that looked like they had been enjoying the beach at some stage themselves. Fortunately the return trip was a lot easier. And as soon as we got back, the sun came out and the waves died down.
We found a couple of other options for stand up paddle boarding on the North Coast 500. If sandy beaches is your thing, we’ve got you covered. But I had a place in mind that I wanted to check out. We started the trip south along the west coast. Oldmoreshore beach is one of those really awesome out of the way spots. And yes another white sandy beach – Scotland is full of them!
The west coast is has so many options for paddling. Lots of them are sheltered coves with that famous crystal clear water.
West Coast options for Stand Up Paddleboarding
As we start to begin the route south we stop at Achmelvich Bay. Achmelvich Bay has a really beautiful – you guessed it – sandy beach with crystal clear water. As it was starting to get really sunny we HAD to go into the water and it didn’t disappoint!!! Again the wind sprung up just as we were paddling out. We were planning on exploring the coastline mainly so were able to stay out of the worst of it.
Check out our latest episode below for more information on the SUP-ortunities along the North Coast 500!!
Keep tuned for next weeks post when we finish the NC500. We catch a ferry from Skye to the Isle of Harris. Thanks for coming along on SUP Chicks SUP Safari Scotland.
If you missed part one of our SUP Safari Scotland to the Isle of Arran you can read about it here.
See you then