Water laps white sand with highland hills in the background, Oldshoremore Beach, Scotland Alternative North Coast 500 Route

WIT: Alternative NC500 Scotland Part 3 (Durness – Scourie)

Scourie is the next base on your Scotland circuit. On the second day, anyway. Spend your first night in Sandwood Bay after a glorious day on Scotland’s most impressive beaches. Tomorrow you’ll need to slowly make your way to Scourie and spend the night there. That’s if you’re following our Alternative North Coast 500 Route, heading anti-clockwise.

It’s all wilderness and emptiness around Durness; you’ll find much of the same when you head south. Next up are some of Scotland’s most impressive beaches and an absolute cracker in Handa Island. Scourie provides a good base to explore from. If you’re following the traditional route, then check out our Guide to the Tongue Area instead.

Things to Do Durness – Scourie

Oldshoremore Beach
A girl walks down the grassy dunes to Oldshoremore Beach, Scotland
A short stroll to the beach

Oldshoremore Beach, also known as Am Meallan, was our favourite beach of the whole trip. It was a clear standout and an unbelievable spot. Technically, it isn’t on the NC500 either. That’s why we put together our Alternative Route.

It’s a detour from either Durness or Scourie, but you can’t miss one of the best beaches in all of Scotland. How many people have done that in the past, by blindly sticking to the NC500 route?

Two people walk along the sand on Oldshoremore Beach, Scotland
Overcrowding’s a big issue in the Highlands

It may have been that we arrived to perfect summer weather without a cloud in the sky. It could also have been the perfect turquoise water or the powdery white sands. Perhaps it was the views looking back on to it all, seeing five people at most, or the delightful swim we had. Whatever the reason, Oldshoremore was our favourite.

There’s free parking at the beach. From here, you’ll be on the sand in a few minutes time. Free public toilets are located in the car park as well.

Oldshoremore is a long and wide stretch of perfect sand. We’d read reviews about some of the best beaches up north being ‘packed’ and ‘ruined’. It seems that wherever the crowds are, it isn’t here. There’s plenty of space, and even a hidden cove at the far end of Oldshoremore if it ever got unimaginably busy.

Crystal clear waters on Oldshoremore Beach, Scotland
The cleanest water you’ll swim in

WEE TIP: on the grassy mound near the car park gate, we saw some very clever campers setting up tents. An outstanding spot for some wild camping, though the beach would probably do just fine as well.

The water wasn’t too cold (relatively speaking) and we enjoyed spending a few hours here. There’s nothing on the beach, so you’re going to have to bring whatever you need with you.

Polin Beach

Polin Beach is the little sister of Oldshoremore. If you drive a little further you’ll find signs for the turn-off, just short of Blairmore car park. It’s smaller, but no-less beautiful than the neighbouring beach, and we found other wild campers here too. Head a little further around the cove and you’ll also find Shegra Beach.

Blue water and white sands of Polin Beach, Scotland
Polin Beach isn’t bad either
Sandwood Bay

It seems like there are a lot of celebrities up this way, doesn’t it? Sandwood Bay is one of Britain’s most famous beaches and consistently declared one of the most beautiful. A detour from Scourie or Durness, it’s not exactly on your Scotland doorstep either.

Regardless, it’s certainly atmospheric and again, while it’s not strictly on the NC500, 100% worth the detour. So much so that we’ve written a separate Guide to Sandwood Bay (link coming soon). Find out everything you need there, and everything you need about the Durness stretch of your Scotland trip here.

Water crashes against the rocks at Sandwood Bay, Scotland
Sandwood Bay and its unique atmosphere
Handa Island

Surprisingly, most of our group hadn’t heard of Handa Island. Scotland has so many islands, and unfortunately some of them (ahem, Skye) have become victims of their own success. Not Handa.

Sea cliffs against the sea on Handa Island, Scotland
Phenomenal views no matter which way you look on Handa Island

There’s no better base in Scotland for visiting Handa Island than Scourie. We spent a soaking night camping there just to visit Handa Island the next day. Thankfully, we made the right decision. Find out everything you need to know in our Guide to Handa Island.

Scourie Headland Walk

We’ve seen the pictures of Scourie beach too – it looked like a classic Scotland beach. We were expecting big things. Unfortunately, we weren’t particularly impressed with Scourie Beach – it wasn’t in the best beaches of our trip, never mind the best in Scotland. We’ll give it the benefit of the doubt though, and hope that it looks infinitely better when Scourie isn’t a washout.

Gray clouds over gray water on Scourie Bay, Scotland
Not quite the postcard-picture we were expecting

From the beach, you’re in the perfect place to do the Scourie Headland Walk. It’s an easy-going and non-strenuous stroll around the picturesque sea cliffs. If you happen to do the walk in better weather than we did, please leave a Comment below and let us know how it was! Take any nice shots? We want to see them! All of ours are wet. Scourie, like much of Scotland, was for us.

Shops in Scourie

Scourie is certainly a downgrade from resourceful Durness. There’s a Spar which is unfortunately pretty poorly stocked. You shouldn’t plan on picking up much here. Google will tell you it’s ‘Permanently Closed’, but it was certainly still open when we were there.

WEE TIP: there are nice enough public toilets in Scourie, in case you’re continuing your journey. You’ll find them next to the picnic benches at the burger van.

If you’re really struggling and heading north, there’s a Spar in Kinlochbervie which should have what you’re looking for.

There’s also a 24hr petrol station for those needing to fill up. The only other shop in the area is Fishing Shop which also sells some supplies for outdoor activities.

Bars, Cafes, Restaurants & Pit Stops

Kinlochbervie

You’ll only find yourself in Kinlochbervie if you’re heading to either Oldshoremore or Sandwood Bay (which of course, we recommend doing). A ‘pub’ recommended to us was the Old School House Restaurant and Bar. Unfortunately, it’s every bit a restaurant. The food looked reasonably priced, but in all honesty, we were just stopping in for a drink. If you are too, then skip.

Tarbet (Handa Island)

One which you can’t afford to skip is the Shorehouse Restaurant. The team behind this seafood restaurant fish their catch right off the Tarbet shore and cook it up the same day. It literally cannot get any fresher than that. If you’re looking for top-quality seafood plates, you’ll find them here.

Daniel had some sweet pickled herring and was delighted with the value for money plate he got (£10). They also serve soups (£4), coffee and a range of cakes. The quirky décor and big glass windows make this a great stop after visiting Handa Island, even if you’re only in for a quick drink.

Herring on a plate of salad at Shorehouse Restaurant, Tarbet
Yes please
Scourie

What it may lack in shopping, Scourie kind-of makes up for with a selection of restaurants. Don’t get us wrong – you’re still in the Highlands – but you’re in for a good meal tonight.

The first place you’ll find, if you park up at the bird-hide on Scourie Beach like we did, is The Anchorage. It looks grim from the outside, but is surprisingly modern and clean inside. There’s a friendly atmosphere, incredibly reasonable prices (the scampi is HUGE) and plenty of cracking dogs to be clapping. This is the bar and restaurant for most people staying at the Caravan Park and Campsite. The bar does however close at 9pm which wasn’t ideal.

The Scourie Hotel, on the other hand, is noticeably more upmarket. It serves up fresh seafood and had us salivating looking at the bar menu. They’ve put a real effort in with decoration and you’ll feel pretty underdressed in stinky hiking boots. It’s a little pricy, but probably still outstanding value – the food looked fantastic – but be warned you’ll probably struggle to get a table.

Nonetheless, they have a good beer selection as well as a range of gins and the fun staff are pretty relaxed about the closing time. Unless you’re an obnoxious, drunk Australian. Then you just ruin the fun for everybody and they shut up shop pretty quick.

The Whale Tale is the new kid on the block. If we’d been on a slightly kinder budget, this would 100% have been our call. When we visited in July 2019 it had only been open for 3 months but was already creating some buzz. They offer local seafood and game dishes with a creative twist. Everything on the menu sounded superb.

Near the Spar, there’s also a burger van open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 17:00 – 19:00.

Blue waters and white sands of Oldshoremore Beach, Scotland
Did we mention that this was our favourite beach?

Wild Camping Around Scourie

We found a decent spot on the grassy area at the far end of Scourie Beach. It was pouring down when we were in town, but we managed to keep reasonably dry there. This is just to the side of the cemetery.

We wouldn’t recommend camping on Scourie Beach itself. There isn’t much sand and it’s on quite a noticeable slope.

Official Accommodation

Scourie Caravan Park is the main accommodation spot in town (village?). £9 per adult.

Otherwise, there are plenty of BnBs in the area, however not much on AirBnB.

And that should be everything you need to know when you’re travelling between Durness and Scourie. If you’re following our recommended North Coast 500 Alternative Route, then you’ll be heading even further south next. Find out everything you need to know about the area in Part 4 of our North Coast 500 Alternative Route.

Going the opposite way? Then you’ll want to check out Part 2: Around DurnessYou can’t miss Cape Wrath and Kearvaig Bothy – let our guides to the hard work for you.

Have we missed anything out? Did you find any other treats around Durness? Let us know by leaving a Comment below. Otherwise, you can get in touch through our Contact page.

Durness – Scourie Budget Breakdown

Getting There:

Total: n/a

Accommodation:
  • Sandwood Bay wild camp x1N
  • free
  • Scourie Headland wild camp x1N
  • free

Total: n/a

Attractions:
  • n/a

Total: n/a

Local Costs (Day 1 – beaches):
  • x2 burger van breakfasts (Cape Wrath pier) £10
  • lunch and drinks in Sango Sands Restaurant £15
  • alcohol in Mathers £15
  • x2 drinks in Old School House Restaurant £7
  • firewood in Mathers £5
Local Costs (Day 2 – drive to Scourie):
  • groceries in Scourie Shop £5
  • dinner in Anchorage Bar £20
  • round in Scourie £20

Total: £97

Total for 2D/2N: £97

The above budget is for x2 people. Food and alcohol prices are likely to vary. We drank our fair share, and had plenty of pub food. *Handa Island not included.

This budget breakdown isn’t meant to be an exact record of what we spent, but should give you a rough idea of what you’re likely to spend.
*all currencies accurate at the time of writing (August ’19)

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