Hiking to Sandwood Bay
“Eyes close. Wave, after wave breaking. Never-ending sand stretching into oblivion, tumbling through the vortex of time, melting and melding tectonic rocks; gneiss and sandstone crushing together. Whale skulls churning in the deep. I dream of Sandwood. “
I’ve been trying to keep a diary for the last few years, writing every few days, and this was my entry for the day we made the trek to Sandwood Bay.
Sandwood first became a blip on my radar, when I saw a photo featured in the legendary landscape photographer: Colin Prior’s online gallery. It showed a rugged beach, backed by sand dunes and a loch... remote and beautiful. Ever since, this place has been on my bucket list and I’ve longed to visit.
This Summer, my wish came true as we spent two weeks exploring the North West of Scotland. We saved Sandwood for one of our final days, waiting until the weather forecast was near to perfect-big, bright blue skies and sunshine.
My, was it worth the wait.
The journey begins with a 4 mile walk across moorland, winding past inland lochs before weaving up over the headland, and beyond the immense sand dunes, hides Sandwood Bay.
Freshwater almost meets the sea here..the fingers of Sandwood Loch sprawl out, tantalisingly close to reaching Sandwood Beach.
The beach itself is immense, stretching to over a mile of uninterrupted sand, except for the large saltwater pools which form at dips in the land.
Up high, on the rocky outcrops that tower over the bay, we were treated to magnificent views. The first maps of Sandwood date back to the 17th Century, describing the area as an “extreme (sic) wilderness where wolves roam”. It’s not hard to imagine Sandwood as a place where wolves and bears might have roamed, combing the hills and shoreline for food, however sadly there are no such creatures here today. Or are there?
Heading down onto the beach, Sandwood revealed more of its secrets to us as we discovered a huge whale’s skull wedged amongst the strands of sand. I have no idea how long the skull had been washed up on the beach, but it was fascinating to look at.
Some of the rocks here are among the oldest in the world..I remember touching the pink stones on the beach and wondering what have these rocks witnessed, what is their story?
Duncan Chisholm, a very talented, Scottish fiddle player whose music I have been lucky enough to have seen live many times recently released an album, entirely dedicated to Sandwood. The allure of this place inspired him to write a whole album..on the first track entitled ‘pilgrimage’, he says “out here there is no time, time is our imagination, past, present and future’.
These words, for me perfectly encapsulate the spirit of Sandwood; its timelessness, enduring but stark beauty. I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the album: Duncan’s music is just magical and really carries the landscape into musical form.
Sandwood rocked me right to the soul, so much so that I have since become a member of the John Muir Trust, a brilliant charitable organisation whose aim it is to protect some of the UK’s last remaining wild places.
The Trust manage the entire Sandwood estate ( over 11,000 acres ) of wild and crofted land. It is so vital that we protect these special places for future generations. If you are interested in finding out more- they have some great videos on their site.
Until next time, farewell Sandwood.