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Issue 27 - Oh I do like to be beside The Seaside

Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006

 

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Oh I do like to be beside The Seaside

Which is why – in the interests of research – Gilly Pickup packs her bucket, spade and kiss-me-quick hat to find a few of Scotland's best beaches

West Sands Beach, St Andrews, Fife Stunning two mile swathe of immaculately clean, firm sand with a backdrop of medieval towers – what a cracking place to enjoy a dose of bracingly wholesome, fresh-as-it-comes air!

The water quality is approved by the Good Beach Guide and there are a host of seaside activities for you to get stuck into.

Jogging and crazy golf are popular while the aquatically inclined can enjoy an invigorating swim, sail, surf or windsurf.

Keep in mind though, the possibility of strong off-shore winds coming from the North Sea.

This award-winning beach is zoned to keep sand yachts and families separate and has a children’s area with regular sand castle building competitions as well as entertainers who make merry during the summer months. It is adjacent to the world famous golf course near the town centre, and is a popular base for sports such as mountain boarding, kite flying and parakarting.

Lunan Bay, Angus Stand on the hilltop at the mouth of Lunan Water and look down over the semicircular sweep of Lunan Bay – the view is guaranteed to take your breath away.

The beach is a source of sea-shells and gemstones; particularly agates and jasper usually found in pebbly areas of sand after a storm. Looming protectively over the bay from its grassy bluff is the atmospheric gaunt ruin of Red Castle, one time temporary home of Robert the Bruce.

Wooded areas around the castle bristle with proud Scots fir trees and you’ll be dazzled by the sight of fields bursting with sunshine yellow oil-seed rape.

To refer to Lunan Bay as merely ‘peaceful’ or ‘idyllic’ hardly does it justice.

Noise? None, apart from legions of seagulls arguing and canoodling endlessly and the contented neigh of Shetland ponies in fields behind the dunes.

On a weekend in July, you may have to share, perhaps with a couple of day trippers or horse riders, but out of season it’s all yours.Findhorn Bay, Morayshire It’s only a short walk through the marram grass and low dunes from the village to glorious, unspoilt Findhorn Bay, an enclosed estuary popular with waterskiers and windsurfers, as well as a heavenly haven for our feathered friends and ornithologists alike.

This local nature reserve with intoxicating views has seven miles of wide inviting sands. There are oodles of ospreys, curlews and ducks to coo over and a large colony of seals are often to be seen basking or playing at the mouth of the Bay.

If sailing floats your boat, remember that the bay tends to be gusty like a tidal lake and that low tide uncovers all sorts of hidden obstacles – including trees – which have made their way down the River Findhorn.

Watch out too for the mussel beds. They are protected by a conservation order, so best check them out at low tide.

Scarista, Harris, Western Isles Looking for paradise? Look no further.

This day dreamy, deserted beach is about as far from the madding crowds as you can get. With only the sound of thundering Atlantic breakers crashing on to the sand for company, this must be one of the world’s most secluded beaches.

Vast expanses of pristine sands composed mainly of shell fragments, dunes set against the crystal clear turquoise sea – for lovers of the remote, it doesn’t come much better than this.

Cast your eyes north to the spectacular mountains of North Harris, look to the south and admire the purple clad hills of the Uists.

Most of the time your only company is whitebibbed seagulls, or if you’re lucky you may see a seal snoozing on the rocks or maybe even an elusive corncrake with its distinctive plumage.

Don’t tell everyone about this peach of a beach.

This is one place you will want to keep firmly under your sun hat.

Yellowcraigs Beach, East Lothian This sweeping sandy beach with soft honeycoloured sand is perfect for a family day out.

There is a great nature trail here as well as a dedicated area for barbecues and picnic tables.

Yellowcraigs, also known as Broad Sands Bay, is recommended by the Marine Conversation Society and has panoramic views across the Forth estuary to Fife.

From here you can see the lighthouse on Fidra Island, which Robert Louis Stevenson mentioned in his novel, Treasure Island.

Glorious rock pools supporting a rich variety of marine life abound. Sometimes you may see hermit crabs moving rapidly across the rock pool floor, protected by the empty shells of periwinkles.

The crabs live inside these shells because they are unable to grow their own like other crabs. The Bay At The Back Of The Ocean, Iona You’ll find this uber-romantic, poetically-named beach (Camus Cul an Taibibh in Gaelic) on the magical pink-hued island of Iona, an easy walk or bike ride from the Abbey.

Sometimes called the ‘bay of the green stones,’ this beach with its golden sands surrounded by a rugged landscape, is also the place where St Columba landed.

It’s just the ticket for picnics, walking or simply taking it easy while watching the Eider ducks, puffins and otters. See the Spouting Cave, where in rough weather, the force of the waves sends a plume of water a hundred feet into the air.

The Machair, a gorgeous area of short, cropped grass over sand, also makes up a part of the 18- hole golf course and meets the Bay at the Back of the Ocean on the west of the island. A round of golf here includes cattle as the natural hazards with the ninth green in particular being a favourite spot for the Machair’s resident bull!

Loch Morlich Beach, Invernesshire Glorious Loch Morlich beach is slap bang in the middle of Glenmore Forest Park at the foot of the great wilderness range that is the Cairngorm mountains.

This natural sandy beach skirted by ancient pine forests, is a great place for water babes to enjoy boating, canoeing, rowing, yachting, kayaking or windsurfing. All equipment is available for hire from the Loch Morlich Watersports Centre.

For those inexperienced in all things aquatic, inspirational instructors are on hand to teach and encourage both adults and children. If you’re a landlubber and can tear yourself away from the beach, take a walk on the wild side to get up close and personal with nature in the surrounding woodland.

Keep to the marked trails because this is the habitat of rare and rich wildlife including red and roe deer, mountain hares, red squirrels, wildcats and pine marten.

On the shore there is a picnic area, restaurant and shop. Visitors will always find plenty of space on this gem of a beach for the two Rs – rest and relaxation.

St Cyrus Beach, Aberdeenshire Renowned for its jaw-dropping sunrises, this beach is backed by impressive, towering red granite cliffs.

These pillars of lava, an ancient reminder of the original sea level before the end of the last ice age, are populated by legions of herons, peregrine falcons and nesting fulmars.

Among the 170 or so species of plants which bloom on exposed ledges amongst these crumbling volcanic relics, are henbane, cascading sea campion, hairy violets and desert cacti.

The beach is set within a national Nature Reserve home to Arctic terns, skylarks, stonechats and whinchats, which migrate from Africa to St Cyrus to breed in the flowering whins and scrub. As you walk along the sands you will see fishermen’s bothies, porpoises playing in the sea and the dramatic ruins of inaccessible 14th century Kaim of Mathers castle clinging precariously on its precipice high above the sea.

While this butter-coloured sandy beach with its undulating dunes and timeless charm is excellent for families, it is also tailor-made for Greta Garbo types.