“ Address: Harbour Rd / Scourie / Lairg / Sutherland / Scotland „
It's a long drive to Scourie Campsite, especially for an Englishman like myself but once you get there you will realise that the long drive is well worth the time and the effort.
Scourie is a small village in the north west Highlands of Scotland, its a world away from anywhere else on the British mainland, a place where Gaelic is still the mother tongue of the locals, and it is a place that is difficult to explain to any one that hasn't been there. This is just about as wild and remote as it gets, (with the exception of Kinlochbervie and Durness even further to the north). The village is centred around a lovely bay with stunning views across to a myriad of tiny rugged islands and islets. Scourie's campsite enjoys an enviable position perched on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the bay and it even has its own footpath down to the shore.
I first came here in 1994 and it is a place that you never forget. As with many things however it is the good things that you remember the most vividly, especially the views and the breathtaking sunsets across the bay , whilst some of the not quite so good bits you tend to forget, only for them to come flooding back to you as soon as you arrive. These not so good points include the midges, the scourge of the Scottish Highlands and some of the odd rules and regulations that the campsite tries to enforce. On balance however it has to be said that the good points far outweigh the bad and even though I was last here just a month ago I am already wishing that I was back there.
This is quite a large site, it is not possible to pre-book so it is just a case of turning up. It seldom gets full to capacity but it is always a good idea to not arrive too late in the day as the nearest alternative site is about 30 miles away. Reception opens between 7am and 11pm and outside these hours there is a barrier across the road so it is not possible to drive onto or off the site. There is however a car park located at the other side of the barrier so if you want an early start the next morning and need to be on the road before 7am make sure that this is where you are parked.
The reception is located within the same building that houses the toilets, showers, pot washing area and laundry room. Angus, the owner is a bit of a strange character, he's a friendly enough chap but he's obsessive. We witnessed him rummaging through the dustbins on several occasions and hiding behind water taps and other objects trying to spy on fellow campers or eavesdrop. On another occasion I watched him loosen the tent pegs on a families tent as soon as they had disappeared for a few minutes. This was shortly after I had heard him screaming at them, telling them that it wasn't necessary to hammer the tent pegs into the ground as the ground was soft enough.
All new visitors have to report to the reception although it would be easier to escape from Alcatraz than to sneak onto the site, passed the watchful eye of Angus. We paid £12 per night which covered 2 adults, one tent and one car. Dogs are allowed on the site at no extra cost. All pitches must be vacated or re-booked before noon the following day.
Once you have paid your fee you are free to pitch your tent wherever you like on any of the grassy areas. There are designated hard areas of gravel for caravans and motor homes and most of these have electric hook up points. As well as large open grassy areas there are also a number of raised terraces. We chose to site our tent on one these, which had a fantastic view across the bay.
If you have a dog there are dozens of rules that must be obeyed including keeping them on a short lead at all times and exercising them off the site. Whilst most of these rules are plausible and make perfect sense I was quickly dismayed to discover that the owner's own dogs run wild around the site, barking at other dogs, doing their business wherever they like and making a general nuisance of themselves. It seems that none of the rules of the campsite apply to the owner, who lives in a static caravan at the front entrance of the site.
These same double standards also apply to noise. There are signs everywhere advising noise to be kept to an absolute minimum between 9pm and 8am with warnings that anyone failing to obey will be evicted from the site. It is therefore annoying to discover that the restaurant/bar on site known as The Anchorage opens until midnight Sundays to Thursdays and anyone that is spending their money there can make as much noise as they like. On a Friday and Saturday night there is a disco until 2am so don't expect to get any sleep before then. On the Saturday night during my stay things got so bad that we actually took a stroll along the beach at 1am but could still hear the boom, boom boom of the music from the jetty over a mile away.
The main advantage of this campsite is definitely its location. It's a great place to use as a base to explore the surrounding area and what an amazing area that is. I've been to four different continents yet I keep coming back here every few years.
The pub/restaurant on site known as The Anchorage is a restaurant by day and a pub at night. I only went in there once during my four night stay and I found it to be rather poor and overpriced with everything on the menu frozen including the chips. If you want decent food and a nice drink I would suggest that you walk 300 metres down the road to the Scourie Hotel, the bar meals there are superb and reasonably priced too whilst the public bar has yet more views across Scourie Bay that you will never tire of.
Elsewhere in Scourie don't expect much. There's a Spar supermarket and a filling station, both next to the Scourie Hotel and both with inflated prices to reflect their remote location, but other than that there's a few houses and that's about it.
Facilities on the campsite include a combined toilet and shower block. The male block consisted of four showers (free to use) and six toilets as well as a urinal and two rows of sinks with electric shaving points. Note one of the signs that states that all peeing must take place in the urinals and not in the toilets as the flushing of the toilets wastes water. Throughout my stay one of the showers was out of order but the block was always spotlessly clean.
Adjacent to the toilets/showers within the same block there is a room with sinks for washing pots (heaven forbid anyone that should even think about washing their pots in a bowl on the open grass outside their tent) and there is also a laundry room that consists of two washing machines and a large industrial dryer. The washing machines cost £2 and the dryers 20p for 5 minutes.
The final thing to say about this campsite is that the midges can be a real problem, especially during late July/early August. We arrived during a heat wave so a lot of the eggs that had laid dormant in the surrounding grassy fields for years had suddenly hatched out and in the early mornings and evenings there were vast clouds of these blood sucking insects everywhere. That said however we had arrived here via a place where the midges were much worse so we didn't find them as bad as some of the other people did.
Overall I would recommend this place but mainly because if you want to enjoy this area and camping is your method then there isn't really any alternative.