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Dail Beag Beach (Isle of Lewis)

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This beach on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland is an ideal location for surfers.

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      20.07.2009 18:54
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      A lovely beach in the Outer Hebrides

      The thing about the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides is that when it comes to beaches the visitor really is spoilt for choice. There is no landmass between here and Canada so there is nothing to break the waves that crash ashore which has turned some of these beaches into real magnets for surfers. The most popular surfing beaches with the huge "Atlantic Rollers" tend to be the longer beaches some of which stretch for almost 20 miles but some of the nicest beaches, in my opinion, on the island are the smaller ones. We took the advise of the campsite owner who told us that one of the nicest local beaches to where we were staying in Shawbost was at Dail Mor a couple of miles down the road. We had already seen the beautiful beach at Shawbost, which didn't even qualify as a "nice" beach by the locals standards so on our second day on Lewis we headed off to Dail Mor.

      At this point the more observant amongst you might be forgiven for thinking that I have posted this review in the wrong place as this is a review about the beach at Dail Beag rather than Dail Mor but the truth is we went to the wrong beach. We didn't even realise our mistake until later that day. In Gaelic "beag" means little whilst "mor" means big so it doesn't take a genius to work out that the beach that we went to at Dail Beag was much smaller than the one at the other side of the headland. However with nothing at that point to compare it with we were very impressed.

      Dial Beag is accessed via a steep single-track road that winds down to the sea from the A858 coastal road. There is a small sign that points to Dial Beag but this refers to the tiny hamlet of the same name (about 4 crofts scattered across a large area) and there is no indication that there is a beach at the end of this road. The road twists and turns for about a mile and then just before it ends the bay comes into view. At the end of the road there is a loch and a small car parking area with space for about a dozen cars. I visited on a glorious sunny day in May and there was only one car parked here so I doubt that the parking area ever gets very full. At the side of the parking area there is a flat area of grass with a picnic table and an information board describing the area.

      Before you take the narrow footpath down to the beach it is worth admiring the loch for a few minutes. Examples of such freshwater lochs at the coast where their river flows into the sea are amongst the most fertile of all freshwater lochs in Scotland. This loch is called Loch Dhailbeag (pronounce Del-veg) and is a haven for rare plants and birds.

      The footpath down to the beach is very short (about 50 metres from the car park) but it is quite steep so care should be taken and it probably isn't suitable for disabled visitors.

      The first thing that I noticed about the beach was the fine golden sand, all of the beaches in the Hebrides are composed of this same fine sand, which is quite unlike anything else found in Britain. I know that there are fine sandy beaches in Cornwall and elsewhere and I have been to many of them and believe me even they don't compare to the sand here. The next thing that struck me was the impressive rocky coastline and finally the turquoise blue/green colour of the sea.

      To the right of the beach there are many large rocks with rock pools, which you can walk over (with care) but the rocks to the left of the beach are much higher and inaccessible. In fact it is these rocks that form a rocky peninsula known locally as "Rubha Beag" that separates this beach at Dail Beag from the one at Dail Mor. I decided to explore the rocks to the right, curios to discover what was around the corner. The answer to that was more rocky coastline for as far as the eye could see.

      The beach occupies a sheltered bay so whilst the waves are quite high they don't really attract the surfers like some of the more exposed beaches do but that does have the advantage of making this small beach suitable for bathing. The beach is just over a mile long in length (1.6Km) and during my visit there was just another couple with a dog, they were the only people that I saw all afternoon.

      I fell in love with this lovely beach at Dail Beag. The sun shone all day and it is such a quiet tranquil place. The only sounds were of the odd seagull and the waves lapping against the rocks.

      When we returned to the campsite that evening the owner asked us we went to Dial Mor and we said yes. He then mentioned the pretty little cemetery, which puzzled us a bit as we hadn't seen one, and it was shortly after that we realised that we hadn't been to Dail Mor at all. When we described the car park opposite a loch that he told us that we had actually been to a much smaller beach called Dail Beag and that Dial Mor is down the next road about half a mile further down the road. With so many different beaches to choose from it was an easy mistake to make.

      In case you are wondering we did go to Dail Mor a few days later but more about that another time!

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