“ Sutherland / Caithness / Scotland „
A lot of people think that I've lost the plot a bit when it comes to how I choose to take holidays. When we have enough money to go abroad, as many of you have probably guessed by now, we like to go to Disneyland, Paris. However, spending a fortune on a holiday where we lie on the beach all day while the kids build castles and paddle in the sea isn't my cup of tea. However, this is not to say we don't enjoy doing these things, I just grudge spending such a huge amount of money on it, as most people do.
These same people that think I'm crazy are the ones which simply refuse to believe me when I explain my reasons behind my logic. I am not a lover of extremely high temperatures. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge lover of the cold either, but our summers are more than enough for me and with young children the thought of going somewhere hotter doesn't really appeal to me much. The simple fact for me is that we have AMAZING beaches here in Scotland - you just have to look for them. I live in Fife and we have many Blue Flag beaches here and yes, they're nice, but they are nothing like the exotic beaches you will find in holiday brochures. I'm sure these Fife beaches are the images people get when I tell them we have a beach holiday in Scotland every year, but this just isn't the case. The truth is, my Dad works in Thurso, which is almost as far North you can go on Mainland Britain. He has a house there with plenty of room for all of us (including my two sisters). The problem with Thurso is that there isn't very much to do! So, we tend to go exploring. We've found many a lovely beach along the North coast of Scotland and like I said, no one can believe just how beautiful they can be. It really is like something out of a holiday brochure.
The best beach we have come across so far is Melvich. Melvich is a small village about 10-15 miles West of Thurso. There isn't really much there - a hotel, a post office etc, and I have to say the first time we went along we were very sceptical. When we arrived in Melvich, we almost missed the turn off for the beach. If you ever visit, you'll realise why. Although it is very well signposted, there isn't an actual road! The signpost points to what looks like someones driveway. Nestled between a couple of houses there is a gate which sits open and there is a dirt track - this is the road to the beach. Eventually after much ummming and ahhhing, we decided that it wasn't a joke and decided to investigate. When we turned in we realised that the road disappears behind the houses and looks like it's heading down into the grassy dunes below. Eventually you get as far as you can go with transport and if, like we are normally, you are there for the day, you have to unpack the car and walk from there.
You have to enter through a gate and occassionally you may come across the odd sheep wandering around on the grass beyond. You're almost guaranteed to spot a rabbit or two, but for now you still wont quite be able to see the beach. If you glance down to your right at this point, you can see what is known as the "Bighouse", which if you're into local history may be interesting with its ties to the MacKay clan. I believe there is a walkway down, where you can cross a footbridge over the river and have a look at the house, but we have never done this. We always follow the grassy path to the left after entering the gate. It is almost always overgrown at either side of the path, so it's advisable to wear trousers (as opposed to shorts or skirts) on the walk to and from the beach to avoid scratches and nettle stings. If you fancy stopping to look at the greenery around you I am sure you will find many different species of wild flowers growing here and if I remember correctly, we have spotted some typically Scottish heather and thistles along the way. We're usually far too excited to get to the beach and so whizz past these, but I'm sure it will appeal to many.
When you get to the end of the path, you will notice it slowly change from grass to sand and although you can't see the beach yet, you will know it's not far away now. The dunes are quite high and so the beach will creep up on you and when you do peak at the highest point, you might just be a little stunned as the view is breathtaking. You will be greeted with a huge stretch of golden sands, which are met with the white waves crashing as the tide hits the beach and if you look out over the North Sea it is very often hard to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. You are here... Melvich Beach.
We usually visit Melvich Beach in April/May and then again in July/August time and we always have amazing weather, particularly in May. The sea is always such a clear blue that it really does resemble some tropical paradise. We can easily stay here all day, arriving early in the morning and not leaving until we get hungry as teatime is approaching.
It's a shame that I can't comment on all that Melvich Beach has to offer as I am told that if you walk further round to the beach, you can climb over the rocks and on a good day get some nice views out to Orkney or along to Dunnet Head at the other side of Thurso. However, as I have young children and the rock climbing can be extremely dangerous, I have never done this.
The water is clear blue and the sands are golden yellow - the picture above doesn't really to it justice if I'm honest, but gives you an idea.
If you are extremely lucky you may well catch a glimpse of some seals or even an Orca (killer) Whale, as they are regularly spotted not too far out to sea here, at these times of year.
The other huge advantage of having a beach holiday here is that you have the beach to yourself pretty much all of the time. You will see the odd dog walker now and again, but unlike foreign destinations, you are not tripping over everyone else in your hunt for a nice spot to lie on the beach. You don't need to worry about whether other kids will splash your kids in the sea, or if their ball or frisbee is going to hit someone as you have a huge stretch of beach all to yourself.
Of course, it can't be perfect in every way and I have to warn anyone thinking of visiting that there are NO facilities here whatsoever. There are no toilets, no cafes, zip, nothing, nada. So pack a picnic and be prepared!
I'll be heading back up here in April and can't wait to visit Melvich Beach for a day of lazing on the beach with kids laughing and giggling, building their sandcastles, bathing in the sea, playing games and collecting shells. To me it really does feel like the edge of the Earth and no other place even comes close. If I close my eyes and imagine, I'm almost there already. If that makes me crazy, then so be it, but to me it's like paradise.
Overall, Melvich Beach is my favourite beach! If you ever happen to be on the north coast of Scotland I highly recommend stopping off for a visit, you wont be disappointed.
An unspoilt stretch of golden sands along the north coast of Scotland.