When we woke at Sandwood Bay we were delighted to feel the sun warming us in our tent in the sand dunes and see blue skies stretching over the ocean and the inland hills.
I ran out on to the sand and immediately wanted to do cartwheels on the sand, but I’ve never been able to do cartwheels even when a wee girl(!), so started my morning with some yoga on the beach. This was much needed to stretch stiff muscles from carrying my full rucksack the previous day and sleeping on the Thermarests.
I followed this with a quick dip in the ocean. It was 7.45 in the morning and the water was very invigorating! In other words freezing cold, but I think I suffer from, no, not suffer, but succumb to, some sort of outdoors lunacy when immersed in so wild an environment. I felt so much joy at being there in so perfect an environment that I needed to experience it all – cold water or not!
As the sun warmed the day (and me), we slowly came to the conclusion that we didn’t NEED to do anything strenuous today, but could simply enjoy the place. The fresh water lagoon between the loch and the sea was wonderfully warm and the perfect place to wash off the salt which was causing yesterday’s midge bites to sting.
Anywhere in the bay your eyes are drawn to the sea stack standing about 8m off-shore at the south end of the bay. The impressive sea stack, Am Buachaille was first climbed in 1968 by the mountaineers Tom Patey and Ian Clough. The name means “The herdsman” in Gaelic.
After a long leisurely brunch we set off to climb the grassy crags to the north of the bay to get views of the whole bay, north and south of the dunes. To the north we could see Cape Wrath lighthouse at the most north-westerly point in Scotland.
South to Am Buachaille and the rocky islets of Am Balg. These rocky islets were the site of a shipwreck in 1845. The slop was apparently carrying a cargo of tar and butter, which to me, seems a strange combination.
The beach became ‘busy’ during the middle of the day with up to perhaps 20 other visitors, but with such a vast expanse of sand, we only ever saw 2 or 3 groups of people at any one time. If you peer closely you can just make out a couple walking north having crossed the river. (Click on the picture then on the magnifying glass when on Flickr.)
The river running from Sandwood Loch into the ocean makes a big sweeping ‘S’ on the beach and it created very soft, sinking sand which was actually quite difficult to cross without getting wet. We carried our boots and paddled with bare feet, but many visitors turned back at the river. When the tide approached high tide we watched a mini tidal bore on the river. The incoming tide met the fresh water of the river (very peaty brown) and created wonderful waves that churned up the sand in the river, which in turn generated bigger waves.
After most of the day trippers left I enjoyed a third naked dip in the sea which now was ever-so-slightly warmer than previously. We enjoyed another meal in the best dining room in the place and washed up in the surprisingly warm water of the river.
As the sun dropped we walked to the southern tip of the bay to say hello to the only other campers – a group of three guys who were camped on the grass above the beach near the approach path.
The sunset was more mesmerising than the previous evening and we stood gazing out to sea until it became to chilly to stand around.
The following day we were woken by rain and gentle winds at 5am. Neil thought we should get up then and pack up before it got worse, but I suggested waiting a while and it would blow over. No chance! When we got up two hours later the rain was heavier and the wind stronger. Never mind. We ate a cold breakfast in the tent and packed away all our sand-encrusted gear inside without venturing out except for necessary dashes to the toilet! When we’d packed everything except for the tent we carried our rucksacks a wee ways back in the dunes to shelter them a little from the rain while we got the tent. However, in our rush to finish we didn’t stop to think! When we moved our bags and us from the tent the wind caught it and tore all the tent pegs/guys from under the stones holding them to the sand and it lifted off the ground. It rose about 2 metres in the air and sailed away into the dunes behind. Me and Neil took off after it like a pair of demented eedjits and thankfully found it caught on the marram grass on the top of the last dune before the loch.
We stuffed the tent away and set off on the return leg back to the road. My rucksack felt heavier that on the outward journey despite having eaten most of the food we’d carried and I think it was the bucketful of sand I was carrying in my sleeping bag, tent, spare food bags and stuck to the rucksack. The one day of sunshine had not made one bit of difference to drying out the peat and the boggy ground was just as boggy as two days previous. Bog Asphodel is a plant of boggy ground, but it does not usually grow submerged in water as it was here.
More photos (and larger version of these) can be found on my Flickr page