A little history and natural history of Sandwood Bay

The Sandwood Estate is now owned by the John Muir Trust and parts of it have official conservation designations; there are two sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and a 444 ha Special Area of Conservation which includes Sandwood Bay.

Sandwood Estate

The geology around Sandwood is fascinating. According to the JMT:

“the rocks of Sandwood are mainly Torridonian gritstone, sandstone and conglomerate, with outcrops of Lewisian gneiss. Sandwood Loch is at the junction between the two rock types. Lewisian gneiss is multicoloured, with stripes, swirls and bubbles, metamorphic and one of the oldest rocks in the world. Torridonian sandstone is sandy, layered sedimentary rock, often blocky in shape, laid down about six hundred million years ago.”

I’m not that hot on geology, but I can recognise fascinating rocks. The patterns in the rocks on the crags to the north of the river were wonderful. There were sedimentary rocks lying on their side and twisted, bubbled rocks.


Rocks at Sandwood Bay

Rocks at Sandwood Bay

I love the smoothness of the bright green moss against the pink ragged rock.

Rocks at Sandwood Bay

On the dry crags amongst the close cropped grass (kept short by sheep) I spotted Field Gentian (Gentianella campestris)

Field Gentian (Gentianella campestris)

I think the small leaved prostrate shrub in the background is Alpine Bearberry.

Field Gentian (Gentianella campestris)

The higher sea cliffs are formed from Torridonian rock and are up to 90 m high between Sheigra and Sandwood Bay. They have suffered some huge collapses in recent years, and they are rapidly eroding, as seen in the great sea stack of Am Buachaille to the west of Sandwood Bay. (JMT)

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood’s dunes are high, fairly extensive, and relatively unaffected by man because of their remoteness. The peatlands are among the most north-westerly flows in Britain and are some of Scotland’s most significant peatland habitats. Sphagnum mosses are important here because they hold huge amounts of water in their spongy leaves. However, after the very wet week last week, the sphagnum could not absorb all the water – hence our very wet approach.


There is evidence of people living in this area for thousands of years. Sandwood was ‘cleared’ in 1847, and made into 1940 acres of sheep run let to Hugh Mackay, a merchant of Kinlochbervie. The Sirius sailed from Loch Laxford on emigrations subsidised by Sutherland Estate.

This ruined house still stands beside Sandwood Loch. Local folklore states that the ghost of a shipwrecked mariner used to knock at the window of the house on stormy nights.

Sandwood ruin

2 comments on “A little history and natural history of Sandwood Bay

  1. Oh my, I love rocks and boulders. I love the picture at the top with the swirls. It’s always amazing to me that there are places like this that not only have a long natural presence, but a human presence that goes way back, as well. And of course, who doesn’t like a good ghost story!

  2. Pingback: I am to climbing what Eddie the Eagle was to skiing | Man, van and UK plan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s