Achmelvich Beach is one of the most spectacular beaches in the UK. Found in remote northwest Scotland, Achmelvich Bay is mostly visited as part of the increasingly popular North Coast 500 (NC500) road trip around the northern reaches of the Scottish Highlands. From coastal walks and watersports to the rather strange Hermit’s Castle and simply relaxing on the beach, Achmelvich is a must-see place. And, at night, you can snuggle down under the stars by camping at Achmelvich Beach, whether that be wild camping or making use of the nearby campsites. Achmelvich Beach is easily one of the best beaches along the NC500 and you have to see it.
In this guide, we’ll look at where Achmelvich Bay is located and how to get there. We’ll tell you a little about what to expect at the beach, before listing other incredible things to do in the area. We’ll then talk about the best places to stay, focussing on camping, which is one of the top overnight options for enjoying Achmelvich Beach.
To see footage of the NC500 road trip, feel free to watch our NC500 Hikes production.
For other epic beaches in Scotland and along the North Coast 500, read our posts on Beaches Along the NC500. Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 excellent NC500 hikes.
Table of Contents
About Achmelvich Beach
Achmelvich Beach, and the bay, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, if not the entire UK. Indeed, it’s little wonder that a stop at Achmelvich Beach is high on many NC500 itineraries. And if it’s not, then it should be.
Nestled in the northwestern reaches of the Scottish Highlands is a stunning beach of powdery white sands and clear turquoise waters. Yes, you read that right. The waters surrounding the award-winning Blue Flag Achmelvich Bay are uber pristine and the beach here would give the best in the world a good run for their money. Even Dan gave Achmelvich Beach the Aussie seal of approval.
The beach forms the outer edges of the small settlement of Achmelvich. The name comes from the Gaelic “Achadh“, meaning a plain or meadow and “mealbhaich“, meaning sandy dunes. And that’s exactly what you’ll find surrounding the glorious Achmelvich Beach.
Achmelvich Bay is a popular destination for water sports as well as surrounding coastal walks and general beach frolicking. You’ll even find Europe’s smallest castle here, known as Hermit’s Castle. It’s also one of the most popular camping destinations on the NC500, with a campsite and a youth hostel right on the seafront.
Truly, Achmelvich is a real gem of a beach in Scotland and is worthy of a visit, even if like us, it’s just a quick stop.
Where Is Achmelvich Beach?
Achmelvich Beach is a tiny pocket of paradise in the Sutherland region of northwest Scotland. The bay is located around three miles northwest of Lochinver, which is another popular stop along the NC500. Additionally, you’ll find Achmelvich Beach around 40 miles north of the larger town of Ullapool.
How to Get to Achmelvich Beach
The easiest way to get to Achmelvich Beach in the Highlands of Scotland is with your own set of wheels. Of course, if you’re driving the famed NC500 then this will be no bother. Achmelvich Beach is accessed via a long single-track road just off the B869. As you near the beach, you’ll see signs for the Achmelvich Beach Car Park to the right, just after passing the NC500 Pods on the left.
Of course, if you don’t have access to your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring something. When hiring a car, we always get the ball rolling with a search on RentalCars.com. Booking a car with Rentalcars.com is easy and stress-free, plus they offer an unbeatable free cancellation policy too.
Achmelvich Beach Car Park
The Achmelvich Beach Car Park is of decent size but becomes very busy during peak season. Even the sandy track leading into the car park can become very congested. Hilariously, Dan and I encountered a convoy of young men in their soft-top sports cars trying to access the Achmelvich Beach Car Park as we were trying to leave. They had no qualms about driving up the sand dunes to pass us. But, for most of us drivers, just check on traffic and make use of the passing points.
Next to the car park are public toilets. The Achmelvich Beach Car Park is also free to park in. To access the beach, you’ll head down the boardwalk to the sand or can walk across the machair (low-lying grasslands found in northwest Scotland).
Achmelvich Beach From Ullapool
If driving the NC500 in a clockwise direction and heading up from Ullapool, you can expect a drive time of around one hour with a distance of 40 miles (64km). You’ll follow the A835 up towards Inchnadamph, where you’ll join the A837 at the Ledmore Junction. As you near Lochinver, take the B869 to Achmelvich Beach.
If you’re not driving, you can take the bus from Ullapool to Achmelvich Bay. At a 1.5 hour journey time, it really isn’t a bad option. From the Ullapool Ferry Terminal bus stop, take bus #809 towards Drumbeg, and alight at the Achmelvich Youth Hostel. From here, it’s a simple 10 minute walk to Achmelvich Beach.
This bus also passes through Lochinver. So, if you’re staying in Lochinver, you could easily just take the bus from there for a day trip, or half-day trip, even. The journey time to Achmelvich Beach is about 25 minutes.
A Complete Guide to Achmelvich Beach
If you’re looking to tick off some of the best beaches on the NC500, then Achmelvich Beach and Bay have to be top of the list. These are some of the Achmelvich Beach highlights you can expect. But remember, part of what makes Achmelvich Beach so wonderful is its remote location. So, you won’t find any shops, restaurants or petrol stations here. Instead, stock up at nearby Lochinver first.
Of course, first and foremost is the stunning white sand beach. Find a spot to lay that towel down and relax. The turquoise waters are unbelievably inviting for a dip (if the weather allows). In fact, you’ll scarcely believe you’re in Scotland and not the Mediterranean. Water skiing, windsurfing and coasteering are all popular activities at Achmelvich Beach. As is wildlife spotting. In fact, it’s not unusual to spot dolphins or porpoises out in Achmelvich Bay. You’ll have to be a little luckier to spot Minke Whales though.
Achmelvich Bay Coastal Trails
If you get a bit restless on the beach, then there are some beautiful coastal trails to explore with stunning views over Achmelvich Bay and the surrounding beach. With a backdrop featuring the mighty Suilven, the views will quite simply take your breath away.
Head north along the coastal trails to reach Vestey’s Beach and for a longer walk, you could even head all the way to Clachtoll Beach. Heading south along Achmelvich Beach, you can reach Sinky Sands (epic name!) which is a small but much quieter cove at Achmelvich. If you continue even further south along the headland, you’ll reach Hermit’s Castle.
I should warn you, Hermit’s Castle is not quite what you’ll be expecting. The stone structure was built in the 1950s by David Scott, an English architect who only spent one month at Hermit’s Castle before leaving. Since then, it’s been vandalised with its windows and doors removed. Remarkably, it’s not uncommon for people to use Hermit’s Castle as a bothy. I mean, it does kinda scream out to be a both.
From a distance, Hermit’s Castle does indeed look like a fort, disguised in a way by the surrounding rocks. But, as you near Hermit’s Castle, you’ll soon be thinking the structure would look much more at home in a model village somewhere. Its scale is somewhat surprising. Ultimately, you’ll realise calling Hermit’s Castle ‘a castle’ is stretching it a bit. But, it’s worth a look whilst at Achmelvich Bay.
Why Should You Visit Achmelvich Beach?
Well, quite simply, Achmelvich Beach is one of the most sublime beaches in the entire UK. Its remote location in the Scottish Highlands is what makes Achmelvich just so inviting. Indeed, it’s nice to spend time at a beach that still feels wild, without the build-up of infrastructure that sometimes ruins the calm and tranquillity of natural places.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Achmelvich Beach?
You can visit Achmelvich Beach all year round. But, if you’re looking to enjoy a dip in the bay and laze on the sand for an extended period, then you should look to visit Achmelvich Beach in the summer months. Typically June to August will be the warmest months for swimming and other water sports.
Of course, the summer months also coincide with peak tourism. So, expect a busier Achmelvich Beach and car park. Dan and I visited Achmelvich Bay on our North Coast 500 road trip in August. Although we found the car park to be quite busy, we were pleasantly surprised the beach didn’t feel too overcrowded. Late spring and early autumn would probably make for quieter times to visit, still enjoying mild weather conditions.
It’s always good to know what weather to expect when visiting Scotland and touring the NC500. You can check the MET weather forecast for Achmelvich Beach here.
Is Achmelvich Beach Dog Friendly?
As far as we know, dogs are allowed on Achmelvich Beach. But, owners must keep their dogs under control and pick up after them. You’ll find plenty of notices around the beach with guidance, advice and information. But the same message goes for everybody, leave no trace.
Other Attractions Near Achmelvich Bay
- Waterfall chasing: there are plenty of stunning waterfalls along the NC500. Close to Achmelvich Beach, you’ll find Clashnessie Waterfall, Eas a Chual Aluinn (Britain’s biggest waterfall) and Wailing Widow Falls.
- Actual castles: of course, it’s worth checking out Hermit’s Castle at Achmelvich Beach. But, for some real castle ruins, you should check out nearby Ardvreck Castle.
- Other quality Beaches: further north along the coast is Clachtoll Beach, another beach you must check out along the NC500. You might also want to consider stopping at Oldshoremore Beach
and Lochinver Beach along the NC500.
- Hiking Haven: beginning from Lochinver is one of the best hikes along the NC500. The full-day hike to Suilven is exceptional. Additionally, you’ll find the hikes of Quinag and The Bone Caves not too far away either.
- Kylesku Bridge: is one of the most photographed bridges in the UK. There are even two car parks on either side of Kylesku Bridge in which to pull in and admire.
Where to Stay Near Achmelvich Bay on the NC500
Achmelvich is a small and remote settlement. Still, there are a few campsite and accommodation options if you want to stay at Achmelvich Beach. Let’s take a look.
- Budget – Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel: situated right on the beachfront and next to the car park is the Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel. This budget accommodation option offers a buffet breakfast and the use of a shared kitchen for cooking. Guests love the location and facilities.
- Mid-range – Achmelvich View: for self-catering accommodation, Achmelvich View offers a fully equipped chalet-style apartment with fabulous views across Achmelvich Bay.
- Luxury – NC500 Pods: you’ll struggle to find a better stay than the NC500 Pods right on the Achmelvich Beach front. The bijoux units come with fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms. There is also the use of BBQ facilities and a terrace. If you’re looking for a step up from camping, but with all the same remote qualities at Achmelvich Beach, then this would be a wonderful stay.
One of the most popular ways to stay at Achmelvich Beach is by camping. On the headland to the south of Achmelvich is Shore Caravan and Camping Site. In fact, it’s not too far from the location of Hermit’s Castle. At this Achmelvich campsite, you have the option to pitch your tent, hook up the caravan or camper and even rent one of the static caravans onsite. The views across Achmelvich Bay are, to be expected, outstanding. Especially catching a sunset on the west coast of Scotland.
The Shore Caravan and Camping Site features a laundrette, shop and even its own chippy! Additionally, there are high-quality amenities blocks. As to be expected, this very popular Achmelvich Beach campsite books out months in advance and so, if you have your heart set on camping here, you’ll need to be organised.
Dan and I actually stayed at Ardmair Point Holiday Park in Ullapool. Our tent pitch was great and the facilities top notch. For a spot of glamping, you can’t go far wrong with a stay at West Coast Hideaways in nearby Nedd. Units come with a hot tub, so a stay here would be perfect in summer and winter. The drive up to Achmelvich Bay is very straightforward.
Can You Camp at Achmelvich Beach?
Of course, wild camping is permitted throughout Scotland. So, if you don’t mind roughing it in a tent with no facilities for the night or you have a camper to snuggle down in, then you can find your own little slice of Achmelvich heaven to spend the night. By all accounts, you can camp on the beach. But, remember to leave your car in the car park and don’t drive over or park and pitch on the machair.
If you have any updates on wild camping at Achmelvich Beach, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Travel Insurance For the NC500
Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a real must. Especially if taking on a road trip like the NC500.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Dan and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Use the widget below to suss out a quote today.
Five Travel Essentials For Achmelvich Bay
These are our five gear essentials for visiting Achmelvich Beach, Scotland! For a more extensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Alternatively, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Scotland and the North Coast 500, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight and perfect for the coastal walks around Achmelvich Bay.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket, because you know, this is Scotland.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for day trips, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm when the sun drops.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen. A picnic at Achmelvich Beach is also wonderful. Oh, and don’t forget towels and swimmers if you’re feeling brave.
- Sunsets: given its location, sunsets over Achmelvich Bay are particularly wonderful. Pack some warm gear and your camera equipment and enjoy the show.
- Achmelvich Camping: remember, you’ll need to book way in advance to stay at the Achmelvich Campsite (Shore Caravan and Camping Site).
- Stress-free NC500: if you want the planning taken out of your NC500 itinerary, then GetYourGuide offers some pretty spectacular tours around the Scottish Highlands.
Scotland is easily one of our favourite hiking destinations and the beaches here have blown us away. Let us know in the comments some of your favourite places in Scotland!