The lightly toasted golden tones of Melvich Beach are some of the most vibrant along the NC500 in north Scotland. Looking out across the turquoise waters of Melvich Bay is a relaxing experience. As too is wandering along the mouth opening of the River Halladale, which flows out into Melvich Bay and beyond into the Pentland Firth. The village of Portskerra makes for a wonderful place to stay, as well as a good spot to admire the beach. In short, Melvich Beach is one of the best stops along the northern coastline of the NC500.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to visit Melvich Beach, Scotland, on the NC500, including other awesome beaches along this iconic Scottish road trip.
To see footage of the wider 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 post on Beaches Along the NC500 (guide coming soon). Otherwise, read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post, where we talk about 18 incredible NC500 hikes.
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Where Is Melvich Beach?
Melvich Beach and its golden sands and rippling dunes lie on the very north coast of Scotland. The perfect crescent-shaped bay is overlooked by the small villages of Melvich and Portskerra. The mouth of the River Halladale is located to the southeast of Melvich Beach, surrounded by the cliffs of Rubha an Tuir.
Melvich Beach, town and bay fall within the historic county of Sutherland in the Highlands of Scotland. The A836 road passes right through the small village of Melvich, making the beach an easy addition to any NC500 itinerary.
Melvich Beach is around 27km (17 miles) and a 30-minute drive west of Thurso – the most northerly town on mainland Britain. Use the interactive Google Map below to check out where to find this excellent Scottish beach.
How to Get to Melvich Beach
The easiest way to get to Melvich Beach in Scotland is with your own set of wheels. Of course, if you’re driving the NC500 then this is easy. Melvich Bay is accessed very easily along the A836. East of Portskerra is the entrance to Melvich Beach Car Park. The road is unpaved and bumpy and so not suitable for caravans. If you have a caravan, simply park up in the lay-by next to where the track turns off from the A836.
The car park for Melvich Beach lies at the southern point of the bay. Indeed, the views from the car park are pretty outstanding. Parking is free but unfortunately, you won’t find much in the way of amenities here. Au natural it is. But, you can find the nearest public toilets here, next to the Melvich Hotel.
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.
Given how close Melvich Beach is to the town of Thurso, it’s quite easy to take a bus to the bay if you prefer. From Sir George’s Street Church bus stop in town, take the #276 Dounreay bus to Site Road End. Then, change to the #274 bus towards Bettyhill and alight at Rowanbank and walk down to Melvich Bay. The journey time is around one hour. We recommend using Google Maps to plan your journey, and you can check the bus timetables here.
What to Expect at Melvich Beach
Melvich Beach is a beautiful stretch of golden sands and calm turquoise waters along the NC500. In fact, the rich terracotta hues of Melvich Bay were some of the most vibrant of the golden sand beaches we visited along the famous road trip.
The name ‘Melvich’ comes from the Norse ‘Mel Vik’ meaning ‘sand dune bay’. And yes, you’ll see plenty of those surrounding the beach. With the lack of housing and township surrounding Melvich Bay, the beach has a wild and remote feel about it, and we loved it!
Is There an Entrance Fee to Melvich Beach?
Melvich Beach, just like most beaches on the NC500, is completely free to visit.
What Are the Melvich Beach Opening Times?
You can visit Melvich Beach any time of day, any time of the year.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Melvich Beach?
Given its location on the north coast of Scotland, you’ll be relying on the summer months to enjoy lying out on the golden sands of Melvich Beach, and not getting cold. The warmest months to visit are between June and August. Of course, summer also coincides with peak tourism, so expect Melvich Beach to be much busier. Although, Dan and I found Melvich Beach to be one of the quietest beaches we visited along the NC500, and we went in August.
During late spring, the grassy dunes are covered in a carpet of yellow cowslip. If you want to see Melvich Beach in bloom, then visit in spring.
It’s always good to know what weather to expect when visiting Scotland and touring the NC500. You can check the weather forecast for Melvich Beach here.
What to Do at Melvich Beach
The golden sands of Melvich Beach are uber enticing. We suggest a paddle and a picnic as you stop off along the NC500. Additionally, you can take a walk through the dunes, enjoy the Halladale River where it meets Melvich Bay and of course stop for a bit of wildlife spotting.
Melvich Beach is a popular surf beach too, so it’s nice to set up on the sand and watch the action.
From Melvich Beach, it’s easy to pop into the small village of Portskerra. Here, you can walk down to Portskerra Harbour, which is a natural harbour created by coastal rocks and utilised by local anglers and crofting villagers. It’s a beautiful spot where you’ll be unlikely to see many others. From Portskerra Harbour, you’ll enjoy views of Strathy Point and Strathy Bay to the west, as well as views reaching up to Dounreay to the east. And of course, looking back south from Portskerra Harbour are wonderful sweeping views of Melvich Bay.
The walk to Portskerra Harbour also visits the Drownings Memorial. The Drownings Memorial was built to commemorate three tragedies and those who died there.
Where Next Along the NC500?
If driving the NC500 in an anti clockwise direction, you’ll next pass Durness for some more excellent NC500 beaches, Kylesku Bridge (guide coming soon) and Lochinver for the incredible hikes to Suilven and Falls of Kirkaig.
List of Other NC500 Beaches Close to Melvich Bay
- Balnakeil Beach: a truly stunning beach of white sand and undulating dunes.
- Clachtoll Beach: one of our favourite beaches on the NC500.
- Achmelvich Beach: a very popular NC500 beach that is perfect for sunset and watersport lovers.
- Sango Sands: golden sands await along with the famous Smoo Cave.
- Ceannabeinne Beach: where you’ll find the UK’s most northern zipline!
- Oldshoremore Beach: one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches, connected to two others via a pretty coastal walk.
- Strathy Beach: caves and sea stacks galore along this beach to Strathy Point.
Where to Stay at Melvich Bay
The villages of Melvich and Portskerra surrounding the beach may be small, but here you’ll find two excellent accommodation options; the Melvich Hotel and the Halladale Inn.
The wonderful Melvich Hotel enjoys a prime position overlooking the bay and beach. The traditional guesthouse even has some parts dating back to the 1830s. You’ll find an excellent bar and restaurant here. We hear the pizza is particularly good at Melvich Hotel, and the takeaway option is perfect for enjoying lunch or dinner (or breakfast, we’re not judging), down on the beach.
For visitors who choose to stay, you can expect a tasty full Scottish breakfast, en suite rooms and a relaxing hotel lounge. Melvich Hotel also provides packed lunches, which we think is an excellent touch.
Conveniently located on the A836 is the Halladale Inn. At the Halladale Inn, you’ll find a wonderful bistro which is perfect for a spot of lunch as you explore the northern coast of Scotland. The bistro is open from March to December for breakfast through to dinner. On a Sunday, book in for the ‘North Coast Roast’.
For those wanting somewhere to stay on the doorstep of Melvich Beach and the Halladale River, then the Halladale Inn is a great choice. There’s a choice of glamping pods to choose from, with each pod having its own heating, TV, crockery, cutlery, kettle, table and chairs. They are also located right next to the shower/toilet block.
The Halladale Inn also provides touring caravan and camping facilities. Certainly, this is one of the best-located Melvich Beach campsites close to the River Halladale and the bay. There are electric pitches available, a spacious shower block, a kitchen area and a laundrette. For those taking the kids along, this Melvich campsite has a playground and of course, the bisto is available should you get sick of using the camp kitchen.
Melvich Beach Wild Camping
Portskerra Harbour and Melvich Beach both make epic wild camping locations. Remember to leave to trace and don’t loiter too long into the day.
Travel Insurance For the NC500
Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a necessary evil, 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.
Five Travel Essentials For Melvich Beach, Scotland
These are our five travel essentials for visiting Melvich Beach in 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.
- Beach Towel
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket, because you know, this is still Scotland after all.
- 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 and you want to enjoy a sunset.
You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen. Also, a picnic is a great idea by the side of the River Halladale.
- River Halladale: it’s possible to fish for salmon in the River Halladale.
- More than just beaches: the NC500 has some fabulous beaches, but, it’s the hiking that really blew us away. Be sure to check out some of our favourites including Beinn Alligin, Stac Pollaidh and Beinn Eighe.
- Stress-free NC500: to have the hassle taken out of some of your NC500 trip planning, GetYourGuide offers some pretty spectacular tours around Melvich and Thurso, including surf lessons near Melvich Bay at Balnakeil Beach.
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