Skip to Content

How To Visit Melvich Beach On Scotland’s NC500

How To Visit Melvich Beach On Scotland’s NC500

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.

Read our Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 post.

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.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Public Transport

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.

Melvich Bay next to Portskerra and River Halladale

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.

Melvich Beach in Scotland next to Portskerra and River Halladale


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?

As Dan and I were driving the NC500 in a clockwise direction, our next stops would include Dunnet Head (guide coming soon), Duncansby Head, Old Keiss Castle and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.

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.

Dan walks along the coastal trail next to Old Keiss Castle in Scotland towards the harbour
Old Keiss Castle

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.

Read more: 25 Best Beaches Along The NC500

Achmelvich Beach next to Clachtoll Scotland
Achmelvich Beach

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.

Melvich Hotel 

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.

Halladale Inn

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. 

Melvich Campsites

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.

Melvich Beach next to Portskerra and River Halladale

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.

Heymondo is one of the best budget travel insurance providers on the market. They provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance that won’t break the bank. Whether it’s single trip insurance, annual multi-trip insurance or long stay insurance, Heymondo offers affordable travel and medical insurance to suit all of your needs. Personally, we use Heymondo travel insurance and highly recommend it. To find out more about Heymondo travel and medical insurance, read our Heymondo travel insurance review.

Travel Insurance

Heymondo Travel Insurance

Don’t leave for your trip without booking travel insurance. We all know accidents can happen and having Heymondo travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong. Click the button below to receive a 5% discount!

Five Travel Essentials For Melvich Beach, Scotland

These are our five travel essentials for visiting Melvich Beach in Scotland. You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen. Also, a picnic is a great idea by the side of the River Halladale.

Anker Portable Power Bank
Anker Portable Power Bank

Keep your phone, laptop and other accessories charged while you’re on the go with the Anker Portable Power Bank. We wouldn’t travel without this high-quality portable charger.

Sea to Summit DryLite Towel
Sea to Summit DryLite Towel

The Sea to Summit DryLite Towel is the best quick-dry microfibre towel. This compact, lightweight and super-absorbent towel is perfect for travel.

EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter
EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter

Having an EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter is one of the best accessories to travel with, especially if you’re travelling to multiple continents during your trip.

Noise Cancelling Headphones
Noise Cancelling Headphones

If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly yet high-quality noise-cancelling headphones for travel, then look no further than the Anker Soundcore Space Q45.

Wise Multi-Currency Card
Wise Multi-Currency Card

We use the Wise Multi-Currency Card to pay online and when we travel abroad. It’s really easy to use and a lot cheaper than using bank cards. To order a free card, click the button below.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite travel gear, camera gear and hiking gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Bonus Tips

  • 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.

Share this post with your NC500 road trip buddies!

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *