Push the boat out
If you are one of these people who, on a trip to the beach, is not content to just take in the view but want to dive in, to explore the inviting oceans, feel the waves and explore the coastline then read on. Rain or shine then you can’t have any more fun down the beach than if you have a boat.
Balranald Bay View as the name suggests is poised right on the edge of a fantastic sandy beach. Paddle directly west from here and you will eventually arrive at Canada, for those seeking a slightly less daunting challenge then there are a large number of secluded and sheltered bays and inlets you can explore directly from the house. For more experienced kayakers a trip to the Monach Isles makes a great day out and for the really adventurous then St Kilda is possible in a day. Be warned, big swells and tricky navigation can easily thwart the loftiest of ambitions. The other advantage that paddlers have over ‘beach potatoes’ is that you don’t always need perfect weather to have fun. Rain seldom deters wildlife so even in the most dreich conditions it is possible to paddle alongside seals and otters. Kayak and wetsuit storage is available in the large shed.
Dolphin View cottages sit on the sheltered waters of the Dornoch Firth. With enticing views across the sea to Dornoch it’s hard not to get inspired. Dolphins are often spotted swimming in the bay, almost inviting you to come and join them. A great paddle from here would be along the coast and around the point, past the lighthouse at Tarbat Ness. There are rocky coves all the way around the coast where you could stop and explore.
Oran na Mara has been designed from the very beginning with a nautical theme in mind. The huge windows have been specifically designed to make the most of the sensational views. Materials from nearby Scarista beach were used in the construction to make the transition from beach to indoors almost seamless. Even the bath has been shaped to mimic a boat with the shower screen as its sail. The coastline and islands in this area are a sea kayaker’s dream with caves to explore by boat and a natural arch you can paddle through at toe head. The islands of Taransay and Ensay can be visited with relative ease and there are no shortage of white sandy beaches for a lunchtime picnic.
Shore House at Gairloch could not be much closer to the water’s edge. At high tide the shoreline touches the front garden. The owner has made a considerable effort to clear a channel through the stony beach so now those with boats, windsurfers or paddle boards can access the water with ease at low tide. The now uninhabited isle of Longa lies invitingly close and the amazing Big Sand beach just a short walk down the shore.
If paddling about just for the sake of it does not appeal then Druidaig Lodge offers the chance to spend an altogether different day out on the water. Relaxing on the open sea, fishing rod in hand is a sublime pleasure and for guests at the lodge it is also incredibly convenient. Fishing on Loch Duich and in the hill lochs above the house is included in the rental, and there is a private slipway on the loch just below the house where you can launch your own boat either for fun sailing or serious sea fishing. If you do not have your own boat, then you can rent one in nearby Letterfearn.
The Gate Lodge sits right on the shores of West Loch Tarbert, in times past the Royal Yacht would cruise these waters on the Royal Family’s annual island holiday but today you need only pack your sea kayak to take in the splendid surroundings. There is direct access to a pebble beach just out the front door and a sandy beach is just a 10 minute drive away. Further along the Kilberry road there are coves, inlets and amazing views over to Gigha, Islay and Jura.