Situated close to the village of Durness in north Scotland, Balnakeil beach is a beautiful, white sandy beach, backed by grassy sand dunes. Here is a complete guide.
How To Get To Balnakeil Beach
Balnakeil beach is located two and a half hours from Inverness. It is close to the very north western tip of mainland Scotland, near to the village of Durness.
From the village of Durness, take the minor road heading west towards the small hamlet of Balnakeil.
When you come to the fork in the road, take the road to the right and this will take you to Balnakeil beach.
Just by the ruins of the old Balnakeil church you will find the free car park and the path leading to the beach.
For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.
Balnakeil Beach Entrance Fee
It is free to visit this beautiful beach.
Balnakeil Beach Opening Times
It’s possible to visit Balnakeil Beach every day, all year round.
Best Time To Visit Balnakeil Beach + Tips
A stunning beach if in this area and a beautiful place to spend a warm summers day.
In addition, this large beach never gets overly busy, even in the height of summer.
If you want to have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), it’s recommended that you visit during the autumn or winter months.
There are no food or toilet facilities at this beach.
What To Pack
What To Expect At Balnakeil Beach
This stunning beach is roughly 2 miles wide and is surrounded by huge, grass covered sand dunes.
Facing west, it forms one side of a narrow neck of land that stretches out to the headland of Faraid Head.
Taking a morning swim is one of the best things to do on the North Coast 500.
So with the pristine, soft, white and sand as well as turquoise blue water, you feel as if you are visiting a tropical beach. Although a dip in the sea will remind you that this is not the case!
A great place for a peaceful and calming beach walk, as well as being perfect for a family picnic. Furthermore, children would definitely enjoy playing on the soft sand and hilly sand dunes.
Alternatively, if your feel like something a bit more active and are new to surfing the Dunnet or Balnakeil Beach Beginner Surf Lesson is a great option.
The grassy sand dunes are definitely a great feature of this beautiful, crescent shaped beach as well as being a favoured nesting site for a variety of seabirds.
In addition, Balnakeil Beach is famous for spectacular sunsets that reflect off the turquoise waters and white sands presenting some great photo opportunities.
Moreover, walking along this beach at night during the autumn/winter months will apparently sometimes allow you the magical sight of the famous Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights.
I decided to take a morning swim to wake up on the gloomy day we visited. One of the top recommended things to do in Durness.
Although it was lot different to the experience the previous day at Melvich Beach on our NC500 itinerary.
But at least we could head to Balnakeil Craft Village for a hot chocolate to warm up.
Balnakeil Church and Balnakeil House
Overlooking Balnakeil beach you have two impressive buildings of interest standing on top of the cliffs.
Firstly, next to the beach car park, you will see the atmospheric, ivy covered ruins of the old Balnakeil church. This church was built in the 1600s on the site of an even older religious building.
Sadly, following the construction of a new church in the mid 19th century, this church was abandoned and subsquently fell into disrepair.
An interesting fact about the church is that John Lennon’s (of Beatles fame) aunt, Elisabeth Parkes, is buried in the church graveyard.
Lennon is said to have often stayed with his aunt, in the nearby village of Sangomore during holidays. He last visited this area with his wife, Yoko Ono, in 1969.
Secondly, just 100 m from the church is the imposing white Balnakeil House. The present house dates back to 1744 and has seen many changes.
Built by the Mackay chiefs as a family mansion, Balnakeil House was in fact built on the former site of the summer palace of the medieval Bishops of Caithness.
From the early 1800’s Balnakeil House was occupied by different sheep farming tenants. However, eventually it lay empty for several years and became derelict.
After lengthy talks with Historic Scotland, in 2009, work was finally allowed to start on the renovation of this old house.
In fact, Balnakeil House is now fully restored and has been refurbished into exclusive, luxury holiday lets under the name of Elliot Houses.
Where To Stay In Scotland
Luxury – exploreNESS Apartment
Offering free WiFi and free private parking, exploreNESS Apartment is located in Inverness, just 0.8 miles from Inverness Castle.
The property is less than 0.6 miles from Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and 1.6 miles from Caledonian Thistle.
The apartment features 1 bedroom, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 1 bathroom with a shower. Towels and bed linen are provided.
A buffet breakfast is available daily at the apartment.
Mid-Budget – Loch Earn
Located 1.7 miles from Inverness Castle, Loch Earn provides accommodation with free WiFi and free private parking.
There is also a kitchen in some of the units with a dishwasher, a fridge, and an oven.
A continental breakfast is available daily at the bed and breakfast.
Guests can relax in the garden at the property.
Budget – Inverness Youth Hostel
Just 10 minutes’ walk from Inverness Rail Station, Inverness Youth Hostel offers free private parking and bicycle storage.
Eastgate shopping centre is a 10-minute walk from this hostel. Hootananny, a popular music venue, is just 15 minutes’ walk away.
Culloden Battlefield and its visitor centre is just a 10-minute drive away. The banks of Loch Ness and the country village of Dores are both a 20-minute drive away.
All rooms have a shared bathroom. Packed lunch and luggage storage is available on request.
For more places to stay in Scotland, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.
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