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Balnakeil Beach

1 mile from the center of Durness Balnakeil beach is very easily accessible.The sandy bay with the shell sand, having a high lime content, is crescent shaped and facing west where bathing is safe from pollution, unspoilt and quiet. The area offers unparallel sunsets.


Balnakeil Sands occupy the west side of the neck of land joining the Faraid Head peninsula to the mainland just to the north of Durness in a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The setting of the beach and the long sweep of the beach is unique in the north and west of the county. The beach is nearly 1.25 miles long, with an inter-tidal zone averaging over 200 yards wide. Half way along, the line of the beach is broken by a rocky protuberance washed at high tide. 

The sand dunes are a most obvious feature of the coast, they represent a large range of habitats and form a machair, a grassland of the calcareous type initially stabilised by Marram Grass.

The land is part of Balnakeil Farm, and is used as rough grazing for cattle and sheep. The grazing potential is not high. Rights and traditions and a Land Court Ruling from two generations past ruled Crofters are be allowed to cut bent, a kind of grass, for thatching from Balnakeil. In the Marine conservation Society’s guide to more than one hundred and eighty of Britains best beaches Balnakeil Bay is chosen for special recommendation and is given top of the league status.

At the furthest part of Balnakeil beach and situated behind a small inlet secluded from immediate view is an old boathouse and focus for a small inshore shellfish operation. The crofter still uses the area for fishing but the upturned boat and stone built shelter is no longer used for overnight expeditions and is falling into disrepair. In the not so distant past, this was an ideal and well equipped shelter when travelling to this point was only possible on foot.

The pattern of recreational use tends to be one of short visits during which the tourists walk some distance along the beach and then return to their cars parked at the road end between the churchyard and Balnakeil Farm.


The “Dalkeith” wreck on the second beach of Balnakeil sometimes exposed. Carrying a shipment of iron ore taken from the wreck to Port na con  and loaded on to another ship. There is no confirmation regarding this ( the name may not be correct) and any information would be gratefully received.

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