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Sango Beach

Sited in the centre of Durness close to the Tourist Information, Sango is a series of three small inlets exposing areas of sandy beach popular with visitors being obvious from the road and easily reached.

The dune system and coastal slope have been strengthened by tying brushwood in to the sand to stabilise and encourage root growth of the grasses and deposits of topsoil from local excavations have been laid down at distant times.


The access to Sango beach was improved by the construction of steps in 1995 after concern about the erosion to the coastal slope from entry and exit to the sands by unsuitable routes. Sango as an accolade as an award winning beach. In 2011 the Highland Council removed the steps after occasions required repairs and re sighting due to sand movement and tide damage. Risk assessment indicated that the steps were unsafe and did not meet safety standards.

In March 1998, a path was constructed to the headland above Sango beach to provide access to a viewpoint.

The following is taken from a commissioned report Beaches of Sutherland A survey of the beach, dune and machair areas of north and west Sutherland Commissioned by the Countryside Commission for Scotland, 1969. W. Ritchie and A. Mather.
This report is reproduced with the permission of Scottish Natural Heritage. The views expressed by the author(s) of this report should not be taken as the views and policies of Scottish Natural Heritage.


Sango Bay (Sangomore) is situated on the root of the Balnakeil peninsula very near to Durness and is close to, and readily accessible from, the main north coast road. The beach is over 1/2 a mile long, although it is divided into three parts by rocky protuberances. The inter-tidal zone is nearly 150 yards wide, with a small area of upper beach between high water mark and the cliff-foot at the extreme southern end of the beach.

The general trend of the coastline is northwest to southeast, although a number of fairly small indentations, usually connected with the geological structure, complicate the trend.

The geological structure is very complex. The north headland of the beach, Creag Thairbhe, is of limestone, and marks the fault-bounded northern limit of the limestone outcrop. Immediately to the north of this headland, another small beach, Geodha Brat, occupies a depression in the down faulted schist block. The Sango Bay itself coincides with an outcrop of gneiss and schists which have been weakened by movements associated with the Moine Thrust, and the small rocky headlands jutting out into the bay are explained by local variations within this metamorphic outcrop. The south headland is of limestone, which is separated from the metamorphics by another fault which trends in a north easterly direction and which forms the southern boundary of the beach. Inland the depression in the metamorphic rocks is continued in the gently sloping Sangomore valley, but the valley hangs above the beach from which it is separated by a cliff of 50 or more feet high. The offshore ground shelves out very gently. The five fathom line is almost 1/2 a mile offshore, but further out the depth increases more rapidly. Glacial till has been deposited in the Sangomore valley right up to the cliff edge, and the deposits probably continue offshore. In the inner part of the bay the ground appears to be sandy, although further out there is much rocky and weedy ground. To the northeast there is a large stretch of sand extending from off the Aodann Mhòr headland almost to An Dubh-sgeir immediately to the northeast of Eilean Hoan

Exposure is very severe to the northeast quarter. The inner bay is littered with many small stacks and fragments of a now buried abrasion platform, which lend some protection to the cliff-foot but there are no large reefs or skerries offshore to refract the wave pattern and to give rise to atypical beach plans such as those of Sangobeg and Traigh Allt Chailgeag. Likewise there is no shelter from winds blowing from the north or northeast, and this very strong exposure to these winds has meant that sand has been able to surmount the barrier of the cliff and spread out over the cliff top.

Despite the strong exposure, comparatively little marine erosion is taking place. Active cliffing is no longer occurring at the back of the beach, although occasional undercutting of the blown sand accumulation protecting the cliff-foot still occurs. The narrow headlands jutting out across the beach are still subject to erosion, and the stacks and skerries immediately offshore testify to cliff recession that has gone on. The north headland of Creag Thairbhe is being eroded, especially on its north side where the cliff line coincides with a fault, while the limestone on the south headland is also being attacked by the various erosional processes affecting that rock.

In terms of marine processes, the beach is moderately stable. The beach is tending to rotate in an anti-clockwise direction, with material being swept into the southeast corner of the bay, where the groyne-like headland prevents further movement. This tendency towards accretion in the southeast corner of the bay is further evidenced by the formation of small offshore sandbanks at the limestone cliff-foot.

Comparatively little of the material of the beach is derived from local cliff erosion, especially since limestone erosion is unlikely to yield sand. Most of the beach sand must be derived from offshore glacial deposits, although a certain proportion of it may be reworked material which has been blown right across the Balnakeil peninsula and into the sea once again. Another source of small quantities of sediment will be the small stream flowing into the middle of the beach.

The blowing inland of sand from the upper beach and inter-tidal zone is greatly restricted by the cliff backing the beach. The presence of this cliff means that the area affected by blown sand is confined to a narrow cliff top zone and evidence of accumulation forms and sand-modified vegetation disappears very rapidly inland. However, quite large accumulations of sand have built up against the cliff-foot, particularly at either end of the beach, and these accumulations act as inclined planes facilitating the movement of sand up the cliff and onto the flat cliff top. On the cliff slope a few erosion scars have appeared in the extreme southeast but the main process in operation is slow soil creep. Active marram colonisation is taking place on the mounds of sand piled up against the cliff-foot, but further up on the straight slope relative stability is evidenced by the presence of machair swards. Likewise on the flat spreads of blown sand on the cliff top, where sections show evidence of a number of periods of active blowing followed by long periods of relative stability during which soil formation occurred, the main form of vegetation is the machair sward. On the central parts of the cliff top, severe wind erosion is proceeding, which has completely stripped the layer of blown sand in places and exposed the underlying till. On the north section, near the headland at 407680, a long sand face has developed orientated parallel to the cliff line and facing northeast, which is presumably the direction from which the most damaging winds have occurred, although it seems that southeast winds have also had an influence in extending the face. The method of advance of this, and many other scars, is for fresh sand accumulation to occur on the lip of the scar, and unless vigorous marram is present, kills off the protective vegetation cover and so promotes the collapse of the undercut upper layers of sand. In the central part of the cliff top, stripping has occurred right back to the line of the road, and sand accumulation and recolonisation by vegetation is beginning to resume. The exhumed till provides a relatively hospitable medium for vegetation development, however, so that the stripped surface is less unsightly than would have been the case had the till not been present. Wind erosion is also proceeding rapidly on the southern section of the cliff top, the area most used for caravanning and camping at present. Here again most of the scars are linear features orientated roughly in a northeast to southwest direction, although in places, particularly on the small protruding headlands, there is a strong southwest to northeast element in the orientation.

The extreme northern section of the beach, between the narrow headland at 407680 and Creag Thairbhe is backed by a steep cliff of 70ft or more in height, and no blowing inland of sand has occurred so that here the cliff top is sand free.

Unlike most of the machair or blown sand areas investigated, the blown sand zone of Sango Bay is very narrow. Nevertheless, this blown sand or machair zone has been separated in terms of tenure and use from the croft land and is part of the common grazing, with sheep being grazed all the year round.

Sheep rubbing appears to be closely associated with the extension and enlargement of erosion scars, and rabbits probably played a part in the past. The locational attractiveness and ease of access from the road of the cliff top machair means that the main use at the present day, at least in summer, is for caravanning and camping. The completely stripped area is not used by tourists, who tend to concentrate on the more southerly section to the southeast of the stream. Here extensive tracking has occurred, with multiple track formation and the destruction of the vegetation cover in places. This practice can only serve to aggravate the natural erosional processes already in operation and lead to the further run-down of the environment.

Indeed there is an atmosphere of great untidyness, perhaps temporarily accentuated by constructional work on a new sewage outlet. It is suggested that efforts be made to improve the visual amenity of Sango Bay, as well as to try to ensure physical conservation, and an important first step in this direction would be the prevention of caravanning. It is suggested that the provision of caravanning facilities at a nearby more resilient beach such as Balnakeil might help to alleviate the pressure, and it is to be hoped that eventually Sango Bay will be able to revert to a natural beauty spot free from all signs of recreational squalor.


To day there is a very well kept and asset to Durness with the Sango Sands camp site. The beach access is unmarked although attempts locally have been made to encourage a single access people tend to use the shortest route through the dunes.

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