Sutherland is the least populated place in Britain; and while journeying north to reach the isolated community of Durness, the emptiness and desolation may prove slightly unnerving for city-slickers out on a rare trip north. For this reason, when the wide-eyed traveller finally rides into the wee village of Durness (population 400) it takes on the proportions and atmosphere of somewhere much, much bigger.
Travelling through the beautiful, brutal scenery to this top north-western corner of Scotland is a sensational experience, and taken slowly (stopping off at the other Cool Camping sites along the west coast, perhaps) this amazing journey will surprise, delight, shock, and provoke any other emotion it is possible to feel from wandering through such high, wild places. Once any sober mind has made it past Ullapool to Durness, it will be hard-pressed to recall any other place in Britain that quite captures this same essence of wilderness.
This is the setting for Sango Sands. It wouldn’t matter if this campsite doubled up as the local bus shelter, for it offers succour to the weary traveller when it seemed that the world had ended, which, in effect, it does just here. Sango Sands teeters on the northern edge of Britain in glorious fashion, a fitting end to the trek through all that emptiness – a view out to infinity. Its unique north-facing location at the very top of Scotland means that in summer you can watch the sun both rise and set over the ocean. That is if you aren’t lying in your sleeping bag, exhausted from all the outdoor adventuring that you can’t help yourself doing in this wild and windswept corner of the land.
If you can drag your eyes away from the view of mountains on two-and-a-half sides, and the endless ocean on the other three (really, this is fact, not an optical illusion) then the campsite itself is fairly ordinary. But you can’t and it isn’t.
There are several fields to camp in, and the most picturesque spots are by the steep slopes above the beaches. But there are other thoughtfully prepared areas for tents, which give children ample room to kick a ball away from nearby cars. It was in one of these quieter spots that we were joined for breakfast by a playful stoat. There are caravans littering the site in places, but they are invisible because the scenery is that big. There are several toilet blocks, and we are sure they are absolutely fine, but despite several visits to Sango Sands our intrepid(ish) crew cannot remember a thing about them. All they can recall, collectively, is the astounding journey to get there and the mind-blowing view from the site.
The place boasts an embarrassment of sandy blessings with not one but two spectacular beaches easily reached by tracks from the site. The land and sea might meet here, but it’s clear that they don’t really get on. The beach is scattered with black rocks carved from ancient cliffs by centuries of northern storms. The power of the waves makes it a favourite spot of surfers and you can hire boards nearby if you fancy joining in. Or if the waves aren’t too pounding it is possible to swim.
That’s the thing about Durness: it may be remote but there’s a lot to do. A few miles west is the aptly named Cape Wrath, where the Vikings turned for home after a successful marauding session.You can visit it by catching a ferry and then a minibus – there’s a lighthouse, the highest sea cliffs in Britain and a thrilling sense of freedom.Then you can return to your tent on its cliff-top eyrie and stay awake for that late, late sunset.
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WOW what a view, we were lucky enough to get a cliff top pitch with views of mountains, beautiful beach and sea that went on and on and on. A fantastic site that hits all the spots. The outline of this site is correct you don't notice other caravans, motorhomes or tents because the whole time you are mesmerized by the stunning view.
The site facilities were basic however more than adequate, your camping not at a five star spa break. There are two local shops, a petrol station and two resturants within walking distance. We ate at the pub attached to the site which was very reasonablly prices the food was maybe not the best and the veg obvioulsy frozen however when your this remote what do you really expect?
The test of a good site for me is would I go back - Yes, would I recommend to others - HELL YEAH.
Tents, campervans, caravans, groups, dogs – yes.
120+ pitches, 64 hook-ups. 3 washblocks, 1 solely dedicated to showers (free). Waste disposal, dishwashing and laundry facilities. Fantastically, everyone has the use of a kitchen with free gas. Campers need to book if a hook-up is required. No campfires. Note: although the campsite itself is dog-friendly, the Oasis pub on the campsite is not.
Balnakiel craft village is an old MOD station that now has lots of individual galleries, cafés and workshops. Durness golf course welcomes visitors and has a terrific last hole over the ocean. Smoo Cave is the largest sea cave in Britain and is just a 15-minute walk away. There is a peaceful public garden dedicated to John Lennon in Durness village – he regularly holidayed here as a boy.
If it rains
It will be travelling that fast you won’t see it. The beach surrounding the site is great for surfing. Or head to Smoo Cave, it doesn’t appear to leak too badly. There are several cafés within walking distance from the site. Cape Wrath is another option that involves a ferry and minibus ride (01971 511343) or take your own bike if you don’t mind getting wet.
Food & Drink
The Oasis Bar and restaurant, managed by the campsite owners, offers great food and local music, plus it's right next to the site!
April–October. Camping available at other times but without facilities.
Flat rates for adults £6.50, plus first child £4, second child £2.40, additional children free. Hook-ups £3.70.
There’s a regular, but infrequent, bus service from Inverness. See Traveline (www.travelinescotland.com) for times.