When you take it at face value, this site should be everything that Cool Camping is not: a council-owned site; run by the Caravan Club, with wardens in mint-green uniforms; and rules everywhere.
Now it’s true that at the height of summer it can seem like Caravan City with room for only a few tents jammed up against the dunes. But therein lies the secret. The site is slap-bang next to the sand dunes of a huge sweeping bay. Long stalks of dune grass practically reach over a small wooden fence to touch your tent.
The restless waves of the Pentland Firth attract surfers from far and wide. But Dunnet Bay is one of the north coast’s trump cards. With a mile or more of white sand stretching like a crescent moon to the cliffs of Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of mainland Britain, it’s a spectacular setting. With a bit of sunshine, a few tinnies of beer and the odd shout of ‘Ripper, mate!’ and you could swear you were on Bondi Beach in Australia. Well, almost.
For those with a head for heights, there’s a road roaming for five miles over bleak and brown scrubland up towards the cliff-top at Dunnet Head. Up there is the lighthouse built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather with views over Gills Bay and across the channel between the headland and Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. On a clear day, you can see the breadth of Scotland from up here – from Cape Wrath in the east to John o’Groats in the west – and it’s worth putting up with a few too many caravans at the campsite for that alone.
FacilitiesPristinely kept toilets and hot showers. Dishwashing and laundry facilities. Wheelchair access and disabled shower room. Motorhome service point. Wi-Fi near the reception area. No campfires, but BBQs permitted
Suitable ForTents, campervans, caravans, dogs (on a lead at all times), non-members – yes.
NearbyA day trip over to Orkney from John O’Groats or Scrabster won’t disappoint – you can hop the whole string of islands by boat and coach. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, take a ferry trip around the Stacks of Duncansby for the chance to see kittiwakes, fulmars (a relation of the albatross), guillemots, razorbills, puffins and, of course, plenty of sea gulls. If it rains, visit Mary-Ann’s cottage in Dunnet village. It’s an old croft, left intact after the death of its 93-year-old owner – and she had kept it just as her grandfather had.
Food & Drink
The lounge bar at the Northern Sands Hotel (01651 842214), half a mile away, has leather chairs and wood panelling and serves a decent pint and excellent sandwiches. For those who want a little more rock with their roll, head over to Thurso for Top Joe’s at the Central Hotel (01847 893129).
Opening TimesGenerally early April – early October, but the dates change slightly each season, so if it’s spring or autumn best check before you go.
Contact Dunnet Bay, Dunnet, Thurso, Caithness KW14 8XD
A regular daily bus service runs from Thurso to Dunnet (except on Sundays).
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★☆ over 2 reviews
Great location - just a few too many rules!
Just back from a trip up north & we stayed one night here.
They only have two pitches set aside for tents but if there is space and there are no more vans booked in they will take more tents.
Arrive before 20:00 if you want to get in, after that the gates are shut and the warden has an eve off.
£17 for one night for two of us a car and a tiny tent felt a bit steep, but they do have great facilities and the pitches were big and flat. Try and get one away from a hook up point as they have a bright light on top of them and shine in the tent all night like a search light, we ended up fastening a bin liner round it!
There are rules about rules on this site, how you pitch, where you put your car, no cycling, vacating the toilet block 5 minutes before scheduled cleaning time and when I was getting showered, a lady (not official) telling us how to rotate through the showers correctly to ensure efficient "throughput"! Definitely not an open fires kind of site!
All that aside - the wardens are friendly and the location is brilliant. Right next to the dunes of Dunnet Bay. In true camping spirit we went down onto the beach with our hot-mugs to watch the sun set and it was stunning & deserted. Everyone else was tucked up in their caravans and campers watching TV. No other free spirits out there enjoying nature - all the more for us ;-)
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