Sands Caravan and Camping, Gairloch, Wester Ross IV21 2DL
The shop at Sands is possibly the most remarkably stocked campsite store in the country. So much so that, as you check in, you might think the owners James and Marie have gone a wee bit over the top. But then you pitch your tent, breathe in the sea air, look out through the dune grass at the islands and mountains and realise that venison steaks, champagne and colourful kites are EXACTLY what you need right now.
That’s the thing about Sands, it keeps surprising you. The winding road that leads north out of Gairloch seems to be heading nowhere, then a sliver of grassy land gradually unfolds into a wide and welcoming apron bordered by swooping dunes and an epic seascape. Driving in, your first impressions are of a large caravan site, but campers have their own area of rolling duneland with plenty of tent-sized pockets for you to hide away in. This starts just down a winding track from the shop, and it’s worth continuing along to check out the whole site before choosing your spot. Pitches range from secluded hollows to breezy eyries, while the spots in the southern corner are ideally placed by the site’s own slipway – perfect for launching kayaks and other watery adventures.
There are also 12 heated wooden wigwams should you fancy taking it a little easier. These come with firepits (campfires are not allowed anywhere else on the campsite; though right down by the waterside is fine) and sublime views of the sunset as standard. Wherever you are, though, it won’t be long before you’re winding your way through the dunes and down on to the beach to paddle in the irresistibly turquoise water. And even if this is surprisingly cold, don’t worry – the shop sells wetsuits, too.
The beach, of course, is the campsite’s glory. During the day its gently sloping sands call one-and-all for a happy shift of castle-building, swimming and general larking about. Then, when your work is done, you can perch in the grass at the top of the dunes, taking pride in your achievements and watching the blazing sunset over the far tip of Skye. This is a dreamer’s place, and as the sun finally slides into the western ocean, the island of Longa drops into shadow, becoming a humpbacked sea monster, settling down to rest for the night.
With a beach to dig up, dunes to jump down, rocks to graze knees on and woods to go heffalump-hunting in, it’s ironic that the campsite also has an adventure playground – it’s not like it needs one. However, it’s a beauty, and is set right in the middle of the site, forming the perfect spot for young teens to gather and eye each other sheepishly while their parents read the paper. Arrive when the sun is shining and you might also wonder why there is a games room. Well, it has been known to rain in the north-west of Scotland, and you may find yourself very glad of the owners’ foresight. There is also a large indoor cooking and washing-up area, complete with several benches, and a small on-site café where you can pick up your morning cuppa. James and Marie are also planning to lay out a few mountain-bike tracks on some adjacent land. Like there isn’t enough to do here already....
The Owner Says
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Win a £100 Blacks Voucher!
If you've stayed at Sands campsite, please take a minute to tell us about your experience. Every month, one lucky reviewer will be picked at random to win a £100 voucher, courtesy of our recommended retailer Blacks. Each review counts as one entry, so get writing!
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Wonderful family camping by the beach
This was our third trip and we were so impressed. So much space and awesome views make it ideal for families to relax. Onsite shop and restaurant are fab, lots of local produce and even variety for all your meals. We didn't have to leave the site to shop and just spent the days on the beach. Family bathrooms with bath and shower were a huge bonus.
One of the best campsites in Scotland!
Highly organised, well run campsite with a lovely, unspoilt sandy beach and fabulous views over to Skye. Huge camping area with any number of good, flat pitches available and a great rule keeping tents at least 7 metres apart so you always feel secluded and not overlooked. Great drainage so even in wet weather it's not waterlogged. The facilities closest to the tent/wigwam area are really clean, tidy and modern. Lovely hot showers, hairdryers and straighteners (in the ladies anyway). Fab shop with most things you could need if you forget the essentials. Lovely cafe/restaurant on site serving good breakfasts and dinner - we didn't go for lunch though I'm sure the choice and standard would be just as good. Staff are very friendly and really welcoming. Can't wait to go back - would highly recommend!
Sands of Time
Superb site, staff are very friendly and helpful. Flexibility in pitching and a separation from caravans is particularly good. Spend time looking around for your pitch as there are some hidden gems, we will definitely do that next time, and there will definitely be a next time, we loved it. Our 8 yr old girl loved the proximity of the beach and the adventure play area is excellent. No issues at all to speak of, wouldn't change a thing. Go and you won't be disappointed. Thanks to the Sands team!
One of the Very Best!
We have just returned from spending 6 nights here at the end of August.....This site is almost perfect! It has some of the best views in Scotland, You can (if you wish) set up just yards from an amazing beach with clear blue water and lovely gently shelving golden sands, Toilet facilities are spotless, Shop is one of the best stocked we have come across and the little converted barn restaurant has good food!
And to top it all.... its sooo quiet.....must be one of Scotlands the best kept secrets too!
What more could you ask? We didn't even encounter the swarms of midges you often get at some other sites....
We will be returning again!!!!
Just returned from 5 nights here, great location and facilities. They allow you to choose your own pitch so we pitched behind the dunes over looking the sea, there was plenty of room and no one around us all week. The new cafe was excellent providing great evening meals too as a BYO. The staff in there were lovely. Shop sold most things you could think of - including camping equipment. Showers / toilets were good, plenty of them and always clean, only had to queue for shower once and it wasn't for long. Plenty to do in local area, beach at campsite was amazing. Would recommend.
We stayed here in June 2012 for 12 days and couldn’t fault it. For a tent pitch with 2 adults and 4 kids (one under 5yrs), it was £20 a night. Toilet and shower blocks were clean and tidy (although most showers are push button, there is a large shower cubicle for disabled people/ parent and child, which has a ’tap’-type shower). There is also a hairdryer and hair straighteners at 50p for 5mins! The adventure playground had maintenance done while we were there and the bins were emptied regularly. At night we could hear cuckoos and the beautiful beach was just over the dunes from our tent, which we made full use of, as it only rained properly once during our stay! The dishwashing room also has a cooking area with coin operated hob and microwave if it’s bad weather etc. Washing machines are £3 a time and are in the Laundry block nearer the caravan area. The campsite shop sells all you could really need in terms of food and camping equipment, and also books, toys, wetsuits and ice creams! In Gairloch itself there is a chip shop and a Chinese takeaway if you’re having a non-cooking night! We were really pleased with our stay at Sands and the surrounding area is obviously beautiful, with plenty of opportunity for good walks and outdoor activities.
Sands Holiday Centre
We had a lovely few days here in July 2009. Windy....but we saw sun for the only time in our two week holiday!!! Big site....but didn’t feel like that at all as you found a nook in a sand dune to nestle in. The shower blocks nearest us felt a bit like being in the changing rooms of a swimming pool.....but very clean and perfectly adequate (although annoying push on shower thing which didn’t last anywhere near long enough! However, someone had come up with a cunning contraption of a hair bobble arrangement to kept it held in so that was helpful for the unresourceful me!). Shop was great....pop across get some sausages and a bottle of wine and by the time you dander back husband has the BBQ lit, the kids are playing on the beach and you spot some friends to share the wine and midge repellant with!!!
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