Pilgrimage to the Beach at Redpoint

by Keith Savage · 2 comments

Red Point Beach, Wester Ross, Scotland

Beautiful, pristine beaches aren’t the first things that come to mind when the topic of Scotland arises. It’s too cold, too wet, too windy for it to be a beach-goer’s destination, so says common wisdom, and if your goal is to lay on a steamy beach and work on your tan, then yes, those are all valid points. If, however, you can divorce the quality of the weather from an enjoyable time at the beach, you will find Scotland is a paradise of beaches. From fine white- and red-sand beaches to stony shores littered with seaglass, Scotland hides these coves up and down its coastline from Dumfries & Galloway to Shetland. The most amazing part is that by and large you will have these beaches to yourself. There’s something about the sound of waves lapping on an empty beach that fills the soul with the primordial zeal of exploration.

One beach in particular has been in my mind for a very long time, since I first listened to Boards of Canada‘s album Geogaddi back in 2002. There’s a song called “The Beach at Redpoint,” and since the lads in Boards of Canada hail from Scotland it followed that it’s probably a beach in Scotland. Redpoint might seem like a fairly common place name, but searches quickly revealed its location on a headland in an empty part of Wester Ross. I figured maybe one day I’d find my way there.

And I did.

One evening from our base in Poolewe, my parents, Sarah, and I cut down to Gairloch and then followed the pretty coastline past Badachro and a few other extremely sparsely populated settlements on our way to Redpoint Beach. They graciously indulged me, too, as I played the song that initiated this journey. This road, the B8056, is a single-track path that simply ends at the small parking area a short walk from Redpoint Beach. It’s pretty easy to feel like you’re standing on the edge of the world in Scotland’s distant highlands and islands, and Redpoint Beach is certainly one of those places.

A picture might be worth a thousand words but it’s not worth a damn conveying temperature. A frigid wind howled off the Minch as Sarah and I tromped across sheep pasture until the sward grew thin and striated with sandy tracks leading up and down the dunes girding the beach. The sand is perfect, soft, and deep, with a texture I imagine to be similar to the Sahara. We hastened down the steep-sided dunes into a gully filled with tumbled, oblong stones. Small cairns stood among the sea’s leavings, but there was something strangely alien about finding them standing here silent in the wind.

Beyond the rocks the dunes gave way to a broad, perfectly smooth beach. In the evening sun the waves were platinum and icy cold. A sailboat drifted on the tide with distant Skye a hazy shadow on the horizon. There was no one here but us, the wind, and the waves.

You could feel the sky, and its movements were writ in the sand. This is a place for contemplation, to alter your consciousness and pick out the threads that normally remain hidden to perception. I could have spent a long time here just thinking and writing, but that would have been unfair to my traveling companions and actually impossible because my fingers would have seized up in the cold.

A village of stone people greeted us as we left the beach and returned to the stony gulch on our way back to the car. Visiting Redpoint Beach was a strangely surreal experience. If you’re spending time in Wester Ross — and you should — it’s worth it to come to Redpoint Beach to relax and commune with higher powers.

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