Let’s face it, January and February are not normally the cheeriest of months. I find it’s nice to give yourself something to look forward to at this time of year – a little treat or trip to help you beat the back-to-work blues. With Valentine’s Day and the mid-term holiday coming up, February is an ideal time to head off for a few days of recreation and relaxation. Whether you’re looking for a jam-packed holiday with the kids, a romantic weekend of long walks and sunsets, or just a quiet retreat from the real world, a Scottish coastal break could be just what you need.
Scotland has around 6,000 miles of coastline and approximately 790 islands, making for endless opportunity for recreation and relaxation by the sea. In the winter months you can expect beautiful scenery, delicious seasonal produce, friendly locals, a great range of outdoor activities, and plenty of peace and quiet – you might even find you have the beach all to yourself. Post-Christmas finances considered, off-season accommodation offers are a big plus, too!
We’ve picked just a few great destinations in the Highlands and Outer Hebrides that would be ideal for a relaxing coastal break, but there are many, many more all over Scotland. Have a look at our suggestions, and feel free to add your own in the comments section.
Uig is perhaps best known as the original home of the Lewis Chessmen, a 12th-century walrus tusk chess set discovered on the beach on the west coast of Lewis. The golden sands and rugged hills on this part of the island’s western coast offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean from its tranquil bay.
Uig’s pristine beach is ideal for leisurely strolls, while the nearby hills offer challenging walks through rough, untouched landscapes. Opt for self-catering accommodation and cook up some of the season’s tastiest local produce in the comfort of your private kitchen – halibut, lobster, and my personal favourite, mussels, are all at their fattest and tastiest in February.
If you’d prefer a bit of action and adventure, Uig has tons to offer. The beach is one of the UK’s top kite buggy spots, and in the waters of the bay you can enjoy kayaking, wakeboarding, kite surfing and more. Back on land, drivers aged eight and up will love wheeling around the twisty 650 m track at Lewis Karting Centre, just an hour’s drive away on the outskirts of Stornoway.
The crofting village of Scarista on the south-west coast of Harris is home to one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches, with crystal waters, miles of golden sands and stunning views over the Sound of Taransay. You can find luxury accommodation just a short walk from the water’s edge; including lovely Neolithic-style stone cottages with turfed roofs and, fear not, modern amenities.
If you’re a birdwatcher or a sky-gazer, bring your binoculars: the island is also a haven for wildlife such as greylag geese and purple sandpipers, while at night the village’s isolated location sees the skies overhead light up with stars. If conditions are good and you’re very, very lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Like Lewis, the island is also ideal for outdoor activities and watersports: Scarista is particularly popular with surfers, many of whom travel from all over to tackle the waves. The Scaladale Centre, around a 40-minute drive away, organises abseiling, kayaking and guided walks around the island, while climbers can scramble over age-old rocks with Sgor. The 9-hole Harris Golf Club, one of Scotland’s most picturesque courses, is also located on Scarista – quite a challenge when the strong Atlantic gales sweep in!
Loch Ewe, Highlands
Loch Ewe is one of my favourite places on the west coast – I first went with my family when I was about 7 and I still remember being gobsmacked by how gorgeous the scenery was. At just a two-hour drive from Inverness, it’s easy to get to and offers loads to see in do in the midst of a beautiful, unspoiled Highland landscape.
As a large sea loch, Loch Ewe is a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Walkers will love meandering along the pebble beach or exploring the surrounding hillside and woodland – the 25-mile ‘Midnight Walk’ from Kinlochewe to Poolewe is an epic feat, but a great chance to admire the stars as you wander.
On the western side of the loch lie Inverewe Gardens, one of Scotland’s most popular botanical gardens and home to a host of plants from around the world, such as Tasmanian eucalypts and palm trees. The plesant town of Gairloch is just 6 miles away and offers a range of great restaurants and fun family activities, such as dolphin and whale cruises or pony trekking around the Gairloch Estate.
Of course, these are just three of the hundreds of Scottish coastal destinations where you can enjoy natural landscapes, fresh sea air and a warm welcome – you’ll find many more ideas in our guides to Scotland’s regions, from Dumfries & Galloway all the way up to Orkney and Shetland. Leave us a comment if you’re planning on taking a coastal break in Scotland, and find out more about travel, accommodation and everything else you need for your trip.