I was staring at an isolated stretch of flat, white sand; there was not another person to be seen or heard ahead of us. Waves were gently lapping at the shore. Beyond that, in the shallow water, a seal is playing, emerging from murky sea every minute or so, popping it’s head back above the surface. This beach is a special place, one that I think is up there with the best beaches in the world. Ignoring the murky grey sky, it could be a small Caribbean cove? Or a hidden tropical island? No, I think it’s better. These are the Singing Sands, near Kentra Bay, in Scotland.
Situated on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, west of Fort William, the singing sands near Kentra Bay take their name from the sounds they produce. Made up of the natural materials of the beac, small grains of sand particles rub together, which resonate with a distinctive low squeak when pressed down either by barefoot or when wearing boots.
The consistent size of the grains coupled with the addition of natural silica combine to produce this peculiar and almost unique quirk.
Our discovery started from the small village of Acharacle, as we parked at the end a track that skirts around the edge of Kentra Bay. I was cycling along the track using a twenty year old ‘mountain’ bike, which I christened The Boneshaker, by having to deal with both a rock hard saddle, and completely nothing in the way of suspension. Something that is always appreciated in a the world of mountain biking, apparently. The track curves round the flat tidal bay, following the rocky coves, we shot through puddles and over bridges, up and down hills, and through pine trees on our way to the hidden treasures that awaited.
Five kilometres later, a turn off in the track twists down through trees and you arrive at the edge of the beach.
I furiously pedalled down the slope of the uneven path. In my haste and excitement to arrive, I nearly took a corner too sharply, coming a whisker away from spectacularly crashing in the view in front of another family group walking down the path. Rather selfishly, I wanted to get to the beach before them. I wanted it to be ours alone – if only for a few moments.
The path ended at some small dunes of sand, grasses moving gently in the winter wind. I jumped off the bike before it came to a complete standstill, to take a few pictures of my sister in front of the emptiness before us.
Pristine white sands lie before you, your own private beach in the heart of the brilliant Scottish scenery – home to a wide variety of birdlife including ducks, gulls, cormorants, shags, and more commonly, oyster catchers and other birds that wade through the shallow mud and sand.
It was a cold December day, perfect to warm up with a comforting mug of hot chocolate while sitting on one of the many small rocky outcrops that lie on the far end of the beach. We walked down to the furthest reaches of the beach, hopping over a trickle of freezing water that separates land and beach. We admired the views towards the isles of Eigg and Muck, across the waters of the bay in front of us, just making out the sights of the landforms even in the haze and murky gloom of the winter. The seal was a solo presence in the cold waters, playing in the shallows, and diving for food and occasionally glancing our way, as if to welcome us or invite us into the waters to join it.
I feel completely privileged that such incredible features can be found in a place in the UK, and I genuinely believe the beaches of Scotland are right up there with the best beaches in the world.
A short two hour cycle and visit isn’t long enough. I wanted to pitch a tent, fire up a stove and stay long into the night. One day, I will do just that.