Off the beaten track and not as well known to visitors to Skye, is a gem of a tidal beach and a real family favourite. In contrast to Claigan Coral Beach, Varkasaig Beach (known locally as Orbost Beach) on Loch Bharcasaig has shimmering black sand which on a wintery day gives the appearance of thick, gooey treacle.
On a clear day the beach has views across the bay to Harlosh Island and beyond to the Cuillins.
The forest around Orbost Estate is a haven for wildlife and, if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of deer, a wide variety of seabirds, golden eagles or perhaps even a sea (white-tailed) eagle. So make sure you pack some binoculars and a camera or a selfie stick and your mobile phone at the very least!
Take a Hike
Take the B884 Glendale road and the first turning off to the left towards Orbost. Follow the road and on arrival at Orbost Farm, park near the buildings without restricting access.
From Orbost Farm take the clearly marked track past Orbost House for about a mile to reach the beach.
If you have your dog with you, please don’t leave them in the car as they can get quite hot even on an overcast day. Besides, they will love the walk as much as you. However, keep your dog on the lead and give livestock a wide berth as this is a working farm.
Orbost beach has become our family’s favourite over the years and we have to admit that it’s not just our children who look forward to a visit. The beach is wonderful whatever the weather – windswept and moody or peaceful with just the sounds of the water lapping the shore. But to avoid disappointment it’s best to check the tides before you go or you won’t see much of a beach at all.
During the Paleogene period, about 56 million years ago, the Isle of Skye formed one of the main volcanic centres of the North Atlantic Igneous Province. Lava flows from the volcanoes cover most of northern Skye creating a stepped landscape. The dominant lava type here is basalt.
Black sand, as seen on Orbost beach is more often than not volcanic in origin and composed of volcanic minerals and fragments like basalt. One benefit of this, is that the dark sand is heavier and absorbs the sun’s warmth quickly. It also retains the heat for longer than the lighter sand beaches elsewhere on Skye.
Thus on a sunny day, paddling during an incoming tide is a far more pleasant experience on this beach than on other beaches.
If you’re feeling energetic then you could combine a visit to Orbost Beach with the more strenuous walk out to Idrigill Point to see Macleod’s Maidens.