It takes a great deal of effort to find this remote and secluded Scottish nude beach but if you can find it, frankly, you've probably earned the right to strip off and enjoy this beautiful natural setting in the buff. The south-facing Loch Shiel beach at the mouth of Glenaladale River is overlooked by mountains and the occasional eagle but little else. Just make sure you aren't there when they're filming the next Harry Potter; Loch Shiel is a the stand-in for Hogwarts Lake.
The loch's other claim to fame is The Green Isle, an ancient Celtic burial place which may be the burial site of St. Finnan, also known as Eilean Fhianain. The connection with St. Finnan, second bishop of Lindisfarne is more legend and tradition than provable history, so you need not worry about going starkers near a holy place. But do be discreet because Scottish customs concerning public nudity are far stricter than English customs.
Loch Shiel Nude Beach Essentials
- Description: Small, south-facing beach on a freshwater loch in the Western Highlands. It is unofficial but very remote and you are unlikely to be disturbed or overlooked. It is backed by woodland and mountains which are rarely climbed or hiked.
- Facilities: Bring everything you need - including food and water - because there are no facilities. Small boats or canoes can be rented from Dalilea Farm, a small guesthouse several miles away.
- Warnings: Fishermen and eagle watchers occasionally ply the loch in rented boats and the MV Sileas has regular cruises, often with a band. You are unlikely to be disturbed - or even noticed - but, as this is an unofficial nude beach, it's a good idea to have a quick cover-up handy. And choose your spot carefully because the shores of Loch Shiel have, lately, become popular with walkers.
- Sun cream? Perhaps it seems counter intuitive but, when it comes out, the hard northern sun through clear, unpolluted Highland air can deliver as much of a sunburn as you might get on a ski trip in the Alps. In other words, quite a bit. Couple that with the fact that you will likely spend more time sunbathing than actually submerged in the frigid waters of the loch and packing some sun protection makes a lot of sense.
- Getting there: Now for the challenge. The beach, on the banks of the Glenaladale River can be reached over a pleasant - but long- footpath from Glenfinnan, off the A830 at the northern end of Loch Shiel. Glenfinnan is where Bonnie Prince Charlie first rallied his clansmen to back his claim to the British throne at the start of the Jacobite rising in 1745. A monument at the head of Loch Shiel marks the spot.
Or stay over at the almost equally remote Dalilea House and hire a boat from there, heading north along the northern shore of the loch until you reach the glen and the mouth of the river. To reach Dalilea, Cross Loch Linnhe on the Corran Ferry, 9 miles south of Fort William. Then take the A861 south, toward Strontian and continue along this road (skirting the banks of Loch Sunart) through Acharacle. Turn off the A861 at the sign for Dalilea and follow the lane toward the loch shore.
What's nearby: There are certainly easier nude beaches to get to around Britain and many that are officially sanctioned. But this area is particularly scenic and well located for day trips, by ferry or excursion boats from Dalilea to Skye, Mull, Ardnamurchan, and Fort William. There are regular boat trips from nearby Mallaig and Arisaig to the small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. You can also organize guided sea kayaking tours, led by local experts from nearby Loch Moidart or Glenmuig. The opportunities for wildlife watching include all sorts of sea birds, basking sharks, minke whales, dolphine and porpoises.
And, if you are a steam train fan, the Jacobite Railway from Mallaig makes an 84 mile round trip journey through some of the most scenic spots on the West Coast of Scotland. Do put some clothes on, of course.