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The 5 beautiful beaches all within an hour’s drive of Inverness

You don't have to go far to find golden sands outside the Highlands' only city.

A beach near Inverness
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful beaches in the Highlands. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Inverness is often used as a starting point for trips to spot monsters or mountains.

As a result, its association with beautiful beaches has never been a strong one.

Thousands of tourists descend on the Highland capital every year and many of them enjoy a pleasant stroll along the River Ness or the Caledonian Canal.

Picturesque as those spots may be, they aren’t the best place for a dip.

If you’re visiting Inverness from further afield, you might not realise what’s on offer just a short drive from the city.

And even if you do call Inverness home, you might never have sampled these yourself.

The Press and Journal has picked out the best beaches near Inverness for you to enjoy.

Nairn Beaches

There’s a reason that Nairn was once dubbed “the Brighton of Scotland”.

That moniker might not make a whole lot of sense to younger readers brought up on a diet of sunshine breaks to Spain and Greece.

But it’s a sign of the national reputation that this town has built over decades as a top domestic holiday destination.

The demographics might have changed a bit but its popularity has endured.

When the sun comes out, Inverness city dwellers reach for their sunnies and head to Nairn.

Nairn beach
Nairn is blessed with beautiful beaches. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

And you’re getting value for money in this list because what people generally refer to as Nairn beach is actually divided into two or three – depending on who you listen to.

East Beach is large and sandy and eventually stretches into the RSPB Culbin Sands nature reserve where you can spot sea ducks, oystercatchers and ringed plovers.

Central Beach is a recent award-winner with Keep Scotland Beautiful and covers the stretch between Nairn Leisure and Fishertown.

West Beach, as its name suggests, stretches west of the town and runs past Nairn Golf Club.

Where can you park?

There are a few different options, depending on which bit you’re planning to visit.

Central Beach is best accessed from the Links Car Park, which you can reach from Cumming Street.

The car park fills up quickly at peak time and if you’re heading there in nice weather, you’ll likely find a lot of cars parked up on the grassland surrounding the car park.

Parking place at Nairn beach, near Inverness
Parking often spills out of the Links car park in Nairn on a sunny day. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

That car park is within a reasonably easy walking distance of West Beach too.

The East Beach has its own car park, which you can access by following Riverside Court after you’ve turned off the A96.

Driving time to Nairn beaches from Inverness: 30 minutes

Rosemarkie Beach

Chanonry Point is famous as the best place to go if you’re hoping to spot dolphins playing in the Moray Firth.

But just around the corner is a beautifully sandy spot to watch the world go by.

Even if you don’t spot dolphins, there’s enough beautiful scenery nearby to make it a worthwhile trip.

Rosemarkie Beach
Rosemarkie Beach on the Black Isle. Image: DC Thomson

There are nearby tennis courts and a basketball net if you’re feeling active and a fine place for some food and drink at the beachfront Crofters Cafe if you’re not.

Where can you park?

Don’t be fooled by the bustling Chanonry Point car park if you’re only planning to visit the Rosemarkie side anyway.

The best option for that approach is to drive through the village until you reach the car park near the Plough Inn.

If the weather’s nice that car park will be probably be rammed too though, to be fair.

Driving time to Rosemarkie beach from Inverness: 30 minutes

Dores Beach

The monster-themed merchandise that dominates the shelves of Drumnadrochit shops offers a clue that travelling Nessie hunters tend to converge of the western side of the loch.

Having said that, Dores is as far from being classed as a hidden gem as anywhere near Inverness could be.

If that ship hadn’t already sailed, it was confirmed by the Dores Inn’s inclusion in a Lonely Planet guide for Europe’s best secret travel locations in 2014.

Unlike the previous two entries, there is no sand at Dores Beach, it’s stony.

Despite that, it is hugely popular.

Holidaymakers on Dores Beach, near Inverness
Dores Beach is popular with Nessie hunters. Image: Jason Hedges

You might encounter the home of the world’s most-famous Nessie hunter, Steve Feltham, as you enter.

Mr Feltham pitched up at Dores in 1991 and has been based there while looking for the famous monster ever since.

Wild swimmers are regularly spotted in the chilly loch and getting a space in the car park next to the Dores Inn is an impossible dream at high season when the sun is shining.

Where can you park?

As mentioned, there is a car park at the Dores Inn but it can get pretty busy.

When that happens, your best bet is a car park on your left as you enter the village from Inverness.

On especially busy days, you’ll see cars lining the B852 heading towards Foyers.

Driving time to Dores Beach from Inverness: 20 minutes

Loch Morlich

This list could have easily been named “beaches within 30 minutes drive of Inverness” and it’s completely Loch Morlich’s fault that it’s not.

This entry is the furthest afield but anyone who has ever taken a trip there knows it’s a worthy inclusion.

A busy Loch Morlich
A busy day at the beach at Loch Morlich. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Even on a day when the temperature tops 30C – and that sometimes happens in this part of the world’s mini-climate – you’re still likely to see snow on the top of the mountains in the distance.

Scotland’s only fresh water award-winning beach is situated at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.

The beautiful sandy spot is an ideal site to enjoy a range of water sports.

And there’s also a decent circular forest walk nearby.

Where can you park?

The beach has its own car park at Glenmore, run by Forestry and Land Scotland.

After leaving Aviemore, head along the B970 and follow signs for Glenmore.

The car park appears on your right after the loch starts to come into view through the trees.

Driving time to Loch Morlich beach from Inverness: 50 minutes

The Secret Beach

I really shouldn’t be telling you this but there’s one last place I have to mention.

Oh, you already know?

I guess the question I have now is when does a secret stop being a secret?

I don’t know for sure, but it’s probably way before it starts appearing on TripAdvisor and Google Maps.

An empty beach with blue sky
The Secret Beach has been becoming less and less of a secret over the years. Image: Hamish Ewan

OK OK, it’s not actually called the Secret Beach officially, even if that’s what it is best known as.

It got its nickname because it is well sheltered and not as easily accessible as the nearby Nairn beaches.

Its real name is Whiteness Beach and you’ll find it west of Nairn Golf Club.

Where can you park?

The idyllic location is close to an area called Hilton of Delnies, where you can park your car.

Leave the A96 before you reach Nairn at the B9092 heading back towards Ardersier.

Take the first right and head as far down that road as you can go.

You’ll be glad you did. Just don’t tell anyone about it, OK?