By Craig Neil
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Talmine is a crofting and fishing village overlooking Talmine Bay north of the A838 bridge near Tongue Bay in Sutherland. The bay is best known for its scenery and the wildlife that live in the area which offers frequent sightings of seals and dolphins.
Discover Talmine Bay with this complete visitor guide.
1: Talmine Bay is wide and shallow – perfect for a swim (in summer).
2: There’s a tarmacked road leading to the old lighthouse that offers disabled and pushchair access. Be aware, though, that the road can become covered in sand.
3: Talmine Bay is a great spot for wildlife watching, especially in the autumn when the seals give birth. There are also a number of seabirds in the area, including puffins.
1: If you need food there’s a nice bar/restaurant at the Ben Loyal Hotel in Tongue, address: Main Street Tongue By, Lairg IV27 4XE.
2: Got kids and a canoe? This bay is perfect for a paddle around.
3: Combine a visit here with the Kyle of Tongue. Read my guide to Tongue and Castle Varrich for details.
One of my favourite areas in Scotland is Sutherland, the historic county that borders the Moray Firth to the east and the Atlantic to the west.
This area has one of – if not the – most dramatic coastlines in the UK, where north Scotland’s mountain regions meet the sea in a series of dramatic cliffs overlooking countless secluded bays (see my guide to Faraid Head) and pristine beaches.
It was during my last visit to Sutherland, and while exploring the nearby Kyle of Tongue, that I took a minor diversion down a single-track road just a few hundred yards north of the A838 bridge and discovered a place that I just had to share with you.
Not knowing what I’d find at the end of the road I decided to stop at the first village I found – and that just so happened to be Talmine.
This extraordinarily quaint hamlet doesn’t seem like much to write home about at first glance other than the fact that it’s so remote and off-grid, but a quick scan on Google Maps of the surrounding area shows that it’s certainly worth exploring.
Talmine was originally a crofting and fishing village but it now seems to draw most of its income from the north coast’s rapidly-growing tourism industry (thank you North Coast 500) which is why you’ll find campsites and holiday cottages dotted all over the area.
The east-facing beach at Talmine is worth making the journey for on its own as it looks like something you’d expect to see on a postcard.
Crystal-clear water laps against small islands in the near distance and the hills of Brae Tongue rise up against the sky on the opposite side of the Kyle of Tongue. It really is a very scenic place.
Look out to sea and you’re faced with a series of small, low-lying islands that have a couple of rather inviting white beaches, while rocky outcrops spike their way into the water as far as you can see towards the north.
Talmine is an ideal out-of-the-way location if you’re in the area and looking for an enjoyable walk and it can easily be combined with a trip to Tongue and Castle Varrich (which is only around six miles away) as well.
If you’re looking for peace and quiet I suggest you give this place serious consideration, especially if you’ve got kids because the stony shoreline is a great place for them to scramble about while you sit in the sun and enjoy the sound of the waves lapping on the beach.
It’s quite a shallow bay and I reckon it’d be perfect for a swim if the water gets anywhere near warm enough to jump into (it does happen – occasionally), and for wildlife lovers it’s a bit of a paradise, especially once you get near the rocks at the northern end of the bay.
It was while clambering across those rocks that I stumbled onto Talmine Pier with its small crescent of golden sand and an intriguing path – which I soon found out (thanks again, Google) follows the coastline all the way around the headland to the next bay at Port Vasgo, roughly two miles further up the coast.
I thoroughly recommend you take the time to follow this path if you’re ever in this part of Sutherland as it offers superb views, not only of the coastline but also of its diverse wildlife.
A tapestry of wildflowers covers the ground along the entire length of the walk while two of Britain’s favourite marine mammals can be seen on the islands close to shore and in Talmine harbour.
Make sure you scan the waves for the triangular fins of harbour porpoises as this stretch of coastline is a favourite breeding ground for them.
In addition, grey seals can be found hauling themselves en-masse onto the shores of Eilean nan Ron island where they gather in huge groups to pup throughout Autumn.
The smaller islands closer to shore are home to slightly less interesting rabbits that were introduced as a food source in the 18th century, and which became so prolific the islands were renamed the rabbit isles shortly after.
If you’re lucky you might even see nesting kestrels taking refuge in the crags at Port Vasgo and there’s an abundance of Scottish Primrose all along this coastline as well – a flower that’s so rare it only grows along the north coast of Scotland and is protected by law.
Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:
Ben Hope, Ben Loyal & Kyle of Tongue – 447 Explorer.
Strath Naver / Srath Nabhair & Loch Loyal – 448 Explorer.
Strath Naver – 10 Landranger.
OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.
This is a short walk that’ll give you a good taste of the remote, exposed coastline around this part of Sutherland.
To get to Talmine, head towards Tongue Bay on the A838 in Sutherland, North Highlands. You’ll find a bridge crossing the Kyle of Tongue (with an excellent viewing platform/car park area) and the hamlet of Achuvoldrach on its southern edge.
Just before Achuvoldrach is a minor road pointing north which is signposted to Talmine, so follow the single-track carriageway till you get to a low-slung valley just in front of a few crofts that overlook Talmine Bay.
There’s a small grassy area here where you can park your car before setting off onto the beach and if you follow it northwards you’ll soon arrive at Talmine pier and a signpost that points towards Port Vasgo.
The return route is approximately 4 miles in length and is mostly rough grass with a few sections of beach and rock thrown in for good measure, but it should be easily accessible for anyone with moderate walking ability.
Along the way you’ll pass a couple of secluded beaches and rocky outcrops which are great places to let the kids run around and explore the many pools left behind by the retreating tide.
The path follows the shoreline quite closely so be prepared to get sandy/wet shoes, though much of it is covered with grasses and machair so you’ll be able to clean your dirty boots as you continue the walk.
It’s fairly easy-going and although there are a couple of steep-ish sections it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get to Port Vasgo from this point.
Much of the track leading away from the pier is overgrown and it’s also quite narrow, so unless you want to clamber through thick clumps of grass you’ll have to walk single file for most of the journey, but the route is well defined and it’s pretty much impossible to get lost.
As you near Port Vasgo you’ll stumble across a wooden bench and a cairn on the northern-most part of the headland which makes a great place to stop and take in the gorgeous views across Talmine Bay and Eilean nan Ron island.
You can then either continue further around the coastline to Port Vasgo or return to Talmine on the same route you came in on.
Things to do nearby
Castle Varrich. Lairg IV27 4XE. 14-minute drive. Ruined tower house overlooking the Kyle of Tongue. Accessed via a path that runs from Tongue village through woodland. There is no fee to visit the tower. The village has a shop and two pub restaurants.
Kyle of Tongue. 13-minute drive. An expansive yet shallow sea loch that features a rocky coastline designated as a National Scenic Area. Visitors flock to the area for the views of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal.
Strathnaver Museum. Clachan, Bettyhill KW14 7SS. 38-minute drive. A small yet fascinating independently-run museum that explores the history and heritage of north Scotland and the effects the Highland clearances had on the local population. Located close to Torrisdale Bay and its wide, golden-sand beach.
Smoo Cave. Lairg IV27 4QA. 56-minute drive. One of the largest sea caves in Scotland. A guided tour allows visitors to travel deep inside the cave and view an underground waterfall via a dinghy boat ride.
Ard Neakie Lime Kilns. Lairg IV27 4UJ. 23-minute drive. A historic landmark on a spit of land that juts out into Loch Eriboll. The shoreline is mostly shingle and is backed by low cliffs.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get to Talmine Bay?
Address: Talmine, Lairg, IV27 4YS
Directions map: Google Maps
Where is Talmine Bay?
Talmine Bay is located in the far northern county of Sutherland in Scotland. The nearest village is Talmine (postcode IV27 4YS) and the nearest main road is the A838. The bay is situated next to Tongue Bay which narrow to the Kyle of Tongue sea inlet.
What is there to do near the Kyle of Tongue?
Castle Varrich, Strathnaver Museum, Farr Beach, Coldbackie Beach, North Coast Leisure Centre, Kyle of Tongue Causeway, Port Vasco.
What visitor facilities are there at Talmine Bay?
There are no visitor facilities at Talmine Bay.