Coral Beach, Claigan
Coral Beach, Claigan

Coral Beach, near Claigan, is one of Skye's most picturesque natural attractions, a pair of sandy white beaches lapped by pure turquoise waters that would look at home in a tropical setting. Traditionally, the beach is said to take its name from the fact that its brilliant white 'sand' is, in fact, not sand at all, but crushed coral.

Is it Coral?

Unfortunately, and despite the name, it isn't true. The beach is not made of coral, but of minute pieces of calcified algae known as maerl.

Living maerl is a pink and purple seaweed that covers the sea floor with broad beds of spiky carpets. Maerl is a coralline type of algae, which means that it deposits lime on its cell walls as it grows.

Looking south along the beach
Looking south along the beach

These lime deposits build up to create a hard, brittle material, like a skeleton. When maerl dies, the hardened skeleton is crushed by the action of waves, and then washed up on the shore where it is bleached to a brilliant white by the sun. The resulting white 'sandy' beaches can be found across Scotland's Western Isles.

At Claigan's Coral Beach the maerl deposits are mixed with millions of tiny pieces of crushed snail shells to create an extraordinary beach that would look at home on a tropical island.

The 'coral' is actually calcified maerl
The 'coral' is actually calcified maerl

The beach faces west towards the tidal island of Lampay, about 150m away. At low tide, you can walk across the strait between the island and the mainland. On a clear day you can see across the mouth of Loch Dunvegan as far as North Uist, in the Western Isles. For even better views, climb the low hill of Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain that overlooks the beach.

The view towards the Coral Beach
The view towards the Coral Beach

Turquoise waters lap the beach
Turquoise waters lap the beach

Getting There

Getting to the Coral Beach is extremely easy. Take the single-track road north past Dunvegan Castle and follow it to a T-junction. The right-hand road takes you to Claigan House, while the well-signposted left-hand road takes to you to a small parking area at the end of the tarmac. The car park is at grid reference NG231537. An information panel at the car park gives details of the walk to the Coral Beach.

From the parking area, go through a kissing gate and follow the well-trodden trail to the shore. The trail passes through croft land, where cattle and sheep are often found grazing, so please keep dogs on a lead.

Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain
Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain

You quickly reach a small beach known as Camas Ban, but this is not your destination! Follow the track to the right of the Camas Ban beach, through a gap in a picturesque drystone wall. The trail crosses a small burn and climbs a small rise. From the top of this rise you can see the Coral Beach ahead.

From the car park to the beach is roughly 2km (1.2 miles), and the going is easy. Allow 30 minutes for the walk (one way).

The Coral Beach can be a popular destination for visitors, especially at the height of summer, but it is far enough off the beaten track that we never found it crowded. The last time we visited, though, there were hundreds of small purple jellyfish washed up on the beach.

About Claigan Coral Beach, Skye
Address: Claigan, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye, Highlands and Islands, Scotland
Attraction Type: Countryside - Beach
Location: Park at the end of the road at Claigan (the car park is at NG231537) and follow the obvious trail along the shore.
Location map
OS: NG223550
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Dunvegan Castle - 2.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Trumpan Church - 3.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Fairy Bridge - 3.9 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Dunvegan, St Mary's Old Church - 5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Neist Point Lighthouse - 7.8 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Dun Beag Broch - 8.5 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Hugh's Castle (Caisteal Uisdein) - 9.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Trotternish Peninsula - 11.4 miles (Countryside) Heritage Rating

Nearest Holiday Cottages to Claigan Coral Beach, Skye:

Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Coral Beach. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.

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