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You don’t have to wait until summer to have a surfing trip to Sandend

Sandend (Alamy)
Sandend (Alamy)

THE autumn sun backlights a curl of pale green water as it crests and crashes in a frenzied white froth. Overhead seagulls dip and dive and take to the air again, riding the thermals higher and higher.

On the golden sand a wetsuit-clad gaggle of kids dance around their die-hard instructor, eager to get into the water and make the most of the season.

Tucked up warm in my fleece and wellies, I watch them grab their surfboards and head for the water’s edge.

In no time, they are whooping and hollering, riding those waves and having a ball – and like the surf I too am green – with envy. I can almost hear The Beach Boys harmonising about waxing down surfboards and not waiting for June.


This might not be California but it’s beautiful. I’m at the little village of Sandend near the historic port of Portsoy on north-east Scotland’s aptly named Dolphin Coast.

This enchanting community on the Moray Firth dates back to the 1600s, its quaint little fishermen’s cottages growing up around the 19th Century C-listed harbour. It’s surrounded by an array of wildlife both in the water – bottle nosed dolphins, seals and sometimes Orca – and out. The bird life here is rich – everything from puffins and oyster catchers to gannets and buzzards.

Adjacent to the harbour sits a picturesque horseshoe bay lapped by shallow waters. And it is just steps away from Sandend Carvan Park and camping ground; the perfect place to stay for those – who like me and my offspring – cannot bear to drag themselves away. When all the fun is over I get a chance to grill the man behind Suds Surf School which operates largely out of this little known haven.

“I don’t stop surfing when the summer ends,” explains Suds (aka instructor Craig Sutherland, 39).

“It all depends on the kids and how they feel about the temperature. If they’re keen, we go in. It is sometimes hard persuading adults new to the sport that they will be warm in the wetsuits I provide, but once they’re in, they love it.”

Sandend Harbour and village (Alamy)
Sandend Harbour and village (Alamy)

Before relocating to Sandend, Craig ran a surf school on the Island of Tiree. “It’s a passion,” he admits. “I took up surfing in 1993 and was hooked. Sandend is a beautiful bay and it’s pretty safe, very sandy with few rocks. Safety is king.”

Having learned that surfboard and wetsuit hire are included in the price, I lose no time in signing up both myself and my 10-year-old daughter for lessons, knowing that we have the comfort of our tent to retreat to.

There is something about the excitement of being among the waves and the freedom of camping that is very special. And if you have a pitch fronting the beach there is no finer place to be.

We wake to the sound of the surf, take breakfast with toes buried in the sand and play Rounders at the water’s edge, At the end of the day we watch in silence as the big orange sun sinks into the drink and night falls. Then it’s time for stories around the camp fire. Bliss!

The Sandend Caravan Park has been run for the last 25 years by Bernard and Jane Winfield. The field in which their caravans and pitches are located is one of the prettiest I have seen. The site has been awarded four stars by the Scottish Tourist Board, as well as being part of the coveted, top quality Thistle Holiday Parks.


Along with its comfortable static caravans, some sleeping up to six, it also accommodates tourers, tents and motorhomes.

A food preparation and dishwashing room is provided for those in tents and there are first class laundry facilities and a handy shop. And the toilets and showers are spotlessly clean. This corner of north-east Scotland is a magnet for tourists and there is much to see and do, from golf to sea fishing and river angling, castle and whisky trails, heritage sites and whale and dolphin watching.

But if you are looking for peace and seclusion, don’t want to stray far from base and are happy to go on foot when you do, then there are drop dead gorgeous walks and beaches right on the doorstep at Sandend.

Sandend is among Scotland’s truly little known gems – until now!


Pitch prices at Sandend Caravan Park vary but caravan holiday homes start from £355 with a minimum let of one week.

The park is open from April 1 to October 5.

Tel: 01261 842660 or email

An initial lesson with Suds Surf School costs £35 for adults and £25 for children but subsequent lessons drop to £25 and £20 respectively. Tel: 07793 063849