Scotland may be known the world over for its breathtaking lochs, dramatic mountains and stunning glens, but its also home to an abundance of magical sandy beaches scattered around its coastline that could rival those to be found in the Caribbean on a clear sunny day.

And with the Highlands and Islands home to a large quantity of these spectacular secluded sands, one man has undertaken a quest to visit - and walk on - every single one of them. 

Rather than see himself as an adventurer, a travel writer, a professional photographer or a “off-grid hipster in a camper van”, Cheshire native David Oliver says he is just a “middle-aged bloke who loves walking, the great outdoors…and lists”. 

After completing a project to climb all the 214 Wainwrights (peaks) in the Lake District over a decade between 2009 and 2019, he was on the hunt for a new walking challenge that was less physically demanding than hills and mountains, and with that the “simple” idea of the ‘Scottish Beach Project’ was born. 

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He told The Herald: “When I did all the Wainwrights it was almost like I felt a bit bereft. I felt like I needed a new project. I was thinking what it was I could do when I saw a photo of a beach in the Western Isles or something and I said to myself, “That’s fantastic I’d love to do more of Scotland”. So I thought, “Well, I’m going to go and visit 10 beaches in Scotland”. 

“I made a little list of beaches, some on the islands, some on the mainland and the big ones that you’d expect like Sandwood Bay. I thought that was a great way to explore Scotland. But once I started I got hooked by it. My first trip was to Wester Ross a few years ago just before covid and I absolutely adored it, I went to places like Redpoint and Gairloch and I fell in love with the beaches and the walking routes to take me to the beaches and I thought, “Oh I can definitely do this”.

Since starting his Scottish Beach Project in October 2020, the 58-year old now has over 4,000 followers on his Twitter page, plenty of whom he says are nostalgic “expats living in Australia or America”. 

An initial challenge to visit 10 beaches quickly snowballed to become 100 beaches, then 200 and then 300, with Mr Oliver admitting that the project has become “a bit of an obsession” that will keep him “fulfilled for a good 10 years” at least.  

He said: “I’m not looking to beat any records and I’m not going to walk the whole coast of Scotland in one go, I’m not going to try and visit 200 beaches in three months. I just don’t care how long it takes. 

“After I really got hooked in Wester Ross I went to Islay and Colonsay. This year I’ve had an amazing year. I went to Mull, Iona, Kintyre, Gigha and then I went over to Barra and Berneray and South Uist and I just came back last week from the north coast from Sutherland. 

“Being an Englishman that’s not mad on England at the moment like a lot of us, I love going to Scotland. I feel like I’ve got a lifetime of travelling to catch up with, with Scotland. The beaches don’t just give me a destination they give me a reason to be able to explore other parts of the outdoors of Scotland which I love.”

With over 80 beaches under his belt since he started the ‘Scottish Beach Project’, Mr Oliver admits it is the serenity to be found at them which is the main attraction for him. 

He said: “I’ve always liked the idea of having the sea on one side and the land on the other and I like the colours, the smells and the sounds. I think there’s that with any beach really, it’s the fact that they are always active, they are always ‘live’. The waves are always crashing. So whatever time of day, 24 hours a day, when you are not there they are still working if you like. They are still ‘turning over’.

“It’s not the same if you walk onto a tourist beach and you’ve just got kids and dogs and deck chairs. But when they are empty there’s something about it really and I like all that. I just get something from it and it clears your head. It’s relaxing and it’s serene.”