With a total length of 7 miles, or 12km, the Big Strand is the longest mostly uninterrupted sandy beach on Islay. It stretches from Laggan Point in the north to Kintra and the Oa Peninsula in the south. The only interruptions are the River Laggan at the north-end of the beach. This river cannot be crossed easily, especially after heavy rainfall. The second interruption is the rocky outcrop west from Islay Airport which can easily be avoided, there is a track over the dunes. The last stretch of this stunning beach has two more rivers, the Machrie River and Kintra River. Depending on the amount of rainfall they can sometimes be a bit difficult to cross but are usually fine.
Being the longest beach on the island, and being rather unsheltered too, it is perfectly suitable for those endless refreshing walks outside the tourist season, especially on bright windy days after a storm, when the waves come rolling in. Outside the season this beach is usually almost deserted and it is here where you can be entirely on your own for several hours if you like, only accompanied by the seagulls flying just above the dunes enjoying the rising winds. The perfect place to get away from it all!
And in late Spring and Summer, weather permitting of course, it is an excellent beach for sunbathing, playing, building sand castles, flying a kite, surfing etc. etc. for the entire family. With such a length you'll always find a spot all to yourself.
Beach at the Big Strand
The beach is backed by sometimes rather high dunes, especially at the north-end of the Big Strand. Behind the Dunes, which are quite rich in wildlife such as rabbits, are from north to south: Laggan Estate, Islay Airport, The Machrie Golf Course and Kintra Farm with one of Islay's two campsites. The views from the beach can be breathtaking and include the Oa Peninsula and the Rhinns of Islay. It's also a great beach to enjoy an Islay sunset
The Big Strand in Winter
Despite its length there are only a few places where you have direct access to the beach. The most frequently used is the one at Kintra Farm, which is a few miles from Port Ellen. The other access is via a bumpy track directly north after the airport. It's a fairly long and very bumpy drive over old runways until you reach a gate almost near the end where there's a track to the beach.
The recently opened Machrie Hotel also offers access to the Big Strand and it's a nice place to have a drink or bite to eat before or after your beach walk. The last way to access the beach is on Laggan Estate. There is a one mile track from the Low Road between Port Ellen and Bowmore which leads to the dunes at the Big Strand. For a detailed description on how to access The Big Strand via Laggan Estate visit this link