Scotland is a land of incredible scenery with stunning glens, spectacular lochs and gorgeous rolling hillsides that showcases Mother Nature’s finest work. It’s also a land with magnificent beaches. From the dazzling white sands and stunning turquoise waters of the west coast to the wild, remote beaches of the north and the tranquil lakeside shorelines of the Scottish Highlands, there’s a range of beaches in Scotland.
There’s a choice of family-friendly beaches close to cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Venture further afield, and you will find untamed, idyllic beaches within protected nature reserves and pristine coves that lie beneath towering cliffs. Vast expanses of picturesque sand stretch gloriously along the wind-whipped coastline of Scotland’s remotest of islands.
Scottish beaches come in many different shapes and sizes, and while they may lack sunshine, they more than makeup for in wild and dramatic beauty. So, here is my recommendation of the 20 best beaches you should visit in Scotland.
- Beaches in Scotland
- Best Beaches In Scotland – North
- Best Beaches in Scotland – East Coast
- West Coast Scotland Beaches
Beaches in Scotland
Best Beaches In Scotland – North
1- Sango Bay
Close to the most northwesterly point of Scotland lies beautiful Sango Bay.
A stunning cove of bronzed sands, jagged rock formations and craggy, secluded outcrops, the beach here is one of the most attractive in the Highlands.
Showcasing panoramic views of the North Minch, the channel of water that lies between the mainland and the Hebrides, it is a noted spot for surfing, as well as minke whale spotting, who often patrol the area.
It is also close to the famous Smoo Cave, the largest cave in Scotland, and the village of Durness, which has a small garden dedicated to John Lennon, who regularly holidayed there during his teenage years.
2- Sandwood Bay
If it’s a remote beach you are after, Sandwood Bay near Kinlochbervie fits the bill nicely.
With no direct road access, you can only reach the beach via a four-mile walk from the hamlet of Blairmore.
It’s not an easy walk as the flat trail winds along a rough terrain of moorland, which can often be very boggy.
When you get there, you’re rewarded with a stunning mile-long stretch of pink sand that ranks among the most pristine in Scotland.
An excellent place for a picnic, especially at its northern end, where few people venture, jagged cliffs also bookend this beach.
It features the magnificent Am Buachaille, a dramatic 213-foot-high sea stack that is just begging to be photographed.
3- Oldshoremore Beach
Located in the Scottish Highlands near Kinlochbervie, Oldshoremore Beach is somewhere you’ll want to come to get away from it all.
Featuring a gentle arc of bay that faces west, the beach, which locals know as Am Mellan, is a narrow one mile stretch of eye-catching white sand.
Stunning crystal waters offset the crushed seashells and eroded stones of this beach.
A rocky peninsula of land, referred to as Eilean na h-Aiteig, separates it from Polin Beach.
You won’t see too many people here, and most of the sounds you’ll hear are the surf and birdsong.
If you ever need to go to a place just to think, this is the perfect spot.
4- Loch Morlich
You’ll probably think I have lost my marbles, including a place in the Scottish Highlands on this list.
But as Loch Morlich’s picturesque lakeside shoreline is unique for being Scotland’s only freshwater beach, it should definitely feature.
Set within the beautiful Cairngorms mountain range, this region was recently bestowed the prestigious Seaside Award by the Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign.
It is also one of the country’s leading areas for water sports like sailing, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing and paddleboarding.
It also has excellent hiking and mountain biking trails through the Glenmore Forest.
5- Dunnet Bay
Enjoying a dramatic setting at the most northern point of the Great British mainland, Dunnet Bay is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s most magnificent beaches.
Located about eight miles east of Thurso and accessed via a minor road, this idyllic arc of white sand is backed by high, rolling sand dunes.
Despite being reasonably protected from the elements, this beach is a haven among surfers.
It’s also a fantastic beach to sunbathe on or search for shells, while ornithologists will love the many opportunities to spot a wide range of seabirds.
6- St. Ninian’s Isle
You won’t be able to access it all year round, but the tiny island of St Ninian’s has a beautiful little section of beach that will appeal to your adventurous side.
Covering an area of 72 ha, St Ninian’s is connected to the mainland of the Shetland Islands by a magnificent sand tombolo.
Known locally as Ayre, it is the largest sand tombolo in the UK, but it only reveals itself in the summer months when it becomes visible above sea level.
Stretching for about a quarter of a mile, this band of sand acts as a crossing.
So you will be able to walk across it at your leisure to explore the beauty of the St. Ninian’s Isle.
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Best Beaches in Scotland – East Coast
7- Portobello Beach
Down the road from Edinburgh’s vibrant city centre is the gorgeous seaside district of Portobello Beach.
Framed by impressive Georgian and Victorian architecture and boasting a lovely, paved promenade, this stunning beach setting is a popular spot for swimming, kite flying, building sandcastles, people watching and when it decides to make an appearance, sunbathing.
The fish and chips are pretty tasty too.
Home to a kayaking and sailing club, if the bracing waters of the North Sea prove too cold for you, then head to the nearby Victorian swimming pool, which has authentic and original Turkish baths.
8- Coldingham Bay
Coldingham Bay makes for a pleasant day trip from Edinburgh at just over an hour’s drive away.
Stoically situated along the coast of Berwick, not far from the town of Eyemouth, it is one of several excellent beaches near the capital.
Lying at the mouth of the Buskin Burn, this sheltered sandy beach boasts plenty of arresting features that you will want to add to your Instagram wall.
Bumpy headland and stately rock formations are strewn along the shore, while a quaint row of colourful beach huts line the area at the top of the dunes.
It’s a popular beach for swimming, fishing, surfing, sailing, windsurfing and canoeing.
It also offers excellent opportunities for whale and dolphin watching too.
9- Aberdeen Beach
As city beaches go, Aberdeen Beach sets a high bar.
Nestled between the mouth of the River Don and the River Dee, this scintillating two-mile sweep of immaculate golden sand comes alive in the summer.
Its art deco esplanade buzzes with people, many of whom are visiting the Codona Amusement Park (dodgems anyone?), which lines the beachfront.
Known as a decent surf spot, when wave conditions are right, this is an excellent beach to see bottlenose dolphins and eat some of the best fish and chips in the country.
10- Pettycur Bay
Located in Fife, to the west of Kinghorn, Pettycur Bay is a lovely sandy beach with an impressive setting, complete with dunes but is best known for its famous view.
Standing on the shoreline, you can see out as far out as Edinburgh Castle and the famous Arthur’s Seat on a clear day.
It’s a lovely Scottish beach for a picnic.
As a bonus, when it’s low tide, you can enjoy a lovely coastal walk on the sand to Burntisland Beach.
11- West Sands Beach
St Andrews, the home of golf, also has a beautiful beach that you might already know.
Extending for over two miles and flanking the world-renowned golf course, West Sands Beach famously appeared in the film Chariots of Fire, when all those guys went running on it in the opening scenes.
Now a popular spot for windsurfing, kite surfing, and sand yachts, which tends to take place at the north end of the sands, this beach is only a 15-minute walk from the centre of town.
So it is easy for you to get to if you ever want to channel your inner Harold Abrahams.
12- Gullane Beach
Quietly lying on the southern coastline of the Firth of Forth, Gullane Beach is one of those beaches which instantly stirs the soul.
A sweep of golden sand backed by wild vegetation and impressive dunes offers stark nature and a tranquil ambience that makes you feel free.
Best viewed from Gullane Point, a nearby beauty spot that showcases stunning views across the bay, this beach is popular among windsurfers and kite flyers.
It is also near three excellent golf courses, including the world-famous Muirfield.
13- Seacliff Beach
Located in East Lothian, close to North Berwick, is a secluded gem called Seacliff Beach.
The perfect spot for when you want to escape the crowds, this private beach is pretty much wholly unspoilt.
It will cost you £3 to access the road that will take you there, but it’s well worth the drive because what you will find is a clean sweep of sand that showcases splendid views of Bass Rock and the ruins of Tantallon Castle – a mid-14th-century fortress which now lies in a state of semi-ruin.
Popular with surfers, horse-riders, canoeists and dog walkers, this beach also features the tiniest sandstone harbour in the UK.
It has a notably rusty-coloured hue due to the presence of red limestone in the area.
West Coast Scotland Beaches
14- Luskentyre, South Harris, Outer Hebrides
Luskentyre manages to stand out with a ‘wow’ factor among the most beautiful beaches in Scotland.
Situated in the Outer Hebrides, on the west coast of South Harris, this beach was named one of the UK’s best beaches in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.
One of the biggest beaches in the country, it boasts scintillating white sands, beautiful turquoise waters, a spectacular mountainous backdrop, and a goosebump-inducing sense of remoteness.
Indeed this is such an isolated spot that the nearby island of Taransay, which can be seen from the shore, is famous for being the setting of the BBC television show Castaway.
Luskentyre is a beautiful beach in Scotland to walk on and one where you’re sure to take plenty of photos.
There are terrific hiking opportunities in the surrounding areas too.
15- Calgary Beach
Probably the best and definitely the busiest beach on the Isle of Mull, Calgary Beach is the place from which Canada’s more famous city took its name.
Five miles west of Dervaig, this stunning silver-sandy beach is known for its fantastic topography.
Overlooked by a castle built in the 1820s and sheep who graze in adjacent meadows, this beach is flanked by imposing cliffs, low running hills, and picturesque dunes that collectively create a jaw-dropping aesthetic.
16- Traigh Mor
While many beaches around the world might claim to be unique, no other beach can boast the same uniqueness as Traigh Mhor beach.
Located on the Isle of Barra, it is the only beach in the world that has a designated runway on its sand for scheduled airline services.
The home of Barra Airport, this long stretch of white sandy beach connects the quaint villages of Ardmhor and Eoligarry in the Outer Hebrides.
With gorgeous wildflowers, undulating sand dunes and rough terrain of verdant hills, it is also a renowned spot to gather cockles, which locals do a lot in between plane arrivals.
You won’t be allowed on the sand when the tiny Twin Otter aircraft are due to land, but the sight of them approaching this magnificent setting is a fabulous one to behold.
17- Camusdarach Beach
Nestled on the west coast of Scotland, not too far from Morar, is the delightful Camusdarach Beach.
It’s another beach you might recognize from the movies featured in the 1983 film Local Hero, which starred Burt Lancaster.
This Scottish beach is a wide arc of powdery, white sand framed by crystal clear turquoise waters and craggy peninsulas filled with colourful wildflowers in summer.
With a view of the Isle of Skye, and with the jagged silhouette of the Cuillin mountain range hovering in the distance, it forms part of a stunning chain of beaches called the Silver Sands of Morar.
If you can, try and come here for sunset, as you will see the most striking fiery orange colours.
18- Ayr Beach
As family-friendly beaches go, it’s hard to beat the one at Ayr.
Situated in the southwest of Scotland, this beach, only an hour’s drive from Glasgow, has been bestowed the ‘Seaside Award’ from the Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign.
This Scottish beach is a long, sandy beach that is great for walking, running or playing ball sports.
It also offers plenty of other activities for kids, including a play area, putting green, and crazy golf.
In addition, the beach showcases spectacular views across to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran, while its local fish and chips shops serve up some of the best skate, haddock and cod in Scotland.
19- Rockcliffe Beach
Situated along what has been dubbed the ‘Scottish Riviera’, Rockcliffe is a fabulous beach that lies on the southern edge of Galloway and Dumfries, near Dalbeattie.
Part of a National Scenic Area, this striking rocky beach features a tide that goes out as much as a mile every day.
So there is usually plenty of sand to explore.
If you would prefer to do your walking on drier ground, a fabulous wooded coastal walkway runs through a string of intriguing sailing villages.
Heading towards an ancient citadel called the Mote of Mark are quaint houses, pretty flowers and lots of squirrels along the way too.
20- Pencil Beach
It might only be 300 m in length but Pencil Beach, in the seaside town of Largs, is one of the finest beaches in Scotland.
This dramatic beach is at the southern end of town, nestled on the southwest coast, about a 40-minute drive from Glasgow.
Offering alluring waterscape views of the Firth of Clyde, it also features a stark mix of flat golden sand, rocky pebbles and lush grassland.
One of the highlights of this beach is that it showcases the famous monument ‘The Pencil’, which was built in 1912 to honour the Battle of Largs in 1263, and presides majestically over the beach.