10 of the best beaches in Scotland

Beaches, Coastal, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Kate A on 3rd September 2020

Achmelvich Beach

Imagine walking barefoot across sparkling white sands, dipping your toes in crystal-clear turquoise waters, with nothing but the odd seal, seabird or even dolphin for company – no, we’re not talking about an exotic holiday in the Caribbean; we’re talking about Scotland.

Scotland’s beaches are among some of the best in the world, the equal of anything you’ll find in the Seychelles or Maldives. Along the west coast, you’ll find pristine sands rinsed by the North Atlantic with dramatic backdrops of the Scottish islands; along the east coast, undulating sand dunes offer idyllic spots to lay out a picnic blanket sheltered from the salty sea breeze; and across the north coast are some real hidden coves overflowing with rare and beautiful marine life.

Whether you’re looking for an adventurous day of water sports or somewhere secluded to relax and soak up the scenery, we’ve chosen 10 of the best beaches in Scotland that you can sink your toes into. And once you’ve read our guide to the best Scotland beaches, why not take a look at our range of coastal cottages in Scotland to find your perfect seaside retreat?

Scotland coastal cottages


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The best beaches on the West Coast of Scotland

Luskentyre Sands

Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris

A wide expanse of powder-fine sand flanked by the mountains of North Harris and lapped by sparkling azure waters which appear so luminous, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on tropical shores; the award-winning Luskentyre Sands is certainly one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland. This incredibly photogenic 3-mile sweep of sand on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides is set well off the tourist trail but is a dream to discover. Wild and remote, Luskentyre boasts breathtaking views over to the small island of Taransay which, if you have a canoe, you could get to easily for an explore. You won't find many people here, making it a haven for wildlife - dolphins, seals, otters and sea eagles can all be spotted, so be sure to bring your binoculars!

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: There are toilets and parking at the beach, but there are no facilities, so make the most of your day here by bringing along a picnic.

Stay nearby: Taigh Ailein, Manish | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog        


Camusdarach Beach

Camusdarach Beach, Morar

A vision of glistening sands and crystal-clear water, Camusdarach Beach is one of the finest west coast of Scotland beaches. Part of a string of beautiful Scottish beaches called the Silver Sands of Morar, this arc of white sand is a perfect spot for swimming, boating, and sunbathing. The shore is scattered with rock pools, while in the distance, you can admire the dramatic outline of the Cuillin mountain range on the Isle of Skye, the misty blue peaks of Rum, and the steep sea cliff of Eigg. It’s no wonder that this visually stunning spot has been used in various films, including the multi-award-winning movie Local Hero.

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Car park and toilets available.

Stay nearby: The Cabin, Glenfinnan | Sleeps 5 + 1 dog


White Strand of the Monks

White Strand of the Monks, Iona

Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, the small island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides is a photographer's and wildlife watcher's dream. Revered by many, the ‘holy isle’ is said to be the final resting place of over 50 Scottish, Norwegian and Irish kings. At the northern tip of the island is a serene series of white sandy beaches interspersed with fascinating rock formations and bordered by rolling dunes. Known as the White Strand of the Monks, or Traigh Ban Nam Manach, these are some of the most tranquil West Scotland beaches, offering mesmerising views of Mull Staffa and Ulva. Dolphins, puffins and sharks can all be spotted here, as well as otters which are commonly seen darting through the kelp beds.

Dogs: Dogs are welcome all year round on leads.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Iona can be visited all year round and is accessed by a passenger ferry from Fionnphort on Mull (cars are not permitted). There is a great selection of cafes and restaurants on the island.

Stay nearby: Taigh Ailein | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog


Langamull Beach

Langamull Beach, Isle of Mull

One of the best beaches on the west coast of Scotland and also one of the most secluded, Langamull Beach is a hidden gem on the Isle of Mull. Dubbed the Mull Caribbean, this expanse of soft white-shell sand which stretches into turquoise waters rivals any exotic beach. It requires a good 20-minute walk to get there but your efforts will be rewarded with striking views out to Eigg and Rum on a clear day. Lay your towel down and enjoy some peace and quiet, explore the hidden coves, or take a dip in the sea if you are feeling brave.

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: There are no facilities at this beach, and car parking is available in the Forestry Enterprise car park between Dervaig and Calgary Bay.

Stay nearby: Puffer Cottage, Aros | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog


Great British Coast


The best beaches on the East Coast of Scotland

Coldingham Bay

Coldingham Bay, Eyemouth

Whether you fancy a leisurely stroll along the sand or an exhilarating day of surfing, Coldingham Bay should definitely be on your wish list of east coast of Scotland beaches to visit. This pristine stretch of sheltered sand is set along the Berwickshire coast and is part of the St. Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve, meaning it’s a wonderful spot to glimpse rare marine wildlife. At low tide, young explorers can have fun befriending hermit crabs in the rock pools. The pretty beach is lined with colourful beach huts, and the Berwickshire Coastal Path passes close by which can be used to walk to St Abbs and Eyemouth.

Dogs: Allowed on the beach but must be kept on a lead from June to September.

Lifeguard: Yes, during the summer months.

Local information: Beach hut hire, parking, café and toilets. 

Stay nearby: Old Manor - Coldingham, Coldingham | Sleeps 8


West Sands Beach

West Sands Beach, St Andrews

Sweeping alongside the famous St. Andrews golf course for nearly 2 miles, West Sands Beach is one of the best-known Scotland beaches. Made famous as the setting of the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire, we reckon it’s practically impossible to run along the golden sand without hearing the unforgettable Oscar-winning soundtrack echoing around the place. Soak in the dramatic views of the seaside town’s ruined castle and cathedral on the skyline and, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not join the locals for a spot of kitesurfing or land yachting?

Dogs: Not allowed on the part of the beach nearest the town between the 1st May and 30th September.

Lifeguard: Yes, during the peak season.

Local information:  There is a shop, café, toilets and lots of parking nearby.

Stay nearby: Bruntshiels Byre, near St Andrews | Sleeps 6 + 2 dogs


Seacliff Beach

Seacliff Beach, North Berwick

At low tide, Seacliff Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, attracting surfers, canoeists, dog-walkers, horse-riders, anglers and picnickers. This broad swathe of deserted golden sand is privately owned, and a nominal fee is charged to access it, but it’s worth every penny! Hiding behind dense woodland, Seacliff holds a few intriguing secrets: cross the rock pools to The Gegan to find Scotland’s tiniest harbour, blasted out of the rock in 1890, enjoy outstanding views of Tantallon Castle which is dramatically perched on a cliff face, and marvel at Bass Rock – a great big chunk of volcanic rock which rises spectacularly out of the sea and is home to around 150,000 gannets.

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information: Ample parking with a £2 charge and toilets available. 

Stay nearby: Robbers Cottage, near Duns | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


The best beaches on the North Coast of Scotland

St Ninian's Isle

St Ninian's Isle, Shetland

Often described as one of the top beaches in Scotland, St. Ninian's Isle is connected to mainland Shetland by a spectacular sand tombolo — the largest in the UK. This enormous sandbank, known locally as an ayre, is a quarter-mile long and only accessible during the summer months when it’s not engulfed by choppy winter waves. With the ocean on either side and verdant hills and craggy sea cliffs all around, the scenery is simply spectacular here. Bring a picnic, and you might find yourself sharing the silver sand with cute little puffins too.

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information:  There is a large car park next to the beach with a picnic table area and toilets.

Stay nearby: Marrats Houl, Unst |Sleeps 2


Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay, Kinlochbervie

While Sandwood Bay in Sutherland might be one of the most remote North Scotland beaches, it’s certainly one of the most jaw-dropping. There is no road access to the beach, so to reach this enchanting mile-long band of sparkling pink sand, you’ll need to set out on a 4-mile hike from the hamlet of Blairmore. Don’t let this deter you though, as the reward for your efforts is an unforgettable sight of crystal-clear aquamarine water guarded by Am Buachaille, a mighty 213ft sea stack. Flanked by colossal cliffs, rolling dunes which offer shelter for a picnic, and a deep freshwater loch, this wild and unspoilt beach is a haven.

Dogs: Welcome all year round.

Lifeguard: No

Local information:  Nearest parking and facilities are 4 miles from the beach in Blairmore.

Stay nearby: 54 Sangomore, Durness | Sleeps 10 + 2 dogs


Achmelvich Beach

Achmelvich Beach, near Lochinver

For one of the best Scottish beaches in the Highlands, head to Achmelvich Beach – when the sun is shining, the sea is so blue that it blends seamlessly into the sky. Here you can have endless fun with opportunities for coasteering, water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing. Nestled among the rocky bays of the Assynt coastline, this mesmerising crescent of white gets its colour from the crushed shells that make up most of the sand. Sit back, relax and watch local fishermen cast their rods, soak up the views of the Suilven mountain in the distance, or set out along the coast path to find Hermit's Castle, reputedly the smallest castle in Europe.

Dogs: Not permitted on the beach during the peak tourist season.

Lifeguard: No

Local information:  Parking and toilets are available. A selection of shops, cafes and restaurants are in Lochinver 4 miles away.

Stay nearby: 19th Century Schoolhouse, near Lochinver | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs


Scotland’s best beaches on a map


Further inspiration

For more inspiration for your Scotland holiday, have a browse of the following guides:


Stay with us in Scotland

Have we inspired you to add these nice beaches in Scotland to your must-visit list on your next Scottish holiday? You might also want to take a look at our UK beach guide to further get you in the mood for a coastal break. Of course, you’ll want to be as close to the water as possible on a seaside holiday, so take a look at our collection of Scotland coastal cottages to find your perfect retreat.

Scotland coastal cottages



Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.