Scotland's sandy shores, rugged landscape, and unique wildlife are so special they tug at the heartstrings, especially during the summer. The combination of white sand, turquoise water, greenery, and vibrant multi-colored wildflowers is mesmerizing, and any visitor lucky enough to visit Scotland's coastline will inevitably return.
15 Best Beaches in Scotland
While warm temperatures aren't guaranteed during a Scottish summer, one thing is certain—there's always an abundance of seaside beauty. From peaceful coves on windswept islands to big beaches not far from the capital city, the coasts of Scotland rival even the best dreamy Caribbean destinations. These Scottish beaches are not only some of the top in the U.K., they're some of the most beautiful in the world.
1. Aberdeen Beach, Aberdeen
- Image Credit: Nick Bramhall from Aberdeen, UK – Aberdeen Beach and Breakwater, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.
Aberdeen Beach is famous for its soft golden sand, and its art-deco esplanade is the perfect place for a stroll. You might even spot bottlenose dolphins. The coastline stretches almost two miles. While the water is a bit too cold for a proper swim, watersports, like stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, are popular.
Like most Scottish seaside towns, fresh fish is always a main attraction. Try Silver Darling. Located on the harbor, meals come straight from the surf, and the views of the North Sea are enchanting.
2. West Sands Beach, St. Andrews
- Image Credit: Scott Cormie, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.
Famous from the film Chariots of Fire (1981), West Sands Beach in St. Andrews sits on Scotland's eastern coast. Perfect for a stroll (or a run), especially at sunset, the beach is long (almost two miles) and only a 15-minute walk from the town center.
Nearby Seafood Ristorante is one of Scotland's finest seafood restaurants. It's unique with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and offers delicious fresh and seasonal cuisine with breathtaking water views.
3. Nairn Beach, Nairn
- Image Credit: Nairn : Nairn Beach by Lewis Clarke, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
Sixteen miles east of Inverness, you'll find the turquoise waters and white sandy beaches in Nairn. This family-friendly beach is ideal for taking a leisurely stroll along the promenade or braving the cold sea temperatures to try surfing, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding.
As a bonus, there are lots of food stalls nearby. Fresh fish and chips and ice cream always hit the spot on a Scottish beach day.
4. Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull
- Image Credit: Reading Tom from Reading, UK – Calgary Bay, CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
The Isle of Mull is famous for its rocky beaches, but Calgary Bay really stands out for its beautiful sandy shores. Ideal for nature lovers, Calgary Bay is home to white-tailed sea eagles, which have been breeding on the island since 1985.
Robin's Boat is a little beach cafe selling local Mull ice creams. The shop is partly built from an upturned boat owned by the proprietor's grandfather.
There's also an Art in Nature woodland walk from the beach to the hill above (where you'll find the Carthouse Gallery and Tearoom). Meander up the hill amongst sculptures, art installations, and carvings as they peek out behind trees and wildflowers.
5. Ayr Beach, Ayr
- Image Credit: The Beach at Point of Ayr by Jeff Buck, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
A beach getaway is always a great family vacation idea, and Ayr is a top choice. Located on the western coastline, less than an hour's drive from Glasgow, beautiful Ayr Beach is easily one of the best beaches in Scotland. With sandy shores and stunning scenery, spending the afternoon enjoying views across the sea to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran is easy.
A putting green, a children's play area, and crazy golf adjacent to the beach make this beach perfect for the young and young at heart. Also on the seafront is Pirate Pete's Family Entertainment Centre. Kids will love the indoor soft play, mini golf, and laser games.
6. Sanna Bay, Fort William and Lochaber
- Image Credit: Tom Parnell from Scottish Borders, Scotland – New Pier, Eigg, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
The most westerly beach on the mainland, Sanna Bay offers silver sand, gorgeous dunes, and a dramatic backdrop of a rugged hillside. A perfect beach for explorers, it consists of four smaller sandy bays separated by a rocky headland.
A walk through the dunes and around coves and rocky inlets offers views of the Small Isles of Eigg, Rum, Canna, and Muck. Full of wildlife, including sea eagles and otters, it's also an excellent spot to see whales and dolphins.
7. Achmelvich Bay, Lochinver
- Image Credit: Achmelvich Bay by Jim Barton, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
On a sunny day, the pristine white sand and turquoise waters of Achmelvich Bay closely resemble a Mediterranean paradise. This Scottish beach on the northwest coast is perfect for swimming. The water is clear, the waves are gentle, and the sand is ideal for a wee rest. A popular spot for kayakers,
Achmelvich also offers stunning sunsets.
Four miles from Achmelvich Bay, you'll find Lochinver Larder, a delicious pie shop. With so many pies to choose from, why not swing by and enjoy a bite to eat on the beach? The steak and ale pie or the haggis, neeps, and tatties pie will indeed taste better with a view!
8. St. Ninian's Beach, Shetland Islands
- Image Credit: St Ninian's Sheep by Des Blenkinsopp, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
St. Ninian's Isle beach is a tombolo (a natural sand causeway with sea on both sides) and links the mainland via the picturesque beach with the Isle. The crowning jewel of Shetland, St. Ninian's Isle, is the longest tombolo in the U.K.
The curved sandbar is perfect for windswept walks and for families interested in buried treasure — treasure was once found on the island near an ancient chapel site.
9. Vatersay Bay, Isle of Barra
- Image Credit: The beach, Vatersay Bay by Gordon Hatton, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
In the Outer Hebrides, Vatersay is connected to the larger island of Barra by a 660-foot-long causeway. Vatersay Bay on the Isle of Barra is entirely unspoiled, peaceful, picturesque, and one of the best beaches in Scotland.
Surrounded by high dunes and greenery with pops of colorful wildflowers, Vatersay Bay's scenic coastline and shallow water are ideal for swimming and paddling in the emerald water, relaxing on the soft sand, and indulging in a picnic or barbeque.
10. Luskentyre, Isle of Harris
- Image Credit: A_Peach – CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
Not only is this one of the best beaches in Scotland, but it's also one of the best beaches in the world. The white sands of Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris offer jaw-dropping panoramic ocean views on a stunning backdrop of dramatic mountains.
Located at the end of a windy single-track road, this wind-battered spot is popular amongst surfers who catch Atlantic coast swells in the winter.
On a sunny day, you'll think you're in the tropics. But even underneath a typical gray sky, Luskentyre Beach's pure beauty is truly stunning.
11. Clachtoll Beach, Assynt, Sutherland
- Image Credit: Beach at Clachtoll by John Lord, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
For underwater explorers, Clachtoll Beach in the Highlands is the place to go. It's the most northern spot on the North West Highlands Snorkel Trail and offers dreamy sights of coral, kelp, fish, and even dolphins. The banana-yellow beach, the rocky outcrops, and the bright blue sea mesmerize visitors.
Check out the nearby ranger's hut to learn about the local wildlife, the area's geology, and the history of the beach.
12. Berneray West Beach, Outer Hebrides
- Image Credit: Rocks on the west beach on Berneray by Peter Moore, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
This 3-mile-long white sand beach, bordered by high dunes, runs the entire length of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Guaranteed to be crowd-free, the spectacular Berneray Beach offers views of the Harris mountains in the distance and is a haven for wildlife. Expect to see the rare corncrake and an assortment of wildflowers, including rare orchids.
The Berneray Shop and Bistro is a great spot to load up on supplies to take to the beach or for a pit stop on your way out. The shop is open year-round and offers a range of groceries, while the bistro is only open during the summer months and offers a light lunch and fresh seafood.
13. Coldingham Bay, The Scottish Borders
- Image Credit: Graham Robson, CC BY-SA 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
Just over an hour's drive from Edinburgh, Coldingham Bay is popular with surfers, dog walkers, and those in search of finding hermit crabs in rock pools. It's also an excellent spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. Flanked by a rocky shore at each side, Coldingham Bay has many coastal walking paths full of greenery and colorful wildflowers and offers gorgeous water views from all angles.
St. Abbs, a nearby fishing village, is within walking distance along the Creel Path.
14. East Beach, Lossiemouth
- Image Credit: Scott Barclay -CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wiki Commons.
The harbor (Lossie) is bordered by two beaches on the northeast coast. The beach on the east has long, beautiful stretches of white sand that meet the sea and is a lovely spot to stroll along the water.
The Covesea Lighthouse on the west side is also worth visiting. As is Miele's of Lossie (on the Esplanade), the best gelato shop in the area.
15. Tolsta Beach, Isle of Lewis
- Image Credit: ian ( windy_ ) – CC BY 2.0 / Wiki Commons.
Tolsta is a crofting village not far from Lewis' main town, Stornoway. Arguably the best beach on the Isle of Lewis, the quiet and peaceful white sandy cove at Tolsta is ideal for a picnic.
Nicole is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. As a former professional athlete, she gravitates toward active vacations, but also loves a great luxury hotel (The Palace Hotel in San Francisco is her favorite). In addition to travel writing, Nicole has published pieces about sports, parenting, entertainment, art, technology, and law. When she's not writing, she can be found reading a good book, hiking around the Bay Area with her son, trying to train their 70 lb. puppy, or watching reruns of I Love Lucy.