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scottish beaches

Rivalling the pearly white sands and turquoise waters of the Caribbean and Mediterranean is this collection of Scotland beaches.

Hidden away in the quiet corners are several deserted paradises and history-rich bays. With gorgeous sands and waters, and endless opportunities for dolphin spotting, these beaches in Scotland could easily be mistaken for far-flung tropical locations!

Keep reading to uncover the top Scotland beaches…

Scotland Beaches FAQ

Are there swimmable beaches in Scotland?

Yes, there are many swimmable beaches in Scotland, particularly during the summer months when the weather is warmer. Some of the most popular swimmable beaches in Scotland include Troon Beach in Ayrshire, Luskentyre Beach in the Outer Hebrides and Achmelvich Beach in the Scottish Highlands.

What is the nicest beach in Scotland?

Scotland is home to many beautiful beaches, each with its own unique features and charm, making it difficult to determine which one is the “nicest.” However, in my opinion, the nicest beach in Scotland is Achmelvich Beach located in the Scottish Highlands.  It has soft white sand, and clear blue waters, and is surrounded by rugged cliffs and hills.

What is the biggest beach in Scotland?

The biggest beach in Scotland is likely West Sands Beach in St. Andrews, Fife. This expansive beach stretches for two miles and has a width of up to 200 meters at low tide, making it one of the largest beaches in the country.

What is the cleanest beach in Scotland?

Scotland is home to many clean and well-maintained beaches, thanks in part to the efforts of local communities and environmental organisations. However, it is difficult to determine which beach is the “cleanest,” as beach cleanliness can vary from day to day based on factors such as weather conditions, tides, and the number of visitors.

The Best Beaches in Scotland

1. Portobello Beach, Edinburgh

Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach is a beautiful and vibrant seaside destination located in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. With its stunning views, fun-filled activities, and relaxing atmosphere, it is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

The beach is situated in the charming town of Portobello, which is just a few miles away from the city centre. It is easily accessible by bus, car, or bike, making it a convenient getaway for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. As you approach the beach, you will be greeted by a long stretch of golden sand and a picturesque promenade that runs alongside it.

One of the main attractions of Portobello Beach is its stunning views of the Firth of Forth, which is a wide estuary that separates Edinburgh from Fife.

During the summer months, the beach is alive with people playing beach volleyball, sunbathing, and swimming in the sea. There are also a number of water sports available, including kayaking, windsurfing, and stand-up paddleboarding.

For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there are plenty of places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, as well as a variety of things to do in the city!

Type of beach: Sandy
Dog-friendly: Yes
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: EH15 1DT

Browse our Edinburgh travel guide to begin planning your trip to this beach in Scotland!

2. The Silver Sands of Morar, West Highlands

Silver Sands of Morar

Resting on the banks of the River Moidart and peppering the coastline from Arisaig to Morar is The Silver Sands of Morar.

This collection of sandy beaches along the west coast offers breath-taking views out to the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna, as well as the opportunity for dolphin spotting.

Here, you can dip into the crystal-clear waters or simply relax upon the pearly white sands of this spectacular destination. However, if you are feeling more adventurous, take to the Moray Coast Trail or visit Loch Morar, which is one of the most beautiful Scottish lochs.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: PH39 4NT

Use Fort William accommodation as a base to enjoy this series of stunning Scotland beaches. 

3. Troon Beach, Ayrshire

Troon Beach

Troon Beach is a beautiful stretch of coastline located in the town of Troon in Ayrshire. This Scottish beach is known for its long sandy shorelines and stunning views of the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig.

In addition to its natural beauty, Troon Beach also offers a range of amenities and facilities for visitors. There are several restaurants and cafes located along the beachfront, as well as a variety of shops and attractions in the nearby town.

It is a popular destination for visitors to the area, particularly during the summer months when the warm weather allows for swimming and other beach activities. One of the most popular attractions on Troon Beach is the Royal Troon Golf Club, which is located nearby.

This historic golf course has hosted several major championships, including the Open Championship, and is considered one of the best courses in the world. Visitors to the beach can take a stroll along the course or even play a round of golf themselves.

Type of beach: Sandy
Dog-friendly: Dog restrictions apply between May – September
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: KA10 6JU

4. Achmelvich Beach, Scottish Highlands

Achmelvich beach

Perfectly positioned on the Highland coast is Achmelvich Beach, often considered the most beautiful beach in Scotland. This gorgeous, white sandy beach is situated just a few miles from the village of Lochinver and is one of the most picturesque spots in the Scottish Highlands.

The crystal-clear waters of this exotic beach are perfect for swimming, kayaking, and other water activities. The beach is also a popular spot for fishing, and visitors can try their luck at catching sea trout, mackerel, and other species of fish.

The surrounding hills provide excellent hiking opportunities, with stunning views of the beach and the sea beyond.

One of the most striking features of Achmelvich Beach is the turquoise colour of the water, which is reminiscent of more tropical destinations. Whilst in the waters, you may catch a glimpse of porpoises, dolphins and the occasional minke whale!

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Dog restrictions apply between April – September
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV27 4JB

Beach bag already packed? Find your perfect Scottish Highlands accommodation to enjoy one of the best beaches in Scotland! 

5. Luskentyre Beach, South Harris, Outer Hebrides


You would be forgiven for thinking that you had just stumbled across the sands of those in Western Australia when you visit our next Scottish beach.

Found on the west coast of South Harris in the Outer Hebrides lies the impossibly pretty, Luskentyre Beach, truly one of the best beaches in Scotland. With its combination of green-blue water, incredible views and the rhythm of crashing waves, this destination is sure to spark some magic.

After the three-mile journey along the single-track road, you are rewarded with striking vistas and ever-changing colours. Take a moment or two to enjoy the pretty sight before taking the coastal path towards Tràigh Rosamol, another beautiful beach in Scotland.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: HS3 3HL

To enjoy these unparalleled landscapes, take a look at this collection of Scottish islands cottages

6. Nairn Beach, Scottish Highlands

Nairn Beach

Nairn Beach is a stunning beach located in the Scottish Highlands, in the town of Nairn. The beach stretches for miles and boasts soft golden sands and crystal-clear waters.

One of the most notable features of Nairn Beach is its long, wide promenade that runs alongside the beach. The promenade is perfect for a leisurely stroll, a jog or a bike ride, and offers stunning views of the Moray Firth.

From here, visitors can catch a glimpse of the resident dolphins that swim in the waters or even more magical glimpses of the Northern Lights.

The beach itself is clean and well-maintained, with plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the surroundings. Visitors can relax on the soft sand, take a dip in the cool waters, or play a game of beach volleyball.

There are also a number of rock pools to explore, which are home to an array of fascinating marine life.

Type of beach: Sandy
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV12 9AE

7. West Sands Beach, St. Andrews

West Sands Beach

Next on our guide to beaches in Scotland is West Sands Beach, a popular destination located in St. Andrews. It is a popular spot for both locals and tourists and has even been featured in popular films, such as Chariots of Fire.

West Sands Beach is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities such as swimming, windsurfing and kayaking. Visitors can enjoy watching the many seabirds that call the area home, including the famous puffins.

The beach is surrounded by dunes, which offer a unique ecosystem for visitors to explore. The dunes are home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including rare plants and insects. Visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about the ecology of the area, or simply wander through the dunes and take in the natural beauty.

West Sands Beach is just one of the many stunning beaches in St. Andrews that you have to visit!

Type of beach: Sandy
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: KY16 9XL

8. St Ninian’s Beach, Shetland Islands

St Ninian's Beach, Shetland Islands

Featuring a long natural sand causeway split, with the sea on either side is our next beach in Scotland. St. Ninian’s Beach connects the small isle of St Ninian’s to Shetland via the large curving tombolo, easily accessible from Bigton.

Take to the pristine sands, where you can be sure to spot weathered sea glass, seashells and sea rockets along the way. At the far end of the beach, uncover a small cave to take shelter in, offering a unique picnic spot!

Afterwards, brush up on the local history with a visit to the archaeological site located on St. Ninian’s Isle. Here, you can uncover the kirk ruins, where the local religious community buried treasure during the 9th-century Viking raids.

Alternatively, relish in an icy dip in the clear waters or stay long enough to watch the sun setting across the sea horizon. Time your visit right and you could even experience the Northern Lights in Scotland from this beach!

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: ZE2 9JA

Take a look at this collection of Scottish coastal cottages to discover even more of the best beaches in Scotland. 

9. Gruinard Bay, Ross-Shire, Scottish Highlands

Gruinard Bay

Enveloped by the Coigach hills and enchanting woodland is the hidden beach of Gruinard Bay. This bay plays host to three beaches, each one boasting pink sand, rocky coves and crystal-clear waters.

This secluded Scottish bay is ideal for escaping the usual crowds of UK beaches, with far-reaching views towards Gruinard Island to savour. As well as lots of islands to enjoy, be sure to look out for Eider ducks, Northern divers and seals.

Alternatively, history buffs can visit the Chapel of Sand and visit the site where scientists during the Second World War were in the development of biological weapons. Today, however, the area is popular for fishing, sea angling, and hillwalking, ideal for a steadier pace of life!

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV22 2NQ

10. Whitemill Bay, Sanday, Orkney

Whitemill Bay, Sanday, Orkney

Hidden away on the northern coastline of the island of Sanday is Whitemill Bay.

This Scottish beach offers quieter moments with a correspondingly wild feel. So be sure to explore the sweeping bay, backed by beautiful sand dunes before dipping your toes into the deserted waters.

After admiring the sublime beach, be sure to enjoy the seemingly never-ending selection of walks and immerse yourself in the island’s strong sense of community. On the island, you will find a distinctive lighthouse at Start Point. The black and white-striped building is a fascinating site, whilst the beach at Lopness features the wreck of an old ship!

With its eclectic mix of things to do and a stunning beach or two, the venture to Orkney’s Isle is well worth it.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: KW17 2AZ

11. Sango Bay, Durness, North-West Highlands

Sango Bay in Durness

Next on our guide to the best beaches in Scotland is Sando Bay, one of the most northerly beaches in mainland Scotland. With a varied landscape of cliffs, rocks and sand dunes, this stunning beach offers its visitors the best of everything.

Sango Bay is a perfect place to relax, unwind and immerse oneself in the natural surroundings. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk along the beach, or take a dip in the cool waters.

Offering a panoramic view of North Minch – the channel between the mainland and the Hebrides – this beach is also great for spotting dolphins and whales.

The beach is also surrounded by stunning landscapes, with rugged cliffs and rolling hills that are perfect for hiking or mountain biking. Alternatively, you can venture to the famous Smoo Cave, which is the largest cave in Scotland, whilst avid ramblers can explore the towering cliffs and rugged mountains that surround it.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV27 4PY

Take a look at Durness cottages and plan your perfect Scottish adventure today! 

12. Balnakeil Beach, near Durness, Highlands

Balnakeil Beach

Perfectly placed at the western tip of mainland Scotland is Balnakeil Beach, sitting within striking distance of Durness and Cape Wrath.

The wide sand and azure waters are backed by towering Scottish mountains and grassy dunes, home to a large range of habitats. Here, you will find endless opportunities, from peaceful bathing, unspoilt walks and catching breath-taking sunsets.

Continuing to impress, this Scottish beach makes a superb stop-off on the North Coast 500, one of Britain’s top scenic drives!

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV27 4PX

Find your perfect place to stay amongst this collection of Balnakeil holiday cottages

13. Oldshoremore Beach, Scottish Highlands

Oldshoremore beach

Next up on our guide to the best beaches in Scotland is the beautiful Oldshoremore Beach, enjoying a remote location in the Scottish Highlands.

With glistening sands and sparkling clear water, this Scottish beach is simply stunning. And when the weather is on-side, it’s hard not to imagine that you’re basking in the sunshine abroad!

Meander along the curving bay, formed from eroded sandstone and seashells. Afterwards, dip into the water, considered one of the best places to swim in Scotland. Additionally, visitors can take a kayak tour to explore the beautiful coastline.

Oldshoremore Beach is also surrounded by dramatic scenery, with rugged cliffs, rocky outcrops and rolling hills that are perfect for hiking. Visitors can take a leisurely walk along the beach, or embark on a more challenging hike to explore the nearby hills and valleys.

The area is also home to an abundance of Scottish wildlife, including otters, seals, and seabirds.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Dog restrictions may apply between April – September
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: IV27 4RS

Stay local to this Scotland beach with a Ullapool self-catering cottage

14. Traigh lar Beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Traigh lar beach, Isle of Harris

Graced with pure white sand and exotic blue water is our final location on our best beaches in Scotland guide!

The beach is situated on the west coast of the island and boasts pristine white sand, crystal clear waters, and breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and coastline. It is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing, as well as for water sports like surfing and windsurfing.

Soak up the views across to the Isle of Taransay and towards the Harris Hills or uncover the standing stone Clach MhicLeoid for stunning photo opportunities!

Despite its popularity, Traigh lar Beach remains unspoiled and peaceful. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an outdoor adventure, this Scottish beach is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Type of beach: Sand
Dog-friendly: Yes, all year round
Car Park: Yes
Postcode: HS3 3AE

Scotland Beaches Map

If these best beaches in Scotland have left you feeling inspired, find more beautiful beaches on the Isle of Skye. Alternatively, discover more things to do with our Scotland travel guide!

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