Scotland features more than 6,000 miles of coastline, which means you can find dozens of fantastic beaches all over the country. Some of Scotland's beaches are located in resort areas, like Aberdeen Beach, while others require a bit more effort to uncover, especially when traveling around the Scottish Highlands. There's even a freshwater beach in Cairngorms National Park, an ideal destination for adventurous families and couples. Whether you're looking for a quick stroll by the sea or to camp out next to a remote white sand beach, Scotland boasts a lot of scenic spots along the coast. Here are 12 of the best beaches around the country.
Located in the city of Aberdeen, Aberdeen Beach is one of Scotland's most popular seaside destinations. It features a long stretch of sand with a promenade for strolling along Aberdeen Bay, and there are lots of hotels, restaurants, and bars, as well as a family funfair, nearby. It attracts a lot of visitors during the warmer months, many of whom are there to pursue water sports, and it's an excellent place for a group or family outing during beautiful weather. Look for the adjacent Beach Leisure Centre, which features a family-friendly indoor pool and a gym, if the weather turns grey.
Found on the edge of Coldingham village, on the North Sea coast, Coldingham Bay is a picturesque beach that's popular with local visitors, especially surfers. It's part of the St. Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve and is notably clean. Follow the Berwickshire Coastal Path to walk or bike to the nearby villages of St. Abbs and Eyemouth. The hotels in the area are relatively rustic, with St. Vedas as the long-standing option for surfers. Still, despite being slightly remote, the beach offers amenities like toilets, parking, and a cafe.
Head into the Highlands to discover Achmelvich Beach, a more remote beach that's known for its camping. The small beach features pristine white sand and blue waters, and it's known as one of the most beautiful in Scotland. Travelers will need a car to access the beach, and many visitors arrive by caravan to park at one of the many campgrounds located just inland from the beach. It can be somewhat tricky to access, so be sure to have a good map and directions before you head to Achmelvich. Don't miss the nearby (and abandoned) Hermit's Castle.
Venture to the Bay of Morar to find Camusdarach Beach, a scenic beach great for exploring, swimming, boating, and relaxing. It can be found in the Highlands between Arisaig and Mallaig and features views of the Isle of Skye. Many visitors elect to camp at nearby Camusdarach, which boasts campsites and glamping, although there are several small guesthouses in the area. You'll need a car to access the beach, although there is a train station in nearby Morar.
Luskentyre Beach, found on the Isle of Harris, looks like it could be in the Caribbean on sunny days. The clear blue waters accompany miles of white sand (Luskentyre is the largest beach on the Isle of Harris), and there's a lot to do in the area, especially for outdoorsy types. It's great for walking or cycling, and the beach itself is a tranquil, secluded place to unwind, even if the water is usually too cold for swimming. There are toilets and parking at the beach, but you'll need to drive to other parts of Harris for amenities like restaurants and hotels.
West Sands Beach
West Sands Beach stretches alongside the famous St. Andrews golf course on the east coast of Scotland. The long beach can be found just north of the city of St. Andrews (about a 15-minute walk from the town's center), and it features nearly two miles of white sand and hilly dunes. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the peak season, making it an excellent choice for families with kids, and there is lots of parking nearby. If the area looks familiar, you may remember the beach from the opening scene of "Chariots of Fire."
The town of Seacliff rests on the east coast of Scotland, not far from Edinburgh. Its beach is beautiful and attracts surfers, walkers, and kayakers year-round (although it's usually not very crowded). There are great views of Tantallon Castle, and the red, volcanic rocks nearby make for dramatic sights. The beach has its own parking lot, which you'll find off the A198, and there are several delightful guest cottages for rent in Seacliff if you want to make a weekend out of it.
Located in Sutherland on the Atlantic coast, Sandwood Bay is known for its mile-long beach and rocky cliffs. It's considered one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the U.K., and there's no road access, which makes visiting the beach something of an adventure. To get to the beach, follow a four-mile flat footpath from a parking lot in Blairmore (get a good map) and bring along some supplies since it's a remote area. It's not much of a swimming beach, especially since the water is frigid, and most visitors spend their time by the ocean exploring and hiking.
Loch Morlich Beach
Loch Morlich Beach is the only freshwater beach in all of Scotland, making it a compelling destination. Located on Loch Morlich in Cairngorms National Park, the beach features watersports, swimming, and nearby walking trails. It's known for its camping at Glenmore Campsite, a short walk from the sand, and the area is notably family-friendly. The beach also has a boathouse, toilets, parking, and a picnic area, and it's possible to arrive at Loch Morlich by bike from nearby Aviemore. There are also public buses between Aviemore and the Cairngorm Mountain ski center that stop at Loch Morlich Beach regularly.
Nairn Beach, found in the village of Nairn, near Inverness, is less remote, with a local promenade and many nearby cafes and restaurants. The beach offers views across Moray Firth and has a marina for boating. Nairn is known as a resort town, so it's an excellent spot for a weekend vacation, especially since the town has many parks and two Championship golf courses. The beach is broken up into a few sections, with Central Beach closest to the town center (and often the busiest stretch of sand during the summertime). There's no lifeguard on duty, so be alert if visiting with young children.
Tyninghame Beach has the feeling of a remote beach, but it's not overly challenging to find. Located near the village of Tyninghame, east of Edinburgh, the beach is a short walk from the parking lot at Limetree Walk. It's been used a lot for filming, and you'll see why when you arrive at the beach, which is often filled with people walking and resting on the sand during the summer. It's an easy day trip from Edinburgh if you've rented a car and can be a great way to experience Scotland's natural beauty during a city trip.
Claigan Coral Beach
The Isle of Skye has several amazing beaches, but Claigan Coral Beach is one of the prettiest. Head north from Dunvegan Castle to the town of Claigan, where visitors can find Claigan Coral Beach an easy 25-minute walk from the main parking lot. The beach gets its reddish color not from coral, but from crushed Red Coralline seaweed, which is scattered on the rocky sand. It's accessible in most weather, although, of course, the best time to visit is when the sun is out. Check the tide times to explore the nearby tidal island of Lampay, which is accessible at low tide.