When people think of Scotland, they often picture sweeping lush forests and craggy mountains. But Scotland’s incredible beauty encompasses far more than just the mountains, rivers, and lakes. The country is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, many of which could equal those you’ll find in the Maldives or Seychelles.
If you’re after sandy beaches, Scotland has plenty to offer. You’ll find surfer’s paradises, hidden coves, city beaches, and remote bays that seem to stretch for several miles.
If you are planning a beach getaway to Scotland, keep scrolling. Below is a list of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, from west to north, including those that are ideal for surfing and some dog-friendly ones to take your four-legged friends.
The Best Beaches in West Scotland
1. Camusdarach, Morar
On Scotland’s west coast, just north of Fort William, you’ll find Camusdarach Beach. Known for its glistening silver sands and crystal-clear waters, the beach is shallow enough to paddle in, with views overlooking the Isle of Skye.
With plenty of opportunities for water sports, this beach is a beautiful place to spend the day. If you think the scenery looks familiar, that’s because it’s one of the most famous filming locations in Scotland. Camping is also available here, and the area serves as a launching site for small boats and sea kayaks.
2. St Ninian’s Isle Beach, Shetland
St Ninian’s Isle Beach is Shetland’s most famous beach. In fact, when you search for the best places to visit in Shetland, images of this beach will most likely come up.
Surrounded by Shetland’s gorgeous farmland, the beach is tucked away on the Mainland’s west coast with views that open to the island of Foula. The stunning beach leads to the St Ninian’s Isle, famous for its 12th-century chapel and where they discovered the St Ninian’s Isle treasure, believed to be the best example of surviving silver metalwork dating back to early medieval Scotland.
3. Breckon Sands, Yell
Surrounded by the stunning cliff scenery of North Yell, Breckon Sands is the best beach in Scotland to visit if you like sandy beaches. Although it opens to the Atlantic, it’s well-protected from most wind directions. The dunes offer numerous sheltered opportunities for a picnic on good days, and the nearby cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop for walking with scenic views on either side
4. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Sandwood is a wonderful beach in Scotland, located in the mainland’s extreme northwest area. Set at the end of a four-mile footpath, getting to the beach is an adventure in itself, but it’s well worth it.
This mile-long beach features a long stretch of golden sands backed by high dunes, where the freshwater lake of Sandwood Loch lies. Check out Am Buachaille; a massive sea stack located about a mile south of Sandwood Bay. Rising at 213 ft above the sea, this place is a popular site for climbers.
5. Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan
Sanna Bay often tops the list of the best Scottish beaches, and it’s easy to see why. As one of the most stunning beaches on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, this massive bay consists of four smaller sandy bays divided by rocky headlands.
Renowned for its gorgeous scenery, Sanna Bay has white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters. The bay also opens to the incredible views of the Ardnamurchan Point and The Small Isles.
Sanna Bay is also an excellent place for wildlife spotting. Here, you could spot some butterflies feeding on the machair flora, along with otters and coastal birds foraging on the shoreline.
The Best Beaches in Central Scotland
6. Seacliff Beach, North Berwick
If you’re heading to Central Scotland for your beach holiday, check out Seacliff Beach. This hidden gem is found after walking down the rough road coming from Auldhame, south of the Tantallon Castle. A coin-operated barrier at the beach requires an admission charge of £2 per car.
Surrounded by rocks on both ends, the beach has no shortage of rock pools to explore. From here, you can spot the incredible views of Bass Rock and Tantallon Castle. There’s also a beautiful, small harbour nearby that’s cut out from solid rock
7. Portobello, Edinburgh
Located just a few miles from the city centre of Edinburgh, Portobello Beach is found on the edge of one of the best seaside towns in Scotland. The area draws large crowds of visitors due to good weather and a host of popular events, including the annual international volleyball competition Big Beach Busk.
Visitors can also check out the splendid Victorian swimming pool that still features original Turkish bath facilities. For those seeking refreshment, you will find several bars and cafes along the promenade and with many more options along the town’s bustling high street. Every first Saturday of the month, there’s a market that sells fresh local produce and crafts.
The Best Beaches in North Scotland
8. Ceannabeinne Beach, Durness
In North Scotland, one of the best beaches that you can find is Ceannabeinne Beach. Situated far on the north coast of the mainland, this is a truly magical-looking beach with its powdery white sands and crystal-clear waters.
On a sunny day, the sheer beauty of the beach is overwhelming. Flanked by rocky cliffs with a distinctive pink colour, the Ceannabeinne Beach is surrounded by a grassy landscape that slopes towards the Beinn Ceannabeinne; a beautiful mountain about 383 meters tall and where the beach’s name comes from. A little further away from Ceannabeinne Beach is the small island of Eilean Hoan, home to some farming families and now converted into a nature reserve.
9. Sango Bay, Durness
Sango Bay is one of the nicest beaches in Scotland. Situated in the first European Geopark of Scotland, the beach is located in the northernmost point of the region. It’s a secluded and sheltered beach accessible through a single road.
One of the top family-friendly beaches in Scotland, this beautiful sandy beach has rocky outcrops, perfect for building sandcastles. It’s also safe for swimming and surfing. While there are no immediate facilities at the beach, the village nearby can provide most things you will need, including a toilet.
Head a bit further east, and you will find the Smoo Cave set at the entrance of a steeply walled inlet. If you’re brave enough, head deep into the first chamber, where you will find an underground waterfall.
The Best Sandy Beaches in Scotland
10. Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris
With its expansive stretch of white sand and stunning blue-green water, it’s easy to see why Luskentyre Beach is considered one of the top beaches in Scotland. Carved into an island at the edge of a vast bay, it’s located near the entrance of an estuary bordered by enormous dunes.
Despite its impressive beauty, Luskentyre is not too busy. Here, you can easily spend the afternoon wandering on the shore and not find a single soul. As one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland, Luskentyre is also a haven for photographers. It offers unparalleled landscape views, especially during late spring and summer when ample evening light lingers.
11. Langamull Beach, Isle of Mull
Langamull Beach is a beautiful, unspoilt beach in Scotland backed by dunes with wild grasses and flowers. Featuring paper-white sands with corals and seashells, this beach is a great hangout spot in the Isle of Mull.
The nearby area has several amenities, including free parking and street parking. It’s also one of the beaches in Scotland that allow dogs.
Langamull Beach has plenty to offer those who want to enjoy activities whilst beside the sea. Aside from swimming, it’s an excellent place for hiking as there are numerous hiking trails nearby. But take note there are no restaurants at the beach, so plan your visit well and don’t forget to pack some snacks.
12. The Monks, Iona
Iona’s northern beaches are famous for their pure white sands and aquamarine water, surrounded by the stunning vistas of the Treshnish Isles and Mull. The Monks are a series of sandy beaches that occupy the North and Northeast shores of Iona, accessible from the gate at the tip of the road past the Abbey.
The beach is scattered with distinctive black and white stones on the soft white sands overlooking Eilean Annraidh (Island of Storm). Take note that the tides tend to be very strong at this beach, so swimming is relatively unsafe. Still, it’s an excellent spot for a picnic and a leisurely stroll.
The Best Surfing Beaches in Scotland
13. Balephuil, Isle of Tiree
Located on the Southwest Coast of Tiree, Balephuil Bay stretches about a mile in length and is one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland for surfing. It’s an exposed beach break offering reliable surf with offshore winds blowing from the north and also receives a mix of groundswells and wind swells, with the best swell direction coming from the southwest.
The bay is surfable at all stages of the tide, with waves breaking both left and right. The best time to go surfing in Balephuil is during summer when the bay has consistent, clean waves that are ideal for surfers.
Aside from being one of the sunniest places in the UK, Tiree is also one of the windiest. It hosts the Tiree Wave Classic every October, a world championship event for windsurfing.
14. Thurso East Beach, Thurso
As one of Scotland’s best beaches, Thurso East Beach is the highlight of the ‘North Shore’. Ideal for surfing, the beach has an exposed point break with pretty consistent surf breaks and can work at any time of the year. The bay is mostly sandy with some rocky sections that should be avoided when you’re coming ashore.
The town is one of the most northerly points of mainland Britain, only a stone’s throw away from John O’Groats. Because of this, it’s exposed to the big Atlantic swells and with some beautifully formed reefs offshore. If you’re looking for the ultimate spot to catch some waves, East Beach produces some of the best waves for surfing in the UK.
The Best Beach in Scotland for Dogs
15. St Andrews Beach, St Andrews
St Andrews Beach in St Andrews is a dog-friendly beach in Scotland located on the southern end of the old harbour. This white sandy beach has a walking path on the inland side, where you can walk your dogs. It’s also located close to the harbour and sailing club, so it’s suitable for those who want to take up a variety of water sports.
Situated on the Fife Coastal Path and well-served by numerous amenities, including a toilet and car park, this beach is one of the most accessible beaches in St Andrews. Aside from being dog-friendly, it’s also a family-friendly beach, with a play area for the kids and lifeguards on duty, especially during peak season.
Scotland may not at first glance appear to be a tropical playground for beach lovers, but its beaches are some of the most beautiful in not just the UK but worldwide.
If you’re planning a Scottish holiday and are looking for somewhere to stay during your trip, check out our extensive range of holiday cottages across Scotland.