Scotland

8 must-see Scottish beaches and the best places to stay

Get mesmerized in the view of soaring cliffs and rugged sandstone marvels by Scotland coast

Scotland’s coastline defies expectations with 6,000 miles of soaring cliffs and rugged sandstone pillars punctuated by moments of extraordinary beauty on sandy shores. The best Scotland beaches provide a wealth of contrasting settings for a memorable holiday visit.

Outside of the main urban areas, Scotland and its network of islands offer a range of accommodations with close access to tourist attractions, independently owned restaurants and pubs and family-friendly holiday entertainment. To get you started on your next journey, here are eight of the best beaches Scotland has to offer!

1. Explore the famous West Sands Beach in St Andrews

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St. Andrews is an historic university town and one of the most popular destinations in Scotland for beach getaways. It boasts all the facilities and attractions you would want for a relaxing holiday while retaining a secluded coastal charm.

You will find two stretches of sandy beach divided by a small harbour that is home to an active fishing community – you can enjoy fresh grilled lobster and chips by the pier while watching the small boats head out to sea.

The narrow etching of beach at East Sands is popular with young families for making sand-castles and enjoying improvised picnics. The more well-known West Sands is a vast open expanse of flat sand against a backdrop of dunes that attracts coastal trail ramblers.

The nearby Old Course is the home of golf where the sport was first played 600 years ago. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews went on to publish the formal rules of the game in 1897, with all links style courses close to a beach modelled on the example set by this golf club. If West Sands Beach looks familiar, you may recognise it from the running scene in the Oscar-winning movie “Chariots of Fire.”

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2. Go wild on Claigan Coral Beach, Isle of Skye

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The jutting peaks of mountain ranges on the Isle of Skye gain the most attention but the shoreline has its own brand of natural beauty. Claigan is a secluded beach with a distinctive look due to the presence of fossilised, sun-bleached algae.

Skye’s entry in best Scotland beaches, this location is the starting point for walks across the wild, rural landscape that sits alongside fine white sands. The nearby Dunvegan Castle was the seat of the chief of Clan MacLeod with the oldest parts dating back to the 14th-century. The coastline here has inspired Scotland’s writers and poets for generations. Book your trip to discover a remarkable landscape steeped in legend and folklore.

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3. Enjoy seaside attractions at Troon Beach, Ayrshire

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Troon Beach boasts impressive views of the Isle of Arran and a long- established esplanade with family-friendly seaside attractions, nearby fish restaurants and ice cream shops. It`s a popular trip for visitors from nearby Glasgow who flock there in summer to relax on the well-maintained beach with excellent swimming facilities.

In this traditional Scottish beach resort town, yachts sail in the Firth of Clyde from the local marina, and you can charter boats for deep sea fishing trips. Take a walk down the prom to pick up fish and chips from Wee Hurrie on Harbour Road, then order a traditional “99” (a cone with a Cadbury Flake inside) from Ice Cream Factory by South Beach for a taste of local hospitality. You will find parks, playgrounds, golf, kite-surfing and carnival amusements for family fun on Scotland’s west coast this summer.

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4. Explore a city beach experience at Portobello, Edinburgh

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Combine a beach holiday with a visit to Scotland’s ancient capital when you stay in Edinburgh’s quirky seaside suburb of Portobello. The bustling neighbourhood sits facing two miles of beach with a broad promenade that hosts local sporting and cultural events.

There’s space for swimming and sunbathing alongside a vibrant seafront with a plenty of street food, restaurant and pub options. Explore the market beside the beach at Brighton Park to meet local craft makers and food producers–expect paella, venison burgers, handmade chocolate bars, and Scottish botanical spirits and the like.

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5. Marvel at the Silver Sands of Morar in the Highlands

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A string of white sandy beaches, the Silver Sands are popular for walkers on a trek along the coastline. Enjoy a moment of stillness taking in the view as the rugged outlines of the Isles of Rum, Eigg and Canna meet with the calm water. Book a trip to this beautiful, rural area to be close to Fort William with its historic canal and climbing routes for Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.

Visitors often combine their time on the beach with a trip on the Jacobite steam train that leaves from nearby Mallaig. The steam train and carriages famously featured as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films.

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6. Relax and have fun at Stonehaven Cowie Beach

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A half-moon bay that sits beside Stonehaven harbour, Cowie Beach easily captures the imagination. A whimsical display of steel sculptures punctuates the beach boardway with a quirky lighthouse, fish trawlers and a Viking longship to delight younger visitors.

The beach is well used by water sports enthusiasts, with coastal tours by paddleboard available to book. Consider Stonehaven for a beach getaway that also provides the opportunity to visit Balmoral Castle, as featured in Netflix series “The Crown” and the Scotch malt whisky distilleries on Speyside.

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7. Go for a stylish beach getaway at Broughty Ferry Beach, Dundee

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Once a fishing village, Broughty Ferry is a nature conservation site that lies between the city of Dundee and the Tay estuary.

Broughty Ferry has a growing independent bar scene and new stylish eateries which have revitalised the seafront esplanade. The Ship Inn is considered one of the best pubs in Scotland with its cosy interiors and beer garden, while The Tayberry is one of the top restaurants in the city. Close to the beach you will find Monikie Country Park, which is ideal for kids with guided walks in a woodland and an adventure play park.

 

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8. Experience calm at Loch Morlich Beach

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A favourite from my own childhood holidays in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Morlich is an award-winning freshwater beach surrounded by Glenmore Forest Park. In summer there are a sailing school and watersports centre that brings the waterfront to life. Close to the ski resort town of Aviemore, the sandy bay in winter affords a vantage point to take in the snow-capped Cairngorm mountains.

A beach getaway here brings a sense of calm as you are surrounded by the majestic Scottish countryside. Read a book, play games in the sand and watch windsurfers traverse the still waters of the loch.

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