12 of the best beaches in Scotland

There are few beaches as special as those in Scotland. Stroll along strands of pristine white sand on the west coast, feel golden sands through your toes in the east, or hear the roar of the surf as it ebbs and flows over a pebbled beach. It's time to discover some of the best beaches in Scotland.

  1. St Ninian's Isle South Mainland

    Image: St Ninian's Isle, joined to Mainland by a tombolo of sand at Bigton, Shetland.

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

    You are never more than 5 km from the sea on the northerly Shetland archipelago, so a Scottish beach adventure is always on the cards! One of the most incredible coastal sights is St Ninian's Isle. A circular 6 km walk will see you set foot across one of the finest sand tombolos in Europe, walking straight through the middle of the ocean over a natural sand causeway towards a blissful isle.

    Beach fact: A Pictish treasure hoard was found on the island, beside the ancient chapel site. 

  2. Tolsta Beach Isle of Lewis

    Image: Tolsta Beach

    There is something supremely refreshing about the breeze of the Outer Hebrides, and the next two beautiful Scottish beaches come close to seaside perfection. Tolsta, a crofting village, is not far from Lewis' main town of Stornoway and this peaceful cove is hidden away from the road, ideal for a picnic stop.

    Beach fact: The white sandy beach is popular with surfers with big swells forming in this exposed stretch of coastline.

  3. Tresness Isle of Sanday

    Image: Northlink ferry, Kirkwall

    © Northlink Ferries

    If your idea of a perfect holiday involves a beach to yourself, then this is one to add to your bucket list! It's no surprise that Tresness is a popular photo location when you consider its huge dunes, endless views and bright blue sea.

    Beach fact: Tresness has a rich and diverse geological history. In the summer months, archaeologists are often found excavating Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements nearby.

  4. East Beach Lossiemouth

    Image: East Beach is found in Lossiemouth, a seaside town in Moray Speyside.

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    Over in the north east Mainland, the harbour at 'Lossie' is flanked by two stunning beaches to the east and west. The east's pretty sand dunes and long stretches of white sand make it a lovely place to walk the dog, or just yourself, with views across to the harbour town. Or, why not explore the Covesea Lighthouse on the west side?

    Beach fact: This isn't just one of the best beaches in Scotland - the gelato is amazing! Stop for a scoop at Miele's.

  5. Aberdeen Beach Aberdeen

    Image: Aberdeen Beach and Queens Links is famous for its golden sand and its long curved length between the harbour and the River Dons mouth.

    © Kenny Lam, VisitScotland. All rights reserved.

    Here is a city beach with bucket and spade-loads of charm! With an art-deco inspired esplanade, the golden coastline stretches 3 km and is one of the best beaches in Scotland to see bottlenose dolphins in the summer and try watersports. Keep going along the esplanade towards Footdee, an area known locally as 'Fittie', and discover a former fishing village with oodles of 19th century appeal, lined with clusters of quirky cottages originally built for fishermen working along the harbour.

    Beach fact: Fresh seafood is still a local favourite here - try some of the catch served up in Moon Fish Café or Silver Darling in Aberdeen's city centre.

  6. Rockcliffe Beach Rockliffe

    Image: Small figures walk along the shore front, around the broad sweep of Rockcliffe beach.

    © Dumfries & Galloway Council / Mark Geddes, all rights reserved.

    Rockcliffe is a wonderful Scottish beach. You can go for a morning or afternoon saunter along the wooded coastal walkway for about 5 km between the villages of Kippford and Rockcliffe, with cute houses, colourful plants and scampering squirrels to spot along the way. At Rockcliffe, a bird sanctuary called Rough Island can be reached on foot at low tide all year round, except for May and June (when the birds take charge of the isle!).

    Beach fact: There is a lost, ancient citadel at the hilltop, Mote of Mark, which is believed to date back to the 5th or 6th century.  

  7. Coldingham Bay Coldingham

    Image: Coldingham Bay

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved

    Just over an hour's drive from the capital, Coldingham Bay is one of several pristine beaches near Edinburgh, quietly situated along the Berwickshire coast. Popular with surfers and dog walkers alike, these sands are great for strolls, hitting the surf or befriending hermit crabs in rock pools. Walk from Coldingham to St Abbs along the Creel Path for more breathtaking wildlife and crystal-clear seas.

    Beach fact: Coldingham is home to the Coldingham Priory, the former house of Benedictine monks with records dating back as far as 640 AD.

  8. West Sands Beach St Andrews

    Image: Looking along West Sands towards the town, St Andrews, Fife

    © Richard Campbell, all rights reserved.

    You might recognise it from the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire (1981), but West Sands Beach in St Andrews is equally well known for simply being a long, lovely beach - with the Old Course to one side and atmospheric swirling seas to the other.

    Beach fact: The coastal town of St Andrews is home to the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. It was founded between 1410 - 1413.

  9. Nairn Beach Nairn

    Image: Groups of holiday-makers paddle on a sandbar at Nairn beach. Mountains are silhouetted against the horizon across the water.

    © VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved.

    If you're looking for a slice of paradise, look no further than Nairn Beach. Located 16 miles east of Inverness, imagine turquoise waters accompanied by white sandy beaches and stunning scenery. The beach is popular amongst families, with activities for both adventurous and laid-back lifestyles. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade or brave the chilly sea temperatures with some water sports like surfing or stand up paddleboarding.

    Nearby, kids can let off steam at the playpark or improve your swing at two championship golf courses - The Nairn Golf Club and Nairn Dunbar Golf Club. Of course, no beach trip would be complete without stopping off for some fish and chips or ice cream. There are plenty of food stalls around, so you'll never leave hungry!

    Beach fact: Nairn Beach is a great place for wildlife spotting. You might even be lucky enough to spot some Moray Firth Dolphins.

  10. Calgary Bay Calgary

    Image: Calgary Bay, North west of Mull about 5 miles (8.0 km) past Dervaig, 12 miles (19 km) from the island's capital Tobermory

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

    The Isle of Mull is a place famous for its geology and there are lots of amazing rocky beaches on the isle, but Calgary Bay stands out with its superbly sandy shores. Facing out to the isles of Tiree and Coll, it's easy to while away the hours here on a bright, sunny day with a little café selling hot drinks and ice cream.

    Beach fact: Keep an eye out for white-tailed sea eagles. A family of these fantastic birds have been successfully breeding on the Isle of Mull since 1985.

  11. Ayr Beach Ayr

    Image: Ayr beach by Greenan Castle

    © VisitScotland / Kenny Lam, all rights reserved

    If you like your beaches sandy, blissful and full of family friendly activities, look no further than the town of Ayr's coastline. Adjacent to the beach, there is a putting green, play area and crazy golf. Look across to the sea and enjoy the views across to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran. If you're looking for a beach near Glasgow, Ayr Beach is under an hour's drive away or you can just hop on the train to Ayr for a day out.

    Beach fact: The ruins of Greenan Castle are found further along this beach, dating back to the 16th century. 

  12. Sanna Bay Fort William & Lochaber

    Image: Sanna Bay

    Visit the most westerly beach on mainland Britain. Sanna Bay is famous for its wide expanse of silvery sand and amazing dunes, all set against a backdrop of rugged hills. Stretch your legs and enjoy a local walk through the dunes to the headland cairns. Along the way you'll be treated to stunning views of the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.

    There are also plenty of rock pools to explore at low tide and you'll find lots of wildlife who live here, including sea eagles, otters and pine martens.

    Beach fact: A road trip to remember. This hidden gem can be reached by driving through the magma chamber of an extinct volcano!

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