Escape to a secret paradise: Scotland's 7 best beaches

Blinding white sands with sparkling clear waters – some on secluded islands. No, we're not in the Caribbean. These are Scotland's most surprising beaches...

5 mins

When thinking of idyllic places for a beach holiday, Scotland is not usually the first destination that springs to mind. Known for its grey skies which loom over navy lochs and towering Munros, it can be difficult to imagine Scotland having anything more than an eerie atmosphere. But dig a little deeper and you will find beaches that rival those in the Caribbean – white, flat sands which stretch for miles and clear waters filled with interesting marine life. And the great part is, these beaches are without the crowds of Barbados.

Whether you’re searching for a secret paradise, coastal adventure or a break from the city, there's a Scottish beach made for you.

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh

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Best for a city break 

Edinburgh is Scotland’s star attraction. The city is pulls in global tourists for its fairytale charm with its historic attractions, UNESCO-listed sites and literary festival. But most are not aware of its traditional seaside town.

Just a short distance away from the city centre is Portobello beach – a 3km stretch of sand backed by Georgian and Victorian architecture.

Dive in the sea for an invigorating swim, hop in a kayak or have a sailing lesson at the local club, or if you prefer to stay cosy, tuck into some coastal cuisine at one of the restaurants and cafes dotted along the promenade.

For some added entertainment, come during August to enjoy the annual Big Beach Busk

Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull

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Best for getting back to nature

Calgary Bay, the inspiration behind the name for Canada’s city, is one of the most popular beach locations on Mull. Why? Because much of the Isle’s shoreline is made up of rocks, whereas Calgary boasts a beach of dreamy silver sands and sparkling waters.  

Another alluring factor is the beach’s natural surroundings. Wildflower meadows and woodlands add a feeling of seclusion, and the calcium rich soil creates a unique habitat of flower species and grass.

When feeling peckish, visitors head to the bay’s only ice cream shack, Robin's Boat, converted from a boat and serving gorgeous homemade ice cream. And if you find yourselves twiddling your thumbs, local art trails and a visit to Calgary Castle can be added to your daytime itinerary.

 

Read next The world's most beautiful remote beaches

Nairn Beach, Nairn

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Best for a tropics impersonator 

Just 26 km from Inverness, this beach in the Nairn could easily be mistaken for one in a tropical region of the world. Alas, it sits on Scotland’s northeast coast.

As well as attracting beachgoers for its sandy stretch backed by grasslands, those brave enough to enter the chilly waters can enjoy surfing the waves, or stand-up paddleboarding on calmer days.

For those who come for more leisurely activities, take a stroll along the promenade or gaze out to the horizon to spot the resident school of dolphins putting on a show.

Aberdeen Beach, Aberdeen

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Best for spotting dolphins

Spend the morning touring Aberdeen’s grey-stone buildings before hitting the beach – a 3km stretch of sand between the River Dee and Don.

The award-winning beach attracts a variety of watersport lovers, with the waves providing popular surf territory. Travellers can also take in the coastal views on a walk along the Esplanade towards Footdee, a 19th-century fisherman’s village with quaint cottages.

But the best part about this beach is the chance to see bottlenose dolphins playing in the waves. Head slightly further out to the newly opened dolphin viewing centre at Greyhope Bay for spotting the wonderful marine creatures without binoculars!

 

Read now 9 marvellous marine species to spot around the UK this summer

Ganavan Sands, Oban

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Best for an active adventure

For those staying in Glasgow, the journey to Oban has been made all the more easier with the launch of a new rail service. The ScotRail Highland Explorer takes just three-hours to reach Oban rail station, with plenty of room on the carriages to store a bike.

Oban has selection of stunning coastal points, but we suggest a 20 km cycle from the station to the picturesque Ganavan Sands. Stop off for the sights on your way, including Dunollie Castle.

Once you’ve there, spend an afternoon paddling in the waters and taking in the vistas from the bay across to the Isle of Mull, Lismore and Morven.

Balephuil Bay, Isle of Tiree

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Best for riding the waves

Home to the international windsurfing competition, the Tiree Wave Classic, Balephuil Bay on the Isle of Tiree is one of the windiest spots in the UK – perfect for catching a breeze for some speedy sailing.

It may be the windiest, but it's one of the sunniest places too. The island in the Inner Hebrides has also been dubbed the ‘Hawaii of the North’, with warm waters brought in by the Gulf Stream and beautiful stretches of white sand and turquoise waters. Not a bad comparison to have, right?

Luskentyre Sands, Isle of Harris

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Best for a remote paradise

We couldn't miss this piece of heaven on earth sitting on the west coast of South Harris. Luskentyre Sands has often been named one of the world's best beaches at the Tripadvisor Traveller's Choice awards.

This surprising spot in the Outer Hebrides produces turquoise waters, silver sands which span the coastline for miles, and is backed by sand dunes (surprisingly not palm trees). Better yet, it also has incredible views across to the Isle of Taransay, where BBC's Castaway was filmed.

Come during spring and summer for spectacular low tides revealing an even more picturesque site. If you want to get active, there's plenty of surrounding cycle paths and hill walks to enjoy. 

 

To find out more, go to Visit Scotland

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