Scotland has a spectacular and enormous coastline but most people don't realise that it is home to some of the finest beaches in Europe - beautiful strands of white sand that can often make you feel you are in the Caribbean if the sun is shining. What follows is our selection of some of Scotland's best beaches, from pristine white sands of the west coast to the popular sandy bays of Fife. Browse our guide to Scotland's best places to stay so you make the most of one of Europe's most beautiful coastlines.
Silver Sands beach Blue Flag is situated on the north shore of the Firth of Forth in Fife. A popular beach in the summer it also offers long peaceful walks during the colder months. Backed by woodland it has fantastic views over the Forth to the Islands of Inchmickery, Inverkeith and Inchcolm with its famous Abbey. The Fife Coastal path passes along the beach and this section of the path is beautiful and worth taking. The beach can be reached by driving through the charming little village of Aberdour, which also has a stunning Castle and Harbour. Getting extremely busy during the summer it's a perfect day out with the family. There are plenty of parking spaces as well as a good-sized cafe/restaurant, bouncy castle and play park.
Dunnet Bay is situated right at the top of Scotland in between Thurso and John o groats. Well sheltered from the elements, this white sandy beach is over two miles long – perfect for sunbathing and swimming and when the winds are high it's ideal for surfing. Lined by one of the longest expanses of sand dunes in Northern Scotland Oystercatchers, ringed plover and eider ducks are often spotted here. The visitor centre is half a mile south of the village of Dunnet (in the caravan park), and they supply binoculars and telescopes for a bit of wildlife spotting. Being on the first floor it also has fantastic views of the beach and surrounding areas. They also have excellent exhibitions and displays showing the history of the area as well as the formation of the dunes and examples of birds and flowers which can be found here.
This beach and the Elie Earlsferry beach are connected, meaning almost a mile of clean soft sand. Popular with families building sandcastles and eating ice cream bought from the pretty little shops that line the shore, the beach is also famed for it’s watersports. The sheltered bay means it is not too windy so is good for beginners who can try windsailing, canoeing or waterskiing. You can even try out the inflatable banana boats or rubber rings. This is not the most peaceful of beaches but it is set in a truly stunning little village and is a great way to spend the day with the kids.
This beach stretches from the Village of Embo near Dornoch to the mouth of the River Fleet, and the whole length is flanked by high sand dunes. Fine yellow sand and crystal clear water make this an ideal beach for a visit with the family or a long romantic stroll. If you are planning to stay for a while accommodation can be found at Grannie’s Heiland Hame, a campsite with luxury caravans within walking distance of the beach.
Kinshaldy beach in St Andrews is a popular day out for families across Fife and further afield. The long winding road to the entrance takes you through Leuchers, the village of the famous air force base, then through the dense beautiful pine forest of Tentsmuir before reaching the high sand dunes at the edge of the forest. The forest and nature reserve cover 50 square miles in north east Fife on the east coast of Scotland. This beach is excellent for BBQ's and picnics, having many benches and BBQ stations on a field in one of the forest openings. This beach can get extremely busy when the sun shines, with queues forming early, so be sure to get there first thing to bag a good spot. Three miles of white sand makes it ideal for sunbathing, although because of fast moving tides it's unadvisable to swim. There are marked walks and cycle routes through the forest where it's possible to spot red squirrels, Roe deer and several species of bats. You can also still see some World War 2 defences along the beach, concrete blocks known as Dragons Teeth and if you look out on the far side of the beach you can see the basking grey seals.
This beautiful beach on the east coast of the Isle of Skye is a tranquil haven surrounded by dramatic cliffs and giant sea stacks. The black and white sand combine with the movements of the tides making unusual shapes and patterns, and as the skies darken the views of the sun setting from the beach are outstanding. Although the beach is just a short walk from the car park it feels remote and peaceful. It's also good for bird watching, a spot of surfing, and has the most stunning natural waterfall.
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