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9 great beaches to visit in Scotland

Written by Fiona

June 04 2021

Scotland is celebrating a Year of Coasts and Waters in 2021. For a small country, we have a huge coastline and some of the most amazing beaches you’ll ever see.

Sadly, I have been reading on social media that some people don’t know how to respect the wonderful natural environment that we are so fortunate to have. But, still, I hope the majority can visit our many great hotspots at the coast and enjoy the views and surroundings, while also ensuring they behave responsibly. It is not difficult to do so. Read the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and follow these simple rules:

  • Respect the interests of other people
  • Care for the environment
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Leave no trace.

The tourism industry, promoted by VisitScotland, is also very keen to welcome people. After a year of Covid-related lockdown, many people need new business. So take a look at this list and enjoy making plans.

9 amazing beaches to visit in Scotland

Credit: VisitScotland

Ganavan Bay, Argyll & Bute 

This sheltered, sandy beach offers beautiful views over the Isle of Mull and is perfect for shallow swimming, rock pooling and paddleboarding. Close by is the seaside town of Oban, the perfect location to enjoy fish and chips after a day of watersports at the beach. 

Hackley Bay. Credit: Martyn Gorman

Hackley Bay, Aberdeenshire 

Hidden away in Forvie Nature Reserve and only accessible by foot along a cliff path, Hackley Bay is a true hidden gem. This sandy beach is sheltered by cliffs and backed by high sand dunes, making it the perfect secret escape before a second stop in Balmedie to enjoy fish and chips on the golden shores of Balmedie Beach

Credit: VisitScotland

Aberdeen Beach 

For a moment of calm amid a busy day of drinking in the city vibes of Aberdeen, ranging from culture at the Aberdeen Art Gallery’s new exhibition British Art Show 9 (running July – October) to delicious seafood at the Moonfish Café, head to Aberdeen Beach.

Offering sandy shores on a warm day, this city beach displays otherwordly views during the “blue hour” twilight. The most lucky of visitors may even catch a glimpse the dolphins that live in these waters. 

Aberdeen Beach was named a winner in the 2021 Scotland Beach Awards, celebrating the excellence of good quality, sustainable beaches. 

Credit: VisitScotland

Waulkmill beach, Orkney 

Tucked away, down a small side road before following steep steps to the shore, Waulkmill is one of the biggest beaches in the islands, with a beautiful stretch of sand taking up the  bay at low tide, leading towards the clear waters of Scapa Flow, which are shallow enough to make them ideal for paddling. 

Credit: VisitScotland

Minn beach, Burra, Shetland  

One of Shetland’s most beautiful beaches, at the southernmost part of West Burra, can be reached via a footpath that leads to both the curved beach and onto Kettla Ness peninsula.  This wild Atlantic-facing headland is home to a wide variety of breeding moorland and coastal birds, with sightings of seals a regular occurrence around the shoreline. 

Credit: VisitScotland

Rockcliffe Beach, Dumfries & Galloway 

Rockcliffe, located on the southern edge of Dumfries and Galloway, in what is known as the “Scottish Riviera”, where the effects of the Gulf Stream create a warm climate, is part of a National Scenic Area. Visitors to the area can enjoy the wooded coastal walkway running between sailing villages and the nearby ancient citadel, Mote of Mark, situated on a nearby rocky outcrop. 

Credit: VisitScotland

Nairn Beach, Highlands 

Located just half an hour drive from the city sights of Inverness and directly next to the seaside town of Nairn, Nairn Central Beach is a long sandy stretch of coast backed by low sand dunes. Also nearby are Nairn East Beach and Nairn West Beach, offering plenty of coastline for visitors to enjoy. Wildlife lovers can look out for the resident dolphin pod in these waters, while enjoying spectacular views out to the Moray Firth.   

Credit: VisitScotland


Tiree is an outstanding destination for those seeking sandy shores with 15 beaches to choose from and the Gulf Stream bringing a warm climate to the area. Watersports fans will be delighted to discover Tiree is known not only for its warmth but for its wind, creating the perfect environment for surfing. Visit Blackhouse Watersports on Balevullin Beach to try out surfing on Tiree. 

Credit: Fife Council

Pettycur Bay by Kinghorn, Fife   

This sandy beach backed by dunes is located only 10 minutes from Kinghorn Railway Station and offers stunning views across the Firth of Forth towards Edinburgh and The Lothians. 

On a clear day it’s possible to see Edinburgh Castle in the distance, making this beach perfect for calm reflection. At low tide, visitors can enjoy a costal walk from Pettycur over to beautiful and family friendly Burntisland Beach. 

Where to stay?: Check out for local accommodation providers and also consult the  Scottish Government website for the latest Covid precautions.

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