What better way to embrace the sunshine over the holidays and to make the most out of pent-up annual leave, than to head to the beach to enjoy an ice cream, embrace that sand in between toes (and paws) feeling, whilst listening to the gentle lull of the waves.
Whether a seasoned beachgoer or an enthusiastic outdoor adventurer looking for the next spur-of-the-moment weekend away, Scotland’s array of urban beaches, sandy coastlines and plethora of over 900 offshore islands make for the perfect year-round getaway.
With a variety of beaches scattered across the country to explore, visitors can make memories to last a lifetime from any of our sand-sea escape recommendations below.
Get the best of both worlds from urban beaches…
For those craving the gentle buzz of a Scottish city break, but also keen to make the most of a sunny day, look no further than the likes of Edinburgh and Dundee which provide the best of both worlds.
Portobello Beach, Edinburgh
Edinburgh is often celebrated for its famous castle, family attractions, upcoming summer festivals and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, but it is also a prime location for wild swimming. The slightly chilly waters of Portobello Beach have become a firm favourite amongst visitors and locals over the years. And with an excellent offering of cafés and restaurants to warm up in along the promenade post dip, this beautiful stretch of sandy beach also provides the perfect run around for four legged friends too.
Accommodation in Edinburgh: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: The Four Sisters Boatel – luxury, four-star, self-catering, wide-beam canal barges located in the very heart of Edinburgh City Centre, pet friendly.
Waterfront Place, Dundee
Named the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design in 2014, Dundee is set to celebrate its status as the undisputed home of comics with the Dundee Summer (Bash) Streets Festival, taking place from July 14th -24th. Supported by EventScotland as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022, Dundee will become ‘Beanotown’ as the much-loved comic book characters will take over the streets of the city for an extravaganza of workshops, events, and stories.
VisitScotland and ScotRail have teamed up with Beano for the first time, allowing for youngsters to travel to the likes of Dundee for just £1, where visitors can sit back and bask in a deckchair whilst taking in the sunny rays at the city’s urban beach installation at Waterfront Place.
Designed to reflect coastal geography with dune-like landscaping leading down to the urban beach, The Waterfront Place is conveniently situated adjacent to the V&A, Scotland’s first design museum. Little ones can build sandcastles and make the most out of the maritime themed interactive play park, and those looking to do some sustainable city exploring can hire bikes from the onsite travel hub.
Not up to cycling? Jump aboard the new Discover Dundee open-top bus tour, to make the most out of time spent in the city.
Perhaps venture slightly further afield and catch a train to Broughty Ferry railway station, a mere 14-minute journey away and only one stop from Dundee. From Broughty Ferry station, visitors can make their way to the glorious Broughty Ferry Beach, a vast expanse of sand and water overlooked by Broughty Castle. Patrolled by lifeguards (commencing Saturday, June 18th) this beach provides the perfect family day out with a plethora of activities available from wind surfing and swimming to kayaking and canoeing. Make sure to keep an eye out for dolphins on the horizon!
Accommodation in Dundee: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Forbes of Kingennie Country Resort Shepherd Huts, stay in a luxury Shepherd Hut in the Angus countryside, choose from a hut with a hot tub or a star gazing window.
Aberdeen Beach, Aberdeen
Spend the morning sightseeing in the city before heading to the sandy shores of Aberdeen Beach, located just a short walk away from the city centre.
With a range of cafés and restaurants, a fun fair and cinema (just in case the heavens open), Aberdeen Beach makes for an excellent afternoon outing.
Venture slightly further to take in the fresh sea air at Greyhope Bay, where visitors can make their way to the newly opened dolphin viewing centre at Torry Battery. Constructed from converted shipping containers and operating completely off-grid, The Greyhope Bay Centre, is consistently recorded as the best place to spot Bottlenose dolphins from land in the UK, with no need for binoculars! The centre also boasts one of the best views in Aberdeen as well as a café and an education and community space.
Accommodation in Aberdeen: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Deeside Holiday Park glamping pods is a tranquil retreat set in the Southern valley of the River Dee, where visitors can experience the buzz of the city whilst being able to hideaway in the countryside. Ideal for families, couples, groups of friends and those with furry companions.
The perfect family day out…
Nairn Beach, Highlands
This superb sandy beach in located in the heart of Nairn and proves to be a fantastic attraction to the area and popular with families, particularly in the summer months. Be sure to keep an eye on the horizon as its coastline is home to a resident school of dolphins. There is also a great range of coastal walks in either direction with a stunning nature reserve at Kingsteps in the east and a beautiful viewpoint to the west.
Accommodation in Nairn: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Cawdor House, this family friendly, mid-Victorian property is set in the town centre and conveniently located just ten minutes’ walk away from the award-winning beaches of Nairn.
Lunderston Bay, Inverkip, near Glasgow
Not too far afield from Glasgow, Lunderston Bay is the perfect spot for families to kick back and relax. The vast grassy area provides plenty of space for playing games and leads down to the blend of sandy beach and pebble shores, ideal for building sandcastles and rock pooling, whilst the onsite public bathrooms and nearby garden centre café ensure a brilliant day out. A mere stone’s throw away, visitors can also enjoy an ice-cream in the town of Gourock and take a dip in Gourock’s heated outdoor pool whilst taking in the spectacular views of the Clyde Estuary.
Those looking to go slightly further afield can head to the charming seaside town of Troon, in Ayrshire. Particularly popular with families in the summer months, the South Bay of Troon Beach provides onsite toilets, showers, and facilities to rinse down sandy toes, as well as a selection of ice cream and fish and chip shops to enjoy.
Accommodation in Glasgow: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Sherbrooke Castle Hotel, recently refurbished and set in its own grounds, the hotel is only five minutes from the City Centre and ten minutes from Glasgow airport.
Brighouse Bay, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway
A lesser-known alternative to the NC500, this idyllic 300-mile loop showcases the finest scenery across Dumfries, Stranraer and Ayr. Head to the quiet and secluded peninsula of Brighouse Bay for an afternoon picnic by the shore, or alternatively, for a truly magical experience, take in the views by horseback with Brighouse Bay Trekking.
Visitors passing through the picturesque town of Kirkcudbright and looking for an awe-inspiring afternoon should enthral themselves in the immersive experience at the Dark Space Planetarium for a taste of out-of-this-world space exploration.
Conveniently located next door to the Dark Space Planetarium and inspired by the breath-taking stargazing display over Galloway Forest Park, stop by Dark Art Distillery to learn the master craft of premium gin distilling – complete with tours and tastings.
Further afield along the SWC300 route, explore the iconic lighthouses on the Rhins of Galloway, with the new lighthouse trail providing the option to take in the stunning coastal views by boat tour or electric bike hire.
Accommodation in Dumfries and surrounding area : here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Glenwhan Gardens Shepherds Hut a bespoke Shepherd’s Hut designed for couples and singles, set amongst a twelve acre ornamental garden with beautiful scenery.
Looking for adventure…
Loch Morlich, Aviemore
A hidden gem in Aviemore, in the Cairngorms, and although technically not a beach, it definitely feels like one. Surrounded by forests and fringed by sandy shores this vast expanse of tranquil loch water provides the perfect spot for a paddle. Famous in the area for mountain bike trails, this relaxing location bolsters a variety of activities to take part in. Loch Morlich Watersports located on the shore facilities Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), mountain bikes, kayaks and canoes. Or perhaps enjoy a well-deserved afternoon off from the abundance of activities available in the area and instead unwind by the calm water whilst enjoying an ice cream from the Boathouse Café.
Accommodation in Aviemore and the Cairngorms: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Come home to slow living at The Lazy Duck, These small scale, increasingly sustainable places to stay all have their own space in a six-acre family homestead. Choose from The Woodman’s Hut, The Homestead, Basecamp or The Lookout.
Ganavan Sands, Oban
Those looking to turn it up a gear can explore Oban and Argyll by bike with the launch of the new Scotrail Highland Explorer service, running directly from Glasgow Queen Street to Oban. The three-hour journey, is the first train in the UK to have active travel carriages, providing passengers with the space and storage needed to comfortably take their bikes, skis, or other sporting gear with them on their adventure.
With an abundance of routes to choose from to explore and enjoy the coastline, be sure to stop off at Ganavan Sands, located a mere 12-minute bikeride away (approx. 2.4 miles) from Oban train station. Pause to take in breath-taking sights at viewpoints along the way and be sure to visit Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds before arriving at Ganavan bay – which boasts picturesque sandy beaches, with easy access and great views out to Mull, Lismore and Morven.
Accommodation in Oban: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Inverlonan Bothies are architecturally designed cabins that offer rough luxury, seclusion and the chance to disconnect from the day-to-day. The cabins are only accessible by boat, bicycle, foot or buggy and nestle gently amongst ancient oaks on the shores of Loch Nell.
Experience seatrekking in Smirisary, Glenuig, Lochailort
Immerse in a seatrekking adventure this summer and discover the west coast of Scotland from a unique perspective. A blend of coasteering, snorkelling and wild swimming, a trip with SeatrekScotland is sure to exhilarate the senses – discover the variety of wildlife and venture to the hard-to-reach rocky outcrops and bask in the sunshine with lunch on a secluded sandy beach.
Seatrekking will be available from July, commencing from Fort William, cost: £120 per person
Accommodation in Fort William: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Riverbeds Luxury Wee Lodges, set among trees and with a private veranda reaching out over the river, these romantic wee lodges provide a luxurious hideaway. Hot tub, too!
The Fife Coastal Path, The Kingdom of Fife
The Fife Coastal Path gives visitors the chance to explore Scotland’s rich history while offering spectacular views of the coast and surrounding beaches. Starting from Kincardine Bridge in the South to the Tay Road Bridge in the North, this 81-mile coastal walk passes through a number of quaint fishing villages for an ice cream pitstop, behold historic castles and caves with an abundance of wildlife to spectate along the way.
Be sure to stop off for an award-winning fish supper in Anstruther harbour while listening to the seabirds as they soar above the waves.
Accommodation in The Kingdom of Fife: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Situated near Newburgh, The Snug at Logie Farm comprises of two award-winning, luxury “Armadilla” pods complete with hot tubs and breathtaking views of the River Tay.
A piece of paradise …
Calgary beach, Mull
Influencing the name of the Canadian city, Calgary in Alberta, Calgary Beach is nestled on the north of Mull and is flanked by cliffs with views overlooking Coll and Tiree, the crystal-clear waters and stretches of silver sands are sure to take visitor’s breath away.
This peaceful haven is ideal for families and their four-legged friends to appreciate the stunning surroundings of the region of Argyll and the Isles. No matter the time of year; rain, hail, or shine, the beaches on the Isle of Mull are the perfect place for an afternoon walk, followed by a refreshing coffee or ice cream crafted by locals in the boat converted ice cream hut that looks out over the bay.
Accommodation in Mull: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: Rubha Nan Gall Lighthouse Cottage, a beautifully renovated cottage in a spectacular remote location, a short walk from Tobermory, Isle of Mull.
Balephuil Bay, Isle of Tiree
Known as the ‘Hawaii of the North’, Tiree provides a tranquil paradise for holidaymakers to relax and unwind. With white-shell beaches and turquoise waters, Balephuil Bay is the perfect place for a swim and a firm favourite for surfers, thanks to the warm waters brought in by the Gulf Stream. When visiting this idyllic spot, be sure to take binoculars, as this is a favourite place amongst nature-lovers, with a wealth of wildlife living around this part of the island’s north-west coastline.
Accommodation in the Isle of Tiree: here
Quirky accommodation option, suggestion: For those eager to stay in touch with the wild side of Tiree, Balinoe Campsite Pods will provide basic camping facilities, but visitors will need to bring sleeping bags and it is recommended to also bring a camping mattresses too!
For more information on things to do in Scotland visit www.visitscotland.com
- We advise all visitors are careful when around Scotland’s waters and follow water safety advice including researching your destination beforehand, supervising children, never swimming alone and wearing appropriate clothing. For further information, please visit https://watersafetyscotland.org.uk
- For a list of RNLI lifeguard beaches in Scotland, please visit https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches
Year of Stories
- Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 will spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written, or created in Scotland.
- Led by VisitScotland, the Year of Stories 2022 will sustain and build upon the momentum of preceding Themed Years, showcasing a nationwide programme of major events and community celebrations.
- From icons of literature to local tales, Scotland’s Year of Stories encourages locals and visitors to experience a diversity of voices, take part in events and explore the places, people and cultures connected to all forms of our stories, past and present.
- Scotland’s Year of Stories will encourage responsible engagement and inclusive participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors.
- Join the conversation using #YS2022 and #TalesOfScotland.
- Following an industry consultation, Themed Years will take place every second year to enable more time for planning and collaboration. The next Themed Year will take place in 2024.