In this, the fourth and final part of our British Beaches series, we turn our attention to Scotland. While you might not have the high temperatures and warm waters that one could enjoy in the south of the UK, a visit to any one of these Scottish beaches promises beautiful landscapes. So if you like your beach with a rugged atmosphere as opposed to donkey rides and ice cream, it’s time to explore.
Luskentyre, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
A frequent star on many lists of top British beaches, Luskentyre is described by Wilderness Scotland as “a little slice of heaven”. With several miles of white sand and stunningly clear waters, you might believe you’ve been transported to a tropical island. And you have… if by tropical island you mean the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides! Harris is gifted with many beautiful beaches but Luskentyre outshines them all. The location is also perfect for cycling or hillwalking. Birdlife is plentiful.
You can reach the Isle of Harris by air or ferry from the mainland.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
There’s a bit of a battle between Scottish beaches as to who is number one. While some argue that is it Luskentyre, others make the case that it is, without a doubt, Sandwood Bay. We say visit and enjoy both! But Sandwood will take some getting to. It is at the northern tip of Scotland and the nearest parking is 4 miles away in the hamlet of Blairmore. The hike from there is a fairly gentle pathway and the reward is more than a mile of pinkish-tinged sand and idyllic solitude. The heavy waves of the Atlantic crash upon the shore. Behind the beach are rolling dunes which then lead to the trout-filled Sandwood Loch.
The land is managed by the John Muir Trust, whose staff go to great lengths to protect and conserve this rich environment. Lodgings can be found several miles away, or the adventurous can camp among the dunes.
Achnahaird, Ross Shire
Achnahaird is another remote (are you spotting a theme?) spot along the western Scottish coastline. Drive 45 minutes north from Ullapool and about 2 miles past the remote Achiltibuie, you will come across a tiny inlet of cream-coloured sand, dotted with rockpools and shell-crusted rocks. The entire area for miles around is part of the Inverpolly Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife lovers who might catch a glimpse of the golden eagles or wild cats that live here. There are a few holiday cottages nearby, and a hotel in Achiltibuie. Wild camping is also an option.
West Sands, St. Andrews
Not all Scottish beaches are in the middle of nowhere. West Sands in St. Andrews is a two-mile stretch of family-friendly beach that is just a 15 minute walk from the town centre. The firm sand means it is popular with those eager to reenact the scene from Chariots of Fire, shot here many years ago. Other activities include beach volleyball, swimming, and kite surfing. St. Andrews castle is nearby, and a ridge of sand dunes separates the beach from a golf course. Because of its proximity to the town, cafes, toilets, shops, and accommodation are plentiful, as is parking. During the summer months, dogs are restricted to certain parts of the beach, ensuring that families and visitors have plenty of room to play and relax.
Lunan Bay, Angus
The beach at Lunan Bay is split in two by the Lunan Water, which flows out into the sea. The ruins of the Red Castle stand on a nearby cliff, a reminder of this coast’s history. Centuries ago, King William of Scotland built the fortress to protect against Vikings who frequently raided the area. Horseriders, surfers, birdwatches, and fishermen all frequent the beach. The fishing is particularly interesting – locals use a traditional method of stringing nets between poles to catch the fish at the low tide. The beach is also popular among gemstone hunters. After a storm, you may be lucky enough to find agates or jasper glittering among the pinkish sands.
This look at Scottish beaches rounds up our four-part exploration of some of Britain’s best beaches. Obviously we could have included many more, and we will attempt to cover them in future posts.