Beaches in Scotland

18 of the Best Beaches in Scotland

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Scotland is home to some of the UK’s most spectacular beaches. Close to England in terms of size, Scotland is home to less than one-tenth of UK the population.

We’ve blended the classic beaches of Scottish seaside towns with stretches of sand that are untouched for miles to bring you the quintessential list of the best beaches in Scotland. Apart from some massive, cosmopolitan cities, Scotland is an oasis of calm and offers a rural, serene atmosphere that is rarely found in the more densely populated parts of the UK. Whether you’re in the mood for a long walk, a spot of surfing, or simply want to sample the fresh sea air, there is something magical in this list of beaches for you.


1. Craig Tara Ayr Beach, Ayrshire

1. Craig Tara Ayr Beach, Ayrshire
Ayr Beach: scenic and near civilisation

8 minutes from Craig Tara

Ayr Beach offers visitors two totally different vibes depending on which direction they’re facing. Looking out at sea, towards the Firth of Clyde, there is a spectacular view of the rural Isle of Arran, a real snapshot of rural life on the west coast of Scotland. Facing inland, it exhibits everything associated with a great day out at the seaside. The beach is positioned at the heart of one of Scotland’s most vibrant seaside towns. You’ll be just steps from everything needed for a great day out, with a huge range of cafes, pubs and restaurants.

The pier is one of Scotland’s finest. It's the combination of scenery and centrality that gives Ayr Beach the edge over many others in the country, making it a shoo-in as one of Scotland’s best beaches. This sandy specimen doesn’t lack in heritage either, with the historical ruins of the 16th-century Greenan Castle marking a sudden end to Ayr’s stretch of sand.

2. Maidens Beach, Ayrshire

2. Maidens Beach, Ayrshire
Perfect for a doggy paddle: Maidens Beach in Ayrshire

20 minutes from Craig Tara

South of one of Scotland’s most celebrated castles, the massive 18th century edifice of Culzean Castle, Maidens is a hidden treat.

Situated at the town of Maybole (which has its surprising city centre castle), this quiet beach boasts excellent views and a harbour where you can watch the boats or walk the seafront path.

Make time to visit Culzean too, with its clifftop country park and formal gardens. Dogs should be on leads, except on the beach.

3. Irvine Beach, Ayrshire

3. Irvine Beach, Ayrshire
The sweeping sands of Irvine Beach

35 minutes from Craig Tara

Look out for the stone dragon among the dunes and sandy shores of Irvine Beach, at the mouth of the River Irvine and the town of the same name.

Pony trekkers, dog walkers and picnickers alike come here for the quietude and Atlantic views. If it rains, take refuge in the nearby Harbour Arts Centre or maritime museum. There’s a promenade, coffee shops and restaurants and dogs may run free.

4. South Beach, Ardossen, Ayrshire

40 minutes from Craig Tara

Just north of Irvine and Troon is the town of Ardrossan. The town’s attractive crescent of sandy beach is a popular draw, for swimmers, paddleboarders and sun seekers.

Watch flotillas of graceful swans or get out your bucket and spade and build an epic castle. Set against the hilly backdrop of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, Ardrossan and neighbouring Saltcoats are great places to while away an hour or two.

5. Largs Bay Beach, Ayrshire

60 minutes from Craig Tara

One of the most picturesque spots on the North Ayrshire coast, Largs Bay has both shingle and sandy beaches, and you can hop a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to the adjacent Isle of Cumbrae too. Millport on the isle has its own scenic sandy beach, offering two beauty spots to visit in one day trip.

Sparkling waters, a promenade and even a big wheel await at Largs, while Millport has the prettiest village and gorgeous views of the neighbouring islands (Arran and Bute).


6. Gullane Beach, Gullane, East Lothian

6. Gullane Beach, Gullane, East Lothian
Gullane: more than just golf

17 minutes from Seton Sands

Gullane is primarily known for its fabulous links golf courses, but we think the magnificent beach is an attraction that you simply can’t miss out on. Fantastic views of the Firth of Forth await, with the estuary generating a gust or two from time to time. This makes the sand a great place to bring your kite, and windsurfers will always be seen out at sea. Walking is the best for bringing the place to life.

You’ll appreciate the fresh sea air on a leg stretch to Gullane Point. Restaurants and pubs cater for what is generally an affluent area, with much of the population commuting in and out of Edinburgh daily. It’s easy to tie in a visit to the capital city with a few hours on this beach in Scotland.

7. Yellowcraig Beach, near North Berwick, East Lothian

7. Yellowcraig Beach, near North Berwick, East Lothian
Yellowcraig: a real breath of fresh air

22 minutes from Seton Sands

Yellowcraig Beach sits a short distance west of North Berwick, across the Firth of Forth from Earlsferry. It boasts a great view of Fidra Island, the coastal outpost that Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was based on. A 19th-century lighthouse marks its spot when the weather is less than clear.

A beach that is immensely popular with families, Yellowcraig has a horse-riding tradition on the dunes. In the absence of cafes and restaurants, prepare a picnic or book one the barbecue areas in advance. Dirleton is the nearest town within walking distance and is home to a 13th-century castle that’s also popular with visitors.

8. Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, Lothian

8. Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, Lothian
Portobello: very much in Edinburgh (handily!)

25 minutes from Seton Sands

With the vast majority of UK cities located inland, Portobello is one of the few in Scotland and Britain that’s within the boundaries of a city. Portobello is just a few miles from the centre of Edinburgh, with a rich history of welcoming people from across the city onto its shores. Today, it serves as a leafy suburb that is amongst the most affluent in the whole country.

This is a great place to sit on the sand and look out to the Firth of Forth. As the world passes by, you’ll also notice several works of art, with Cressida the Tidal Octopus being one of our favourites. Despite its position within a city, the beach is genuinely huge with two miles of sand for swimming and sunbathing. Conveniently located, it’s a great addition to the list of best beaches in Scotland.

9. Belhaven Beach, East Lothian

25 minutes from Seton Sands

Dunbar is an attractive seaside town with a 16th century harbour and a large, sandy beach popular with dog walkers and local surfers. Belhaven Beach has a wide sandy strand at low tide and a gentle rake for safe (though chilly) wild swimming.

The beach stretches a mile between the Tyne River at the north and Dunbar and its neighbour Belhaven to the south. Enjoy sublime sunset views across the Forth Estuary, including sand dunes and grassy marshes which are a haven for coastal birds.

Look out for the quirky “bridge to nowhere” which crosses a small stream in the middle of the sand. There’s a train station, parking, plus Dunbar’s cafes and restaurants on your doorstep.

Discover breaks in Scotland

Seton Sands self catering holidays

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3 nights from £59
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10. Seacliff Beach, near North Berwick, East Lothian

10. Seacliff Beach, near North Berwick, East Lothian
Seacliff: a serene space straddling the Scottish coast

30 minutes from Seton Sands

Seacliff Beach is hidden behind bushy cliffs in a quiet corner of East Lothian. The sand is partially met by rocks before it merges with the sea, with several pools forming as it arches around the eastern shores of Scotland. A narrow path affords you access to the sand, revealing a stunning view and plenty of quirky features.

The beach is home to a tiny harbour, thought to be the smallest in the UK. Created in the 19th century, it was carved out of the sandstone rock that lines this shore. There are two castles to be discovered. The 16th-century Auldhame requires a bit of digging, literally, as it's hidden in dense woodland. Tantallon is much more visible. Its tower and ruins are just north of the beach across Oxroad Bay.

11. Tyninghame Beach, East Lothian

11. Tyninghame Beach, East Lothian
Tyninghame: close to Edinburgh, but you wouldn't think it

30 minutes from Seton Sands

East Lothian’s Tyninghame Beach is another which isn’t a million miles away from Edinburgh in terms of geography. However, if we’re talking about atmosphere, it is light-years away. The views of the surrounding landscape are nothing short of remarkable here. Come wind, rain or shine, you’ll want to sit on the sand for a while and take it all in. You’ll see Bass Rock out on the horizon, an incredible island sanctuary for birds.

Another beach with a sprinkling of history to it, Tyninghame contains loads of concrete anti-tank blocks, a reminder that the beach was a strategic training base for the heroes of World War Two. In contrast, the forested entrance and hidden paths of 21st-century Tyninghame make ‘peaceful’ the first thing that springs to mind whenever we visit. The place is another gem that rightfully takes its place amongst the best beaches in Scotland.

12. Coldingham Bay, Berwickshire

12. Coldingham Bay, Berwickshire
Stunning on all sides; Coldingham Bay

50 minutes from Seton Sands

Coldingham Bay sits pretty on Scotland’s southeast coast. A cute one kilometre long, the beach also extends out to sea for 200 metres. The lush greenery backing onto the beach creates a scenic and rural feel to the area. The view from all angles of the sand is one of beauty, with horizon out at sea competing with the willowing hills for your affection. Homeli Knoll, an area of steep and grassy terrain at the southern end of the beach gives climbers a particularly panoramic view of the surroundings. It’s well worth the climb in our eyes!

If you fancy adding a bit of history to your beach experience, the ancient ruins of Coldingham Priory are a short stroll away. Founded in the 11th century by Scotland’s King Edgar, it was partially destroyed by Oliver Cromwell loyalists 600 years later. Rural but only an hour or so from Edinburgh, it is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Scotland.

13. Cramond Beach, Edinburgh, Lothian

48 minutes from Seton Sands

Portobello may be Edinburgh’s best-known beach, but Cramond, to the west of the city, is its hidden gem. Take the Edinburgh Bypass and turn north by the attractive art deco Grosvenor Casino.

Cramond is a picturesque hamlet on the River Almond estuary. There are sandy beaches, and a rustic causeway leading to Cramond Island with its historic WWII pillboxes. Visit at low tide to avoid an impromptu sleepover, as the causeway is submerged at high tide.

14. Eyemouth Beach, Berwickshire

50 minutes from Seton Sands

Just nine miles north of the border and Berwick-upon-Tweed is the lesser known but lovely town of Eyemouth with its pretty harbour and crescent of sandy beach.

Here you’ll find inquisitive seals, quaint fishing boats, and a surprising amount to do, from a trip to the town’s museum to plentiful eateries and remains of 16th century artillery ramparts.

15. Silver Sands Beach, Aberdour, Fife

15. Silver Sands Beach, Aberdour, Fife
A stunning hideaway: Silver Sands Beach

65 minutes from Seton Sands

Just over the famous Forth Bridges on Fife’s coast, Silver Sands is a tranquil and sheltered cove of shimmering sand by the village of Aberdour. Looking out over the islets of Inchmickery and Inchcolm, with its 12th century abbey, this is an award-winning beach with a café, toilets, and a train station just 10 minutes away.

The 116-mile Fife Coastal Path passes through Aberdour, and nearby Kinghorn and Burntisland, with its volcanic geology, are well worth a visit or walk too. The beach is also dog friendly and wheelchair accessible.


16. St Andrew’s Sands, Fife

16. St Andrew’s Sands, Fife
St Andrew's: more than just the golf

Best known as the home of golf, St Andrews also offers visitors two equally endearing beaches to visit. We were shocked to find out that they sit in what is often one of the driest places in Britain! In the west, the ambience is one of crashing waves and birds chirping. The wind can really pick up here too, making it ideal for flying your kite. A short walk takes you to Eden Estuary Nature Reserve, a home for Seals.

The east is slightly livelier, located south of the St Andrews’ traditional harbour, and served by a wider range of amenities. A great destination for families, there are lifeguards on duty at peak times and a range of cafes to refresh at. If you’re feeling energetic, you can walk between and sample both.

Overall, St Andrews offers a double chance to escape to the sand, with both its east and west appealing to different wants and needs. It’s this variety that makes its beach offering one of the best in Scotland.

17. Lunan Bay Beach, Angus

17. Lunan Bay Beach, Angus
Lunan Bay: golden in more ways than one

Lunan Bay is in the east of Scotland, perched between Arbroath and Montrose. The large cities of Aberdeen and Dundee are not a million miles away either. This mile-long sandy beach combines history with modern-day natural beauty. The crumbling ruins of the 12th-century Red Castle stand tall over the dunes, reminding visitors that the elevated ground in the era was a key line of defence against the Viking invaders of the time. 

Today, the atmosphere is one of the salty sea air and bustling breeze providing peace. The particularly calm waters around the beach are a haven for swimmers, with water sports and fishing also popular pastimes in the area. In our opinion, this is the best beach in Angus, and easily one of the best in Scotland. 

18. Machrihanish Beach, Argyll

18. Machrihanish Beach, Argyll
Machrihanish: the Mull of Kintyre at its finest

Machrihanish Beach is the ultimate escape from it all. An oasis of peace, it’s located on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula, a truly scenic place even by the high standards Scotland sets. The beach faces west, out towards the Atlantic and tantalisingly close to Ireland’s north coast. The 12-mile distance looks even closer on a clear day, and if you’re in the car you’re sure to pick up Northern Ireland’s local radio stations.

Three miles of sand are surrounded by wilderness, with the village playing host to a range of basic amenities. This is a place to admire the wide-open surroundings and take in the sound of the crashing waves. The area around the beach is full of grassy dunes, home to many different types of wildlife. The rural serenity of this western gem means it simply had to be on our list of the best beaches in Scotland.

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