If you’re seeking adventure closer to home this summer, then look no further than Scotland’s beaches. Author of The Beaches of Scotland, Stacey McGowan Holloway, gives us her top ten locations in Scotland for your own Scottish beach adventure.
(1) The Ross of Mull and Iona
Ditch the car, grab your bike, sail from Oban to Craignure on the CalMac ferry, and cycle the Ross of Mull. This was my favourite beach trip when researching the book. Most visitors to Mull head towards the north of the island to Tobermory, Ben Moore and Calgary Beach. But I urge you to cycle this southern peninsula until you run out of land.
For a full-on Scottish beach adventure head to Knockvologan Beach and explore this tropical-looking beach and its many islands. On the low tide, cross the tidal sand causeway to the Isle of Erraid. On foot, carry on westward until you meet David Balfour’s Beach, which is almost as remote as it gets!
For another beach adventure from Fionnphort Bay, hop the ferry to the Isle of Iona, which is a car-free island surrounded by beaches. You can stay at the campsite here and spend a couple of days exploring Iona’s north coast for picturesque desert island-style beaches. Be sure to seek our Port Ban Beach and brave a wild swim on this sheltered secret bay.
(2) The far north-west coast on the Cape Wrath Trail
For another adventurous beach trip, follow the final leg of the Cape Wrath Trail from the village of Blairmore in Sutherland out to Sandwood Bay and then onto Kearvaig Bay via Cape Wrath – approximately thirty kilometres. These two beaches are some of the UK’s most remote beaches, and Sandwood Bay is a prime spot for surfing and sea stack climbing.
At Kearvaig Bay, you can stay in the bothy on the north coast of Scotland and keep an eye out for puffins and sea birds. This route is inaccessible by car, but you can carry on to the town of Durness on the north coast, on foot or bike, or you may be able to call for the local taxi to get you to the small ferry crossing back to civilisation. While at Durness, you can visit the beautiful sweeping Balnakeil Bay.
(3) Moray Coastal Trail
The section from Findhorn to Lossiemouth of the Moray Coastal Trail is approximately thirty kilometres and takes you on the scenic coastal route via Findhorn, Roseisle, Burghead, Hopeman and Lossiemouth Beach. Findhorn is an expansive, open beach and a popular stretch on the Moray Coast. It is lined with quaint, colourful beach huts.
If you carry on walking south-east along this coastline towards Burghead (for approximately seven kilometres) you will eventually reach a real treasure – Roseisle Beach. A highlight of Roseisle Beach is the discarded remnants of anti-tank blocks strewn along the sand and beautiful forestry trails. Beyond Burghead, you will come across Hopeman Beach and then onto Lossiemouth Beach, which is split into East Beach and West Beach. East Beach is the one to visit and is popular with surfers, however the footbridge to reach the beach has been closed since 2019 and is awaiting replacement.
(4) Isle of Skye bothy at Camasunary Bay
The Isle of Skye instantly evokes images of extreme adventure and iconic landscapes, and Camasunary Bay offers you both of these. The beach faces south and lies in the shadow of the Cuillin Ridges. There are several ways to reach this beach; whether by an arduous five kilometre hike, mountain biking in from the B8083 to the south, a sail/kayak adventure from the west launching from Elgol Beach or descending directly from the Black Cuillins to the north. Beside the beach is a bothy cared for by the Black Shed Project. If you stay here, you can take part in the organisation’s Mini Beach Clean initiative.
(5) SUP at Sanna Bay and Singing Sands
Don’t overlook the West Highland Peninsulas for a beach adventure. If you would like to SUP and swim in crystal clear waters, visit Sanna Bay or Singing Sands.
(6) Beach hop for a wild swimming paradise along the Hebridean Way
The entire chain of the Outer Hebridean islands can be visited in a single trip. Travelling from Vatersay (Bhatarsaigh) to the Isle of Lewis (Eilean Leòdhais) allows you to cross ten islands in only two ferry trips. There is also as a series of causeways linking all the islands aside from Barra to Eriskay and Berneray to Harris (Na Hearadh). Although it is possible to drive between the islands, this route also exists as a walking and cycling route called the Hebridean Way.
Cycling along the Outer Hebrides is an experience not to be missed. South of Harris, it is a flat cycle along wide and relatively quiet roads. If you prefer to walk, the walking route is a combination of long stretches of white-sand beaches and coastal walks along machair and farmland, intermixed with a fair amount of sheltering on the verge of tarmac roads. The Beaches of Scotland lists twenty-two beaches that you can visit from the Hebridean Way between Vatersay and Tarbert on Harris. These are some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches Scotland has to offer.
(7) A detour of Five Ferries Cycle Route
The Five Ferries Cycle Route can be undertaken over several days and takes you clockwise from Ardrossan to Wemyss Bay via the Isle of Arran, Kintyre, Cowal Peninsula and Isle of Bute. To visit as many beaches as possible, I suggest cycling to Irvine Beach before sailing to Arran. On the Isle of Arran, the options are to cycle directly to Blackwaterfoot across the island and then head north to Lochranza to visit the beaches at Blackwaterfoot and Pirnmill. If this hillier cycle option is not for you, make sure you stop by at Sannox Beach.
After sailing from Lochranza to Claonaig, take a detour north along the coastal road with views of the Arran skyline to visit Skipness Beach before cycling to Tarbet. Once you reach Portavadie, enjoy a walk to Glenan Bay or a detour to Ostel Bay and grab a bite at the Bothy Bar at Kilbride Farm before continuing on the hilly winding roads to Colintraive. On Bute, the detour down the west coast of the island is well worth it, offering greater scenery and options to visit Ettrick Bay, St Ninian’s Bay and Scalpsie Bay.
(8) Join a nature tour or sea kayak the Oban coastline
Join a guided kayak or guided nature tour in Oban for a unique adventure. The waters and coasts around Oban offer some truly amazing wildlife from basking sharks to puffins. Otherwise, start the Wild Kayak Trail launching from Ganavan Sands and explore the beautiful Oban coastline with options to paddle to the Isle of Kerrera and further south to Easdale, Seil and Luing.
(9) Surfers’ paradise, Aberdeenshire
Inverboyndie Beach is a 700-metre sandy beach, considered one of the best surfing spots in the north-east of Scotland. This is a designated bathing water spot and is a great beach for surfers, windsurfers, swimmers and walkers alike.
There is something adventurous about tidal crossings to islands, and Cramond Beach offers one for all the family that fits into a day trip out. Located in the Firth of Forth, there is one reason to visit this beach, and that is to cross the 1.2 kilometre causeway to the tidal island of Cramond. Cramond Island, and the causeway itself, are covered in concrete structures from the world wars that have now been graffitied, giving the island a dystopian atmosphere.
It is extremely important to read the tide notices and tide times, as visitors are regularly stranded by the incoming water – these are printed on a sign at the start of the causeway. Alternatively, you can text CRAMOND to 81400 to get a text containing safe crossing information by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).