Although my home in Edinburgh is only a mile away from the beach and I spend most of my free time on the sand, there are far better beaches in Scotland I can’t wait to return to.
Portobello might not be a world-class beach, but it’s home and I certainly do love spending my time by the water. There are two things to know about the beaches of Scotland. First, the tidal changes are massive and the water can vary more than 20 feet every six hours. Thus, the same beach might be unrecognizable at different times of the day.
Second, the water is bitterly cold. Scotland is at the same latitude as southern Alaska. However, that doesn’t stop me from swimming every chance I get. The water is surprisingly clear, especially at the more remote beaches where you can see your feet clearly when the water is up to your neck.
West Sands Beach, St Andrews
St Andrews might be better known for the cathedral or as home to one of the oldest golf courses in the world, but it’s also where you’ll find one of the longest sandy beaches in Scotland. West Sands Beach borders the east side of the St Andrews golf course and covers nearly two miles of coastline. St Andrews is only an hour and a half from Edinburgh, making it the perfect day trip. The cathedral and castle are also worth exploring, and you definitely have to try the ice cream at Jannettas Gelateria.
Coral Beach, Isle of Skye
Located about 4 miles north of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is Coral Beach. Despite its name, there isn’t any coral at the beach. Instead, the sand is composed of crushed maërl – fossilized and sun-bleached Red Coralline seaweed, making it one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. As the road to the beach isn’t suitable for camper vans or tour buses, you get mostly locals out there.
If you’ve seen the Netflix movie Outlaw King with Chris Pine, you might recognize the beach as the setting for the Isle of Islay. I was actually supposed to be an extra in that scene, but my car broke down a couple days before and getting to the beach without your own transportation isn’t easy.
Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris
Now for my favorite. Luskentyre Beach is the kind of place you would expect to find in Thailand or the Philippines, with the exception that the water is anything but warm, and you’ll be lucky if you arrive when it’s sunny. Otherwise, the white sand, crystal clear water and turquoise reflections are just stunning.
As Luskentyre is on the remote Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides (the third-largest island in the British Isles), you won’t find a lot of tourists flocking there (definitely not like the Isle of Skye, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge). Another huge difference between Luskentyre and other world-class beaches is the lack of urban development. There are a few small homesteads on the small track out to the beach, but nothing is visible from the sand other than pristine nature, hundreds of sheep, and the occasional horse walking along the sand. If that’s not paradise, I don’t know what is!