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In Scotland, you’re spoilt for choice with incredible coastal walks – ranging from long-distance epic walks to good day hikes and pleasant beach strolls. Scotland’s mainland has nearly 10,000 kilometres of coastline, and much more once you add in all the islands. Social media is ablaze with the showstoppers already so we thought we’d highlight some of our favourite hidden gems in order to share the love (and spread out the crowds). These hidden gem coastal walks may not feature on other blogs, but they’re great for their own individual reasons and you can enjoy glorious sea views without elbowing for space. These are also just a small sample of what’s out there.
This list could have easily been twice as long – but then maybe it’s best to leave some hidden gems hidden…
Looking to get off the beaten track when you’re next on the Isle of Skye? Then this is the walk for you. The Boreraig and Suisnish is a beautiful but relatively unknown walk. It’s long – and the path varies in quality, with boggy bits. Boots are a must as are a pair of waterproofs. This walk is worth doing because combines fascinating history, great wildlife spotting opportunity and stunning views. You start at the Cill Chriosd Church, and the walk takes you to the hauntingly beautiful Highland Clearance villages of Boreraig and Suishnish.
Walk along a stream full of pretty coloured rocks before you arrive at the coast to the first of the villages, Boreraig. Walk along what little is left of the ruined cottages, which were cleared by Lord MacDonald in 1853 to make room for what was then very profitable sheep grazing. Then walk along the coast with the mountains rising up to arrive at the second cleared village, Suishnish. It’s hard to imagine such an incredible place having such a dark history. The Boreraig and Suishnish circuit is on our Isle of Skye walking holiday, combined with many other great routes. Learn more about the Highland Clearances from a Wilderness Guide and let them help you spot some impressive wildlife.
A short, easy and cheerful walk to do if you’re looking for a morning or evening leg stretch. You’re rewarded with beautiful views of the island of Lismore, an impressive rock arch and a wander past Airds Bay which is great for spotting seabirds. If you’ve got the time, it’s worth detouring to the end of the headland for luscious unobstructed sea views. Port Appin is a very cute Highland village so, time permitting, a wee poke about the village shop and a stroll along the jetty won’t go amiss. This walk is an optional activity on our Wildlife Holiday to Mull, Staffa and Iona.
The proximity to the well-known beauty of Sandwood Bay means that this ‘hidden gem’ often gets overlooked. This coastal trek is a bit shorter than the one to Sandwood and can be easily made into a loop. It takes in three beach-filled bays which are interspersed with rocky headlands. Oldshoremore Beach, the first on en-route, is a good stand-alone alternative if you don’t have enough time or ability to get to Sandwood. It’s a beautiful sandy beach and in the right conditions, it also boasts azure waters. It’s a short scramble up and out to keep going.
Walk across the next headland to get to Polin Beach, which is equally gorgeous and a bit more secluded. If you’ve got the weather with you this would be the ideal spot to enjoy a wild swim! From here you move further inland before swinging out to the coast again. The best bit of the whole route is looking back to Polin Beach as you walk out to get to the path. The last bay, named Sheigra, is much wilder and more exposed than the previous two beaches.
This is a happy there-and-back-again escape from the hustle and bustle of St Andrews and the crowds at West Sands. Walk east out of St Andrews from the leisure centre and follow the cliff path and the many many shallow steps. The route takes you along less busy beaches and interesting sea rock formations before reaching the main event, the rock and spindle. These two rocky outcrops are all that remains of an ancient volcanic plug. They’re worth a closer investigation before returning along the same route. The views on the way back across St Andrews are what make this walk really special.
This is a favourite walk on our Outer Hebrides & Skye walking holiday, but relatively unknown to the masses. Others will surely get lured to the Caribbean-esque beaches of Luskentyre and Seilebost and might overlook this great coastal walk. No beaches in sight – instead you’re presented with the typical rocky and grassy landscape of the Outer Hebrides. The walk is wonderful, and in the constant company of beautiful sea views, you’ll walk around the island to visit the very remote lighthouse at Rubh an Eorna. The lighthouse is the perfect spot for a wee exploration and to have lunch if you’ve brought some along. The path is roughly waymarked and famously boggy.
This is a moderate hike and not to be missed if you’re on Islay. On a good day, the walk promises big ocean views and the chance to spot golden eagles as well as other wildlife such as wild goats and the odd Highland cow. It’s recommended to visit the American Monument first. Here you’ll enjoy a lovely wooden boardwalk underfoot. The lighthouse shaped monument commemorates the loss of two troop ships in 1918, the Tuscania and the Otranto. Then follow a dramatic cliff-top trail past an Iron Age fort to reach the summit of Beinn Mhor.
Here the path ranges in quality, and large sections are completely pathless and can be boggy so be prepared for that. We recommend sturdy walking boots, gaiters and even poles to help you through the muddier sections. Vaulting fences and traversing bog is well worth the effort though and the views from Beinn Mhor are fantastic. Although just 200m high, this is a superb viewpoint – and on a clear day, the coast of Northern Ireland can be seen! We do this walk on day 6 of our Argyll and the Isles walking holiday, followed by a distillery visit.
A short but delightful optional add on if you’re visiting Sumburgh Head and Jarlshof. The walk takes you to a well preserved 2,000-year-old iron age blockhouse. There’s a tricky rocky section that looks rather dramatic upon approach but is made manageable with a metal handrail. If the weather gods are kind you’ll find yourself faced with endless ocean vistas and excellent views over to the lighthouse on Sumburgh head and back to the luscious white sand beaches of the ‘mainland’. Depending on the time of year, the soft grass over to the ruins is peppered with colourful wildflowers. Weather, time and group preference permitting, we do this walk on our Shetland Isles wildlife adventure after a hike around Sumburgh Head.
A satisfactory walk to do en-route or coming back from other activities, Kildonan Shore is short but packs a punch. On the way out you get to admire the tall, looming cliffs and waterfalls and upon the return walk, you’ll bask in the beauty of gorgeous sea views out to Pladda and the distinct outline of Ailsa Craig in the distance. It’s a rocky coastline, with large stone swathes interspersed with sections of sand – turn around when the going gets too rough. This is a great walk for spotting seals and wading birds so keep your eyes peeled. If you do encounter either please keep a respectful distance. Enjoy Scotland in Miniature with a trip to the Isle of Arran.
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This walk gets a moderate rating because it takes some will of life to ascend the path up the cliffs once you’ve been down to the beach. It is STEEP both up and down, but trust us when we say it’s worth it. This beach is beautiful and every single synonym for the word. Aberdeenshire surprisingly is not really known for its dreamy beaches and it really should be. Take your time exploring every inch of this slice of paradise because it all holds something interesting.
The grassy dunes are home to many interesting plants and insects, whilst the cliffs are known for peregrine falcon and fulmar. If following the route that Walk Highlands suggests, you’ll wander past old salmon bothies and an icehouse, remnants of the illustrious fishing industry of the east coast. The best bit is undeniably the golden sand beach, and if you have time and the tide with you, pop over to the north-eastern end of the beach to find a surprisingly large and deep sea cave.
If you’re looking for the epitome of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, this is it. The circular route around this grassy headland takes in various beautiful beaches and incredible sea views of the mountains of Harris and Lewis. The walk is also great for spotting Hebridean wildlife like otters, whales and various seabirds, with the beaches being known for waders. There are several interesting stopping points along the way including an old cemetery, a trig point and the ruins of a historic roundhouse. Experience this walk and other stunners on our walking holiday to the Uists, Barra and Mingulay.