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Scottish Beaches: Most Beautiful but Underrated

Posted on Dec 30, 2016 by Tim Francis

Amazing Yet Seldom Visited Scottish Beaches

Inspired to visit Scottish beaches? Endless pure white sand. Intricate, winding coastline. Abundant and thriving wildlife. Scottish beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Wilderness Guide, Tim Francis has spent his life roaming the coasts of Scotland and the UK. Each Scottish beach has its own charm and character. Here he shares his favourite 5 Scottish beaches that are often overlooked.

When arriving at one of our amazing beaches I’ve overheard many similar conversations. “Wow, this is amazing, you could be standing in the Caribbean/Indian Ocean etc”.


The iconic white sands of Luskentyre, Outer Hebrides.

“In Scotland we have beaches for everyone. Get eye to eye with dolphins. Surf and dive. Search for fossils or discover the delights of rock pools. Crunch on a coral beach and take a step back in time to discover an explosive geological past.”

Revisit our ancestors at archaeological sites from thousands of years ago. Start your Highland beach odyssey on a plane! Here in Scotland we can fly on one of the worlds few scheduled flights that lands on a beach!

Simple, immediate, remote, untouched and unpopulated beauty. These are what grasps my heart strings. The beach, a place of art, poetry and inspiration. A place for isolation and for sharing.

I’ve decided to bypass the iconic and over-photographed Scottish beaches. Such as the remote Sandwood Bay in the North West Highlands, or Uig Sands, Lewis – home to the Lewis Chessmen. I’ve even left out the picture-postcard sands of Luskentyre, Harris. Instead, in my top 5 I’ve included the places that inspire me and have my mind returning again and again.

My Favourite but Underrated Scottish Beaches

1.     Berneray, The Outer Hebrides

Scottish Beaches: Most Beautiful but Underrated

Rolling over the white sands on Berneray

It’s taken me years to get here but 2016 saw me do it. OK, I’ve visited Berneray a countless number of times but always in a race to get on the ferry leaving for Harris.

I’ve glimpsed the pristine sands from afar.  I had heard about the serene beauty. I had even studied the possibility on a map. But to actually indulge in the white sand delight was an unparalleled treat.

A change to a ferry time provided a challenge and as such an opportunity. I was with an eager bunch of mountain bikers from around the globe. We had several hours to fill before the re-scheduled sailing from Berneray. So we decided to mount an exploration by circuiting the island. We spent a while just soaking up the magic of wild unspoilt white sandy beach. This then finished with a ‘cuppa’ in a nearby converted Black House! I quote one of the group who had travelled from Australia to join this Hebridean Trail Cycle trip.

“I didn’t realise beaches like that actually existed”.

Since then I returned as soon as I could for some Tim time with my family. Disappointed I was not.

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2.     St Ninians Bay – Shetland


The stretch of beach of St Ninian’s tombolo


Shetland won’t be on many people’s beach radar but St Ninian’s is one of the finest sand tombolos in Europe. (A tombolo is a narrow spit of land attaching an island to the mainland). 

St Ninian’s is the largest active tombolo in the UK! This Scottish beach is on the west coast of the Mainland obscured from view until you re almost upon it. It’s a beautiful stretch of sand. So no surprise it was recently featured in the TV detective crime series Shetland. The bay is often visited by a variety of local seabirds, including puffins.

3.     Kearvaig – Cape Wrath, North West Highlands


Wild and remote at Kearvaig bay


Getting to Cape Wrath in the top NW corner of Scotland’s mainland is a true undertaking in itself. Couple this with an airy coastal walk leading to remote Kearvaig Bay then this is one for the memory.

The beach is surrounded by natural rock sculpture. It has an idyllic bothy located by the shore, at the end of a rough track that leads down from the not so ‘main road’. Before deciding to visit Kearvaig you do need to check military activity in the area. As this part of our country is used for military firing practice.

Maybe this is why it is seldom visited and in an untouched state! But the rewards for those who do more than make up for it.

More on the North West Highlands…

4.     Sanna, Ardnamurchan


The intricate bays and beaches at Sanna, Ardnamurchan


Ardnamurchan is at the west most point of the UK mainland. A lighthouse guides the traveller around or to the point. A volcanic crater surrounds it. The area is a get-a-way dream.

I’ve been to Sanna in all types of weather and none of it detracts from the visitor experience. From the road end a path leads you through the dunes to this gem of a beach. If you need things to do or guidance then you are missing the point. Soak up the views out to the Small Isles of Rum and Eigg and onwards to Skye. Scan the sky for eagles and feast on the west coast experience.

More on Ardnamurchan and the West Highlands…

5.     Traigh Mhor – Lewis, The Outer Hebrides


The remote and immaculate beach at Traigh Mhor. Credit:

At the road end from Stornoway is the famed Bridge to Nowhere. Traigh Mhor is the Big Beach reached from the very small car park (with a loo) just before the road end.

If you have read Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy then you will be all too aware of the location of this extensively empty unspoilt finger of sand. This is the only east facing beach in my list but it’s still in the Western Isles.

More on the Outer Hebrides…

6.     Rackwick – Hoy, Orkney

Scottish Beaches: Most Beautiful but Underrated

Hiking down to Rackwick, Orkney


OK so this makes 6 out of a list of 5 Scottish beaches. But how could I not include Rackwick?

A place of inspiration to writers and composers. The view down to Rackwick from the footpath that leads to the iconic Old Man of Hoy is stunning. Large rollers sweep in to meet the beach of pink sand and huge boulders. Many claim this as the most beautiful location in Orkney.

More on Orkney…

Video -Top 5 Scottish Beaches (Beautiful but underrated)

I could have included many more amazing beach locations.  All different and all providing their own unique story. I may also have omitted my favourite. Some things you just need to keep to yourself.

Let us take you there!

Discover beautiful beaches and more on our exciting adventure holidays in locations such as:

Why not go on an exciting sea kayaking trip? It’s a great way to experience Scotland’s breathtaking coastline and a chance to visit some beautiful beaches!


About the author

Tim Francis

Tim's a passionate biker and hill-walker, who was a business development manager in a former life and spent 4 amazing years working in South America. Lucky for us he's returned to the Highlands to live and become a mountain biking and walking guide.

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