Golden sands, turquoise waters, peaceful bays and tumbling waves … there are few finer places than a beautiful Scottish beach on a warm summer’s day! With thousands of miles of coastline and more than 700 islands, Scotland boasts beaches to rival even the most tropical holiday destination. Each is ideal for long walks or relaxing with a tasty picnic, but you’ll find plenty of other things to keep you entertained, too: wildlife watching, fossil hunting, thrilling watersports and much more…
Get inspiration for a great family day out with 14 of our favourite things to do on Scottish beaches.
Arrive in style at Barra Airport
If there’s one beach where you can really make an entrance, it’s Traigh Mhòr on Barra. This beautiful island in the Outer Hebrides uses the beach as the landing strip for its airport, and is regularly voted one of the world’s top airport approaches.
Indulge in a picnic
Tuck into a delicious Scottish picnic, just like this one on Orkney’s Rackwick Bay. Bring a basket full of local produce, or enjoy sweeping sea views as you tuck into locally-caught fish and chips or seafood from nearby takeaways or restaurants.
Try out a new sport
If basking in the sun for hours on end sounds more like boredom than bliss, get active instead! The beach is a great place to try a new sport, whether it’s wakeboarding over the waves or land yachting across the sand, there are plenty to get involved in across the country.
Fish around the rock pools
They might look peaceful from afar, but rock pools are in fact buzzing with life and activity. Keep your eyes peeled and you could spot whelks, limpets, crabs, starfish, jellyfish or even shrimp and lobsters.
Look out for Scotland’s seabirds
From gannets to guillemots, you will be sure to see some of Scotland’s most colourful birdlife on a trip to the beach. Find out more about puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars and the like at the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick or find out more about Scotland’s incredible wildlife.
Take the bridge to nowhere
Part of the John Muir Way, the beach at Belhaven Bay near Dunbar is also famed for its ‘Bridge to Nowhere’. Contrary to what its name suggest, the bridge does actually have a purpose: it passes over a small burn, but at high tide it gives the curious impression of being stranded in the midst of the water.
Build a Scottish sand castle
Give your sand sculpture a Scottish twist by basing it on one of your favourite real-life castles – maybe Eilean Donan, Culzean or Edinburgh? If you’re feeling really confident, battle some of Britain’s best beach architects in the Sandcastle Competition at the Crail Festival in Fife in July.
Roam the beach on horseback
A gentle horse ride along the beach is one of the best ways to take in the gorgeous sea views (and rather more glamorous than the traditional donkey ride, too). You’ll find a number of riding schools offering this unique experience, such as Seacliff Stables in East Lothian or Highlands Unbridled in Tain.
Recreate a movie scene
Quite a few of Scotland’s beaches have enjoyed a turn on the silver screen. Recreate scenes from Local Hero on Camusdarach Beach in the Highlands, or charge down West Sands in St Andrews, where the famous opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed.
Witness dolphin displays
Keep your eyes on the horizon when you visit Scotland’s beaches and you might just catch playful dolphins jumping and splashing in the water. Chanonry Point in the Black Isle is one of the many great spots for seeing these beautiful creatures, as is the Banffshire Coast in Aberdeenshire.
Meet Highland cows
Believe it or not, it’s not that uncommon to see Highland cows lazing on the beach in more rural areas of Scotland. This lot were seen soaking up the sun at Laggan Bay on Islay, Argyll & The Isles. Take a picture if you’re lucky enough to catch a similar sight, and be sure to share it with us on Instagram and Twitter.
Walk across St. Ninian’s tombolo
This beautiful beach is in fact a tombolo, a strip of sand connecting the tiny St Ninian’s Isle with the coast of Mainland in Shetland. At 500 m long and up to 70 m wide at low tide, it’s the largest active tombolo in the UK – perfect for a wander, or even a picnic in its more sheltered corners.
Go hunting for fossils
A stroll along the beach can sometimes lead you over millions of years of history. Fossils are found on many beaches around Scotland, so keep your eyes peeled. UKFossils.co.uk has detailed information on which areas offer the best chances of finding trilobites, graptolites and many more.
Watch the sunset
Whether you’ve been relaxing with a book, exploring rock pools or windsurfing over the waves, a sunset walk is the ideal end to any day out on the beach. Walk along the sands and soak up the incredible colours, just like this serene scene in Carnoustie, Angus.
We hope you liked our suggestions and now have some inspiration to head out and enjoy all that Scotland’s beaches have to offer! Discover more things to do, places to stay and cities to visit across Scotland too.
Have fun, and don’t forget the sun cream!