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13 Coastal Day Trips in Scotland for Kids

Summer is here and there’s no better time than now to get outdoors and explore Scotland’s beautiful bays, beaches and coastline wonders. Scotland’s beaches are the perfect choice for a day out that the whole family can enjoy. Go searching for rock pools and see what fascinating sea life you can find, build your own Scottish sandcastle on the golden shores, try your hand at flying a kite, or head for a wander along the coastline or nearby woodlands.

Uncover Scotland’s incredible lush landscapes that have been sculpted by the power of water, as well as delving into watersports, delicious local produce and more in the Year of Coasts & Waters 2020.

Here are a few suggestions of pristine Scottish beaches and seaside we think you’ll love:

1. Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

This fairytale castle perched on the stunning Ayrshire coastline is a real sight to see. Head to Croy Beach below the castle for a picturesque walk along the rocky outcrops – make sure you snap up a few pictures of the view and castle, or on a sunny day, why not try out some watersports?

2. Leven East Beach, Fife

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Missing my flying.

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A picturesque spot on the Fife coast, Leven East Beach is a wide sandy shore in Leven. Featuring a promenade, open green spaces, and a golf course, it provides a great setting for a family day out. Tuck into a tasty lunch on the picnic tables overlooking the beach, and have fun in the skateboard park, outdoor gym and children’s play area. The beach is the perfect place to build sandcastles, or try your hand at flying a kite, and its location boasts magnificent views across the Firth of Forth.

3. Dunure Beach, Ayrshire 

Located in the village of Dunure near Maybole, Ayrshire, Dunure Beach boasts a lovely little harbour with Dunure Castle standing above the rocky cliffs. A primarily shingle beach, it’s a popular spot for boat trips and walking, with nearby picnic areas and local shops to browse too. The Dunure Inn sits on the harbour and offers a great place to enjoy quality dining by the sea.

4. Belhaven Bay, East Lothian

Nestled in the John Muir Country Park, Belhaven Bay is a beautiful sandy beach stretching from Belhaven to the north of the River Tyne and features low, sheltering sand dunes, rich salt marsh and colourful grasslands. It’s the perfect spot for a stroll, enjoying a picnic on the beach and when the sun is out, topping up your tan. Head along the cliff top walk near Dunbar which offers incredible views across the Forth Estuary. Belhaven Bay is also home to the Bridge to Nowhere. At high tide this footbridge seems to stand in the water with no land around it, but at low tide you can see it passes over a small stream.

5. Ness of Duncansby, Caithness

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A short walk east along the shore from John O Groats will take you to a magnificent beach – the Ness of Duncansby. This is one of the best places to watch some of the strongest tidal currents in the Pentland Firth, alongside it being one of the best beaches in Caithness for finding shells, including Groatie Buckies or Cowrie Shells! Nearby, you can walk or drive to the Stacks of Duncansby, turning left down the road and following signs marked ‘Lighthouse, Cliffs, Stacks, Coastal Walk.’ Admire the incredible surrounding scenery and wildflower-covered links as well as relaxing on the beach and making the best sand castles or sculptures you can.

6. Roseisle Beach, Moray

This stunning sandy beach on the Moray coastline is backed by the magnificent towering pine trees of Roseisle Forest. Head out for a family walk along Roseisle Beach and step back into history as you wander past remnants of WW2 concrete tank traps that were set up in 1940. Tuck into an afternoon picnic or cook up a barbecue as the kids enjoy playing on the swings and play area, and make sure you watch out for local wildlife from the bird hide.

7. Rockcliffe Beach, Dalbeattie

Set in the picturesque village of Rockcliffe near Dalbeattie, this small sandy beach is the perfect place for a family walk, with rocks to scramble on and various points of interest to explore along the way too. Depending on the tide, you can reach Rough Island, a nature sanctuary, at low tide by foot. Here you can see an incredible variety of bird life, undisturbed in their natural habitat.

8. Balnakeil Beach, near Durness

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It’s freezing cold and foggy today here in Italy and but I drive away the January blues dreaming of sunny summer days (sometimes it happens even up there!) on a deserted Scottish Beach 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Oggi fa un freddo cane e c’è la nebbia qui nel nord d’Italia ma scaccio la depressione sognando giorni d’estate su una spiaggia scozzese assolata (a volte anche lì accade!) e deserta (questa è quasi una garanzia 😉) #durness #durnessbeach #balnakeil #balnakeilbeach #visitdurness #northcoast500 #scotlandontheroad #scotlandbytheroadside #visitscotland #britishseasides #ukbeaches #beachesofscotland #thisisscotland #scotlandlovers #bbcscotlandpics #yourscotland #explore_scotland #scotlandmagazine #northwesthighlands #sutherland #visitsutherland

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The beaches, bays and coastal spots in the Highlands are magical to witness and experience for yourself. Balnakeil Beach near Cape Wrath in the very north of Scotland features golden white sand dunes to explore, clear blue waters to dip your toes in, and boasts incredible panoramic views to admire along the way. Visit later in the evening on a clear day to witness an extra special Highlands sunset.

9. Sumburgh Lighthouse, Shetland

Head to the incredible Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and nature reserve – an amazing spot to sit and watch puffins whilst the sun sets. Enjoy a visit to this world class attraction that will leave you inspired and itching to learn more, with history, natural heritage and more around every corner. Perched on a magnificent cliff top, Sumburgh offers a fantastic coastal day out for the whole family to enjoy, with an engaging and interactive experience, giving you the chance to learn all about Shetland and the Sumburgh area.

10. Brough of Birsay, Orkney 

Head out to this special tidal island off the north west coast of Orkney which features fascinating Norse, Pictish and medieval remain to explore. The Brough of Birsay boasts an immensely scenic location. While you’re here, look for the replica of a Pictish symbol stone, delve into the peaceful life of the Norse settlers by exploring the remains of their village, marvel at the church of St Peter, and view some important early sculptures and interesting Norse artefacts in the small visitor centre on the island. Make sure you take the short stroll to the lighthouse on the island, which is perched above dramatic cliffs and the powerful Atlantic Ocean, and keep an eye out for puffins nesting in spring.

11. Arbroath Beach, Angus

Tuck into golden fish and chips fresh from the harbour on equally golden sands at Arbroath Beach. A picturesque spot in Angus, it’s the perfect place to relax by the sea, build sandcastles and it even has its own designated swimming area, so you can dip your toes in the water, if it’s warm enough. Enjoy a cliff top walk above the beach which boasts magnificent coastal views and is also a great vantage point for spotting a variety of seabirds – which ones will you spot? Let the kids explore the play area and rock pools then afterwards, head to nearby Kerr’s Miniature Railway – the oldest miniature railway in Scotland.

12. Lunderston Bay, Gourock

Part of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park, Lunderston Bay is the closest sandy beach to Glasgow and is a must-visit if you fancy fishing in rock pools. A popular beauty spot with its coastal walks and magnificent views of the Cowal Peninsula, take a leisure stroll around the area, wander along the rocky beach and marvel at the beautiful sunset, let the kids run around in the play area, or tuck into some local produce.

13. Westport Beach, Argyll

One of the most beautiful beaches on the west coast of Scotland, Westport Beach stretches over 6 miles and features the stunning Machrihanish Sand Dunes as a backdrop, which is also considered a Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is the biggest sand dune area in Argyll, making it a popular spot for dog walkers and surfers. Come along for a round of golf on the nearby Machrihanish Golf Course, one of the finest links in the UK, or head for a tranquil stroll along the shore to admire a magnificent Scottish sunset.

Scotland is home to hundreds of incredible locations that make for the perfect coastal day out with the family. We hope this has inspired your next trip out – why not read up on things to do at the beach, or explore more of Scotland’s best beaches?

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