It's not exaggeration to say that there are few beaches as special as those in Scotland.
On a wild day, with the wind in your hair, the salt in your mouth and the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, your senses come alive. On a calm summer's day, you could (almost) be fooled into thinking you're in the Caribbean, surrounded by endless white sands and turquoise waters.
This is our comprehensive guide to the best beaches in Scotland. For more inspiration, check out Scotland's Beach Awards. Just send us an enquiry if you'd like to visit some of these beaches on your Scottish holiday.
Image: Unsplash / Nils Leonhardt
Luskentyre Bay, Isle of Harris
Image: Unsplash / Nils Leonhardt
Luskentyre, on the Isle of Harris, has been voted the finest beach in the UK and is often included in the 10 best beaches in the world. Facing west out into the Atlantic, the next landfall is the southern tip of Greenland or the shores of North America.
On a calm day, you'll find stunning turquoise waters lapping against miles and miles of powder-white sand.
Luskentyre Bay has two main beaches - Luskentyre Sands on the north side and Seilebost Beach on the south.
Beach fact: The island of Taransay, in the middle of Luskentyre Bay, was the location for the TV-series Castaway in 2000.
Getting there: The main road running north to south along Harris passes right behind Seilebost Beach.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Image: Unsplash / K B
Right in the far north-west corner of Scotland lies what is possibly the most dramatic beach in Europe. Surrounded by towering cliffs and sea stacks, with the constant pounding of the Atlantic surf, Sandwood Bay is well worth the effort it takes to get there.
The 2-hour walk from the nearest road across bare moorland follows an excellent path. The whole area is now owned and immaculately maintained by the John Muir Trust. Behind the beach lies some of the best-preserved Machair in Scotland. Machair is a Gaelic word meaning low-lying fertile plain. It's a rare and unique habitat created by man over centuries. It's found in the north-western fringes of Scotland and Ireland, and you'll be able to see it next to many of the beaches in this list.
Beach Fact: The sea stack at the southern end of the beach is called Am Buachaille, which is Gaelic for The Herdsman.
Getting there: It's a 7-hour drive from Glasgow to the small village of Blairmore, where the 4-mile walk to the beach starts. This is about as remote and unspoilt as it gets!
Talisker Bay, Skye
Image: Unsplash / Pearse O'Halloran
Talisker Bay is another rugged and dramatic photographer's dream. The sand here is partly black from the local rock, and cliffs on either side frame the wild seas.
It's a short walk to the beach from the village of Talisker (Talisker Whisky is distilled nearby at Carbost), and we always recommend timing your visit to coincide with the dramatic sunsets out over the Sea of the Hebrides.
Beach fact: The impressive house that you pass on the walk is the former home of the Macleods of Talisker, and was visited by Boswell and Johnson on their tour of the Hebrides in 1773.
Getting there: From Carbost, take the small road signposted to Talisker and park in the car park at the end, then follow the track down to the beach.
Image: Visit Scotland / Paul Tomkins
Berneray is an island at the north end of The Uists. Ringed by fine white sands and turquoise waters, the beach could pass for a tropical paradise.
Beach fact: The beach looks so tropical on a sunny day that the Thai Tourist Board once accidentally used it on an advertisement for Kai Bae Beach!
Getting there: Berneray is a long way from anywhere, which is part of the attraction! If you're on Uist, follow the main road all the way to the north of the archipelago. Berneray is the last island across a causeway. The ferry north to Leverburgh on Harris leaves from a small pier at the southern tip of the island.
Special Mention:Coralbox Gift Shop on Berneray is our favourite gift shop in Scotland! Check out their webcam of Bays Loch, and if you don't quite make it to Berneray, you can always order from their online shop.
Image: Unsplash / Claire Satera
From here there are great views across to the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles. There are also plenty of opportunities for wild swimming, rock pooling and walking.
The whole of the Morar peninsular is worth exploring for a couple of days. This can easily be worked into many of our itineraries and it's one of our favourite variations on the Argyll Coastal Route.
Beach fact: Camusdarach was featured in the film Local Hero and is a popular place on film and TV location tours.
Getting there: Take the turning off the A830 just south of the bridge over the River Morar and follow the single track road for a couple of miles - the signposted car park will be on your right and it's just a short walk through the dunes to the beach.
Calgary Bay, Mull
Image: Emily Woolard
Calgary Bay, on the west coast of the island, is just one of Mull's many lovely beaches. It's special partly because it's such a sheltered spot on an otherwise dramatic and exposed coastline.
Beach Fact: Believe it or not, the huge city of Calgary in Canada (population 1.3 million) is named after the tiny village here!
Getting There: Calgary Bay is on the north-west coast of Mull. From the ferry terminal at Craignure, take the road north past Salen. As you come past Aros Castle, follow signs to Dervaig. From the village of Dervaig itself, it's a quick drive up and over the hill to Calgary Bay. The drive takes about an hour in total from Craignure.
Kiloran Bay, Colonsay
Image: Unsplash / Jonathan Bean
A favourite with surfers and yachties, Kiloran is easily the best beach on the Isle of Colonsay.
Beach Fact: Behind the beach is a 525ft long sculpture of a whale. Try climbing one of the local hills to look down and see it in all it's glory, then come down and add a stone to fill in any empty areas in the outline.
Getting there: Ferries to Colonsay leave from Oban.
Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire
Image: Visit Scotland / Damian Shields
One of Scotland's longest beaches, the dunes at Rattray stretch 17 miles (27km) from St Combs to Peterhead.
There are really two beaches here - Strathbeg Bay to the north and Rattray Bay to the south. There are several shipwrecks on the sands.
Beach fact: The 120-foot lighthouse was built in 1895 by the Stevenson brothers and is accessible by a causeway at low tide.
Getting there: From the A90, take the turning signposted to Rattray. Head towards the ruined chapel (also worth visiting) and follow the small road past it to the car park behind the dunes.
Rattray is a must-see on our Grand Tour of North-East Scotland.
St Ninian's, Shetland
Image: Visit Scotland / Paul Tomkins
Named after Scotland's first saint, St Ninian's is a tombolo - a beach forming a causeway with the sea on both sides. It joins Mainland (the main island in the Shetland's) to St Ninian's Isle.
The beach is one of the most photographed spots on Shetland, and it's also a great place for a family day out.
Beach fact: In 1958, a schoolboy called Douglas Coutts was helping out with an excavation of the medieval church on the Isle. He found a hoard of silver treasure buried in a wooden box.
Getting there: Like so many islands in Scotland, Mainland on Shetland has one main road. The turn off to St Ninian's is a few miles north of the airport at Sumburgh.
Image: Unsplash / Oliver Paaske
Just a short distance from the city centre, this is so much more than your normal city beach. There are lots of things to do for the whole family in the art deco esplanade, and it's also one of the best places in Scotland to see dolphins.
Keep walking along the esplanade to Footdee (known locally as Fittie) to discover a former fishing village lined with clusters of quirky cottages originally built for the fishermen.
Also, don't miss nearby Balmedie Beach. Just to the north of the city, this is the longest beach in Scotland!
Beach fact: The best place to look for dolphins is between the orange breakwater wall and the lighthouse during the summer months.
Getting there: Aberdeen beach is just a short walk from the Aberdeen city centre.
Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam
If you like your beaches sandy, blissful and full of family-friendly activities, look no further than Ayr beach.
Right next to the beach is a putting green, play area and crazy golf. Across the sea, there are spectacular views to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran.
Beach fact: Greenan castle ruins are further along the beach and date back to the 16th century.
Getting there: Ayr Beach is under an hour's drive from central Glasgow, or you can just hop on the train to Ayr for a day out.