We can all be forgiven for daydreaming about relaxing abroad on a white sandy beach with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other. While foreign travel could certainly be on the cards this year, it is a risk that many of us are not yet prepared to take. To help soften the blow here are 21 breath-taking Highland beaches that will make you forget your holiday blues.
The beaches are listed as though you were traveling anti-clockwise from east to west.
Loch Morlich is an award winning freshwater beach in the Glenmore forest park. It sits below the beautiful snow capped Cairngorm mountains making it a truly picturesque Scottish beach. In summer the beach is a hub of activity with a café, watersports centre and a busy campsite. It is a great place for families to visit and arguable the best of the freshwater highland beaches.
Hilton of Delnies Beach
Hilton of Delnies Beach is a long sandy beach not for from the town of Nairn. The beach is fantastic for long walks, and is much quieter than the better known Nairn beach! In recent years this beach has been renamed the “secret beach” and is becoming increasingly popular with dog owners and walkers. I have a soft spot for this particular beach as my mum used to holiday in the small bothy on its shores.
Shandwick Bay is an unspoilt golden sandy beach close to both the villages of Shandwick and Balintore. There are dunes behind the extensive golden stretch of sand and some rocky areas around the outside of the bay. It is one of the most beautiful highland beaches on the east coast of Scotland.
You can literally walk for miles along Dornoch’s beautiful sandy beach. The beach is backed by dunes and slopes gently into the Dornoch Firth. Dornoch’s famous golf course sits just behind the beach. If you’re lucky you might spot one of the golf club’s celebrity members!
I would describe Brora beach as a wild unspoiled beach with clear water and an abundance of wildlife! Like its neighbour, Dornoch, Brora beach is also backed by a golf course. It’s a great beach for walking, seal spotting or for enjoying with your family and furry friends. When we visited we were lucky enough to spot a nearby herd of Highland Cattle!
Dunnet Bay is a two mile long arc of sand just a couple of miles from Thurso. The beach can provide great surfing conditions when winds are high and the carpark is a great vantage point to watch the activity all along the length of the beach. We enjoyed our fish and chips (from nearby Thurso) while watching the world go by.
Melvich Beach is a beautiful sandy bay reached by a short walk through some impressive sand-dunes. The beach is really popular with both surfers and walkers due to the consistent clean waves and vast but secluded bay. We really enjoyed watching the surfers do their thing!
Strathy Bay is a beautiful white sandy beach enclosed and sheltered with cliffs and caves on one side and the River Strathy on the other. There is a small carpark before the beach and a short walk through dunes will take you to the bay. If you are traveling the NC500 in a clockwise direction the single track road to the beach is a very sharp left turn that you may struggle to do in one manoeuvre
This mile long, golden sandy beach sits on the north coast of Sutherland between Bettyhill and Torrisdale. The beach is much easier to see than it is to reach, so it is nowhere near as busy as some of its counterparts on the west coast of Scotland. If you walk for a couple of miles after you park you will be rewarded with this beautiful unspoilt bay.
Ceannabeinne Beach: Durness
Caennabeinne Beach is a beautiful beach not far from Durness. The golden sand and bright blue water would not be out of place on a tropical island. This cove has the added bonus of having the Golden Eagle Zip line running from the top of a cliff right across the beach! Definitely give it a try if you are in the area.
Sango bay is a breath-taking beach with pristine sands and clear water. The beach is a great place to take photographs due to the rugged rock formations dotted along the coastline. The views here are really spectacular from the cliffs above or you can enjoy a walk on the beach itself. This is definitely one of the most Instagrammable highland beaches.
Balnakeil Beach is a spectacular unspoiled beach with white sand and turquoise water. The crescent shaped bay stretches out to the end of the peninsula where you can find interesting rocks and cave formations. There is a historical church ruin next to the beach (dating from the 1700s) that is well worth a visit, and if you’re a fan of chocolate the famous Coco Mountain is in the nearby craft village. A fantastic place to stop!
Sandwood Bay is considered by many to be the most beautiful beach in Scotland. With 1.5 miles of golden sand, huge sand dunes, and impressive rock formations and sea stacks it is easy to see why. The fact that the beach is 4 miles from the nearest parking place ensures that it maintains its unspoiled nature.
Often overlooked on these lists due its close neighbour, Achmelvich, Clachtoll is a fantastic small cove with calm crystal clear water, golden sand and small rock formations sheltering either side. It is a very popular sport for water sports including kayaking and paddle-boarding.
Achmelvich is one of the most popular beaches on the West Coast of Scotland. It has white sand, a bright turquoise sea and awesome rock formations sheltering the beautiful cove. The beauty of Achmelvich is really difficult to put into words- so we included two pictures instead! There is also a small stone building on top of the rocks called Hermits Castle. This is one of my favourite highland beaches.
Melon Udrigle Beach
Melon Udrigle has a small carpark with a little wooden boardwalk that leads to the beach. Words can’t describe how beautiful this beach is with its white sand and crystal clear turquoise water. It is one of the most stunning beaches on the west coast and is usually quieter than its more famous counterparts. There are no facilities here however, so take a bag to take your rubbish home!
Gruinard Bay has three stunning pink-tinged sandy beaches with beautiful views across to the Coigach Hills. As you walk along the tranquil, peaceful beaches you will no doubt find an array of interesting rocks and stones as they are among some of the oldest in the British Isles and the world.
Gairloch beach is a beautiful secluded beach set amongst stunning scenery. The beach is surrounded by moorlands, mountains and many walking routes which makes it a popular place for hillwalkers. The water here can be relatively warm in the summer due its closeness to the Gulf Steam but watch out for jellyfish!
Applecross Peninsula sits between the mainland mountains and the Isle of Skye and is home to just a couple of hundred people. It boasts a large, sandy, out of this world beach. The calm water is the perfect place for a summer dip. You just have to get over the Bealach na Ba first!
Silver Sands of Morar
This is a beautiful beach famous for its unique silver sands. Many people compare the colour of the sand to the beaches of a Caribbean island. On a clear day you can see Rhum, Eigg and the Isle of Skye. The beach has become much busier in recent years so get there early to ensure a place in the carpark!
Sanna Bay is a remote beautiful beach on the west coast of Scotland. A five minute walk from the carpark through the grassy sand dunes will reward you with white sand, clear water and a quiet slice of Scottish paradise! There are rockpools and plenty of rocks to sit on so it is a great beach for all the family.
A Small Selection
These are 21 of our favourite Highland beaches but there are many, many more for you to discover on your travels. This small selection should give you a taste of what the Highlands of Scotland has to offer! If you would like to find any of the beaches on our list we have created a handy map for you to refer to!
We are so proud of our beaches in the Highlands! They are some of the most beautiful in the world and we want to keep them that way. Whenever we visit we are always careful to take away any litter with us and we always pick up extra as well. Please help keep them beautiful by being respectful. We are so lucky to live where we do…with beaches like this who needs to go abroad!
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