Scotland’s best hidden beaches and where to stay

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

Whether bathed in the golden glow of a long, perfect summer evening or splashed by tempestuous waves under a glowering sky, Scotland’s beaches are truly spectacular. Crystal waters, white sands… squint a little and you could be in the Caribbean. Along Scotland’s rugged coastline you’ll find islands, cliffs and coves all harbouring sweeping stretches of sand, myriad wildlife and barely another soul in sight. From wildlife spotting to windswept walks, bracing sea dips to rock pooling, Scotland’s beaches offer much adventure. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite off-the-beaten-track beaches, and the best places to stay nearby, with owner’s tips to help you dig a little deeper when you visit.

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Achmelvich Beach, Lochinver

A few miles from Lochinver, and 40 miles north of Ullapool, tucked down a winding single track road, is the glorious Achmelvich Beach with magnificent Suilven rising up in the distance. With its turquoise waters and sweep of white sand you could be somewhere far-flung and exotic. Dolphins can often be spotted out at sea and closer to the coast you may glimpse otters, black throated divers, ringed plovers and harbour porpoises. Take a bracing dip if you dare or take to the water in a kayak. The rock pools are full of fascinating creatures and dogs are welcome all year. There are heaps of superb walks all around, including a 5km stroll from Lochinver, as well as a challenging scramble up Suilven. 

Where to stay: Gille Buidhe’s Broch

The owners have lavished love on this modern take on an Iron-Age roundhouse. Inside is bright and light with a sociable kitchen, relaxing bedroom and swish bathrooms with spoiling saunas for long, indulgent sessions. Burrow down into squashy sofas in front of the glowing wood-burner, take in the views through the enormous windows or work your way through a stack of books. Outside, all is quiet on the Coigach Peninsula, the only sounds the birds, the wind and the waves. Amble along the hills and beaches – there’s a guide in the broch – swim in sea and loch, or hire a kayak and pack a picnic to spend fine days exploring hidden beaches. 

Reiner & Sheileagh’s tips: The greatest thing is perhaps just to do nothing. To look out through the huge panorama window and watch the ever-changing sky. 

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Hushinish Beach, Harris 

Recommended by Jo, owner of Seaside House

On the west side of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, Hushinish Beach is a gorgeous, remote beach sequestered at the very end of a 12-mile single-track road. Hushinish is a fantastic alternative to the more popular Luskentyre Beach. Each twist and turn of the journey is worth the effort. You’ll be awed by stunning scenery before arriving at a broad white sand bay with long views out to the Atlantic Ocean and the uninhabited islands of Taransay and Scarp. Home to red deer and sea birds, wildflower-filled grasslands and beautiful white sand beaches, it’s possible to catch a boat from Horgabost to the islands.

Where to stay: Seaside House

This traditional croft house with far-reaching views to the Luskentyre estuary and Taransay has a cosy, comfortable feel. Indoors, find tartan and tweed, lots of local art, an open fire in the sitting room. Harris has its own character – rather wild, very few trees and the sort of white sandy beaches you might see in the Caribbean. You’re surrounded by wildlife and could spot seals, otters, dolphins, Minke whales, thousands of waders at low tide, corncrakes in spring and, soaring above you, white-tailed eagles – the largest UK bird of prey. In the porch, you’ll find a telescope for stargazing on clear nights and in winter you may see the Northern Lights. 

Jo’s tips: Delicious freshly caught seafood available straight from the fishermen and some top notch restaurants serving locally sourced food. Yummy fare from food vans and some lovely cafés and galleries too.

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Sandwood Bay, Kinlochbervie

Wild and spectacular Sandwood Bay in Kinlochbervie has a broad tract of pink, yes pink, sand, thanks to the pink-hued sandstone in the area. Backed by vast sand dunes, a freshwater loch teeming with brown trout and flanked by impressive towering cliffs, there’s an otherworldly appeal to this stunner of a beach. Pummelled by the North Atlantic and accessed by a four mile (well-trodden and fairly flat) path leading from the hamlet of Blairmore, this isn’t a beach for the faint hearted. This remote bay is considered one of the most unspoilt beaches in the UK and richly deserves its reputation as the ‘most beautiful beach in Britain.’ 

Where to stay: Treetop House

You’ll feel special perched up here in this stunning eco building which hugs the hillside of a gorge. Traditional dry-stone skilfully blends with huge expanses of glass all topped with a turf roof. The views are dramatic whatever the weather, surrounded by water, forest, wildflowers in spring and summer and views to distant islands. Indoors, underfloor heating and a log-burner belt out the heat, simple Scandinavian-style furniture adorns the open-plan living spaces, restful bedrooms have terraces, and there’s an egg-shaped freestanding bath and drenching showers to unwind post outdoor adventures. 

Gavin & Rachel’s tips: Within easy striking distance are almost deserted sandy beaches, majestic mountains, single track roads that take your breath away, hidden communities with a surprising number of artist studios, craft shops and quirky eateries.

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Sanna Bay Beach, Ardnamurchan Peninsula

Recommended by Samantha, owner of Aspen Lodge

On the fringe of the stunning Ardnamurchan Peninsula, Sanna Bay is the most westerly point in mainland Britain. Whatever floats your boat, you can do it here: soak up the views to Ardnamurchan Point and the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna, spot otters, butterflies, sea birds, maybe a white-tailed eagle hovering above the cliffs, beachcomb with your bucket and spade, splash about in the azure waves. The huge dunes are a riot of colour in spring and summer, there are small rocky islands to explore, crystal clear rock pools and great walks in every direction. Bring your camera!

Where to stay: Aspen Lodge

Your stone and timber lodge on the little-known Ardnamurchan Peninsula has a hillside setting and views from every window – use the telescope to spot red deer, golden eagles or the elusive Scottish wildcat if you’re lucky. Downstairs is cosy with an open fire and plenty of books and you’ll find a minibar and a welcome hamper which includes homemade jam, cake, wine and Scottish shortbread. You can walk and cycle from the door, launch a kayak straight into the sea loch at the bottom of the large, open garden or set off with a picnic for a day on the beach, just a five-minute drive away.

Samantha’s tips: There are a number of stunning beaches on the doorstep: Camas Nan Geall which is covered in golden glitter sand, Sanna Bay which looks like it should be in the Caribbean, and the Singing Sands which ‘sings’ as you walk across it!

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Talisker Bay Beach, Isle of Skye

Talisker Bay is one of the few sandy beaches on Skye. It has a dramatic black and white sweep of sand, blended by the burns flowing in and out and creating beautiful, complex patterns to marvel at. The northern end of the bay is dominated by spectacular vertical cliffs and a 130-metre waterfall plunging over the cliff edge. At the southern end is a grand grey rock sea stack. It’s best to visit at low tide and, if you can, stick around for a glorious sunset. The scenic walk to and from the car park takes around 20 minutes.

Where to stay: St Mungo’s Den

A warm retreat with an eco-friendly vibe – everything has been built with sustainability in mind – it’s the perfect launch pad for expeditions into the Skye landscape. Fresh air, big skies, epic walks and long beaches await. Head into the Cuillin Hills – few walkers, artists or photographers can resist their siren call. If walking’s not your thing, sea kayaking and fishing are easy to arrange locally. Keep a lookout for otters and golden eagles, and on a clear night, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the stars. Taigh Ailean Hotel over the road has a friendly atmosphere and good pub grub, with great views of Loch Harport.

Emma & Keith’s tips: Talisker Whiskey Distillery is three miles away. Activities include: boat trips, diving, canoeing, cycle hire and horse riding. Find beaches, forest and cliff walks and an abundance of wildlife and scenery all around. 

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Coral Beach, Isle of Skye

Recommend by Ian, owner of An Airgh

A short drive north of Dunvegan Castle, ancestral home of the MacLeod clan for over 800 years, is the misleadingly named Coral Beach. In fact, it’s not actually coral but crushed and bleached red coralline seaweed (also known as maerl) that gives the beach its ethereal hue. To get here you walk along a farm path for about 20 minutes from the tiny crofting community of Claigan. On arrival, you’ll find the shore littered with tiny, delicate colourful shells, rock pools packed with interesting creatures and, in season, grey seal pups splashing about. Climb a small hill, Cnoc Mòr a Ghrobain, for fabulous far-reaching views from Stein in Waternish right round to Dunvegan Head. 

Where to stay: An Airgh

Wildlife fans will spot whales, dolphins, eagles, seals, otters and deer as they wander the coast and stroll through tall grasses sprinkled with bluebells, wild garlic and rare orchids. Stride over stunning hills, cycle your socks off, fish from the shore – there’s much to do and see from your award-winning, architect-designed retreat on the hill. Inside is equally invigorating. Floor to ceiling windows for long and wide views, a crisply dressed bed, super shower room, a sofa facing the sea and a sleek kitchen on the side.

Ian’s tips: Dunvegan Head is a short one hour walk to the highest sea cliff on Skye with stunning 360 degree views of the Western Isles, Macleods Tables, The Cuillin and the Trotternish Ridge.

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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