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North and north-east beaches named among Scotland’s best by Lonely Planet

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As the warm summer months slowly and patiently approach, travel guide Lonely Planet has timely collated the best beaches in the country.

And luckily for anyone, who is longing for that one sunny day to escape the crowd and enjoy a tranquil stroll along pure-white sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters, 11 out of the 18 top choices are right on our doorsteps in the north and north-east.

From family-friendly seaside resorts to remote empty coves beneath towering cliffs, here are the best beaches in the region according to the travel guide book publisher.

Here are the 11 beaches in the north and north-east, and what the travel guide had to say about each:

Sanday, Orkney

Image: Shutterstock / Catriona Crawford

What they say: “Famed for ancient standing stones and prehistoric villages, for sublime sandy beaches and spectacular coastal scenery, Orkney is a region whose ports tell of lives shared with the blessings and rough moods of the sea. Sanday is ringed by Orkney’s best beaches – with dazzling-white sand of the sort you’d expect in the Caribbean. It’s a peaceful, green, pastoral landscape with the sea revealed at every turn.


Sandwood Bay, Kinlochbervie

Image: Shutterstock / Derek Beattie

What they say: “South of Cape Wrath, Sandwood Bay boasts one of Scotland’s best and most isolated beaches, guarded at one end by the spectacular rock pinnacle Am Buachaille. Few people walk all the way to the beach’s northern end, so if you’ve packed a picnic, that’s the spot to aim for.”


Aberdeen Beach

Image: Paul Glendell/DCT Media

What they say: “On a warm summer’s day, this is an excellent beach; when the waves are right, a small group of dedicated surfers ride the breaks at the south end. The beachfront Esplanade sports several traditional seaside attractions, including Codona’s, complete with stomach-churning waltzers, dodgems, a roller coaster, log flume and a haunted house.”


Bosta Beach, Great Bernera

Image: Shutterstock / Marcin Kadziolka

What they say: “There are fine coastal walks to be had here. On a sunny day, make the long detour to Great Bernera’s northern tip for a picnic at the perfect little sandy beach of Bosta. As an alternative to driving, there’s a signposted 5-mile coastal walk from Breacleit, the island’s only village, to Bosta.”


Luskentyre, South Harris, Outer Hebrides

Image: VisitScotland

What they say: “Luskentyre is one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches in Scotland, famed for its acres of low-tide white sands and turquoise waters. A minor road leads along the northern side of the bay to a parking area beside an ancient graveyard; from here you can walk west along the beach or through the grassy dunes with gorgeous views across the sea to the island of Taransay.”


Traigh Mor, Barra, Outer Hebrides

Image: Shutterstock / Gwyneth Bell

What they say: “The vast expanse of firm golden sand at Traigh Mor (“Big Strand”) serves as Barra’s airport (a mile across at low tide, and big enough for three “runways”), the only beach airport in the world that handles scheduled flights. Watching the little Twin Otter aircraft come and go is a popular spectator sport. In between flights, locals gather cockles, a local seafood speciality, from the sands.”


Arisaig and Morar, West Highlands

The White Sands of Morar – Scotland, Between Arisaig and Mallaig; Image: Shutterstock / Iseyara

What they say: “The 5 miles of coast between the tiny villages of Arisaig and Morar is full of rocky islets, inlets and gorgeous silver-sand beaches backed by dunes and machair, with stunning sunset views across the sea to the silhouetted peaks of Eigg and Rum. Fans of the movie Local Hero still make pilgrimages to Camusdarach Beach, just south of Morar, which starred in the film as Ben’s beach. ”


Coral Beaches, Dunvegan, Skye

The Coral Beaches on the shores of Loch Dunvegan near Claigan with the island of Lampay just offshore. Image: Shutterstock / Duncan Andison

What they say: “Dunvegan, an unremarkable village on the western side of Skye, is famous for its historic namesake castle that has links to Sir Walter Scott and Bonnie Prince Charlie. From the end of the minor road beyond Dunvegan Castle entrance, an easy 1-mile walk leads to the Coral Beaches – a pair of blindingly white beaches composed of the bleached exoskeletons of coralline algae known as maerl.”


Scousburgh Sands, Shetland

Scousburgh Sands, also known as Spiggie Beach, where an unspoiled white sand beach with golden rocks is overlooked by green fields and cottages. Image: Shutterstock / Eleanor Scriven

What they say: “The gloriously white sandy beach of Scousburgh Sands (also known as Spiggie Beach), is backed by dunes and rolling countryside and is considered Shetland’s finest strand. Near it, Spiggie loch is an important bird reserve and also draws flyfishing folk.”


Calgary Beach, Isle of Mull

Image: Sandy McCook/DCT Media

What they say: “Mull’s best (and busiest) silver-sand beach, flanked by cliffs and with views out to Coll and Tiree, is about 12 miles west of Tobermory. This is the place from which Canada’s more famous Calgary takes its name.”


Dunnet Bay, Dunnet Head

Path to Dunnet Bay a fantastic sweeping arc of white sandy beach backed by rolling sand dunes in Caithness, Scotland. Image: Shutterstock / KevinN

What they say: “There are majestic cliffs dropping into the turbulent Pentland Firth, inspiring views of Orkney, basking seals and nesting seabirds below, and a lighthouse built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandad. Just south, the excellent curving strand of Dunnet Bay is one of Scotland’s finest beaches, backed by high dunes and a campsite.”

Top 18 beaches in Scotland according to Lonely Planet:

1. Sanday, Orkney
2. Sandwood Bay, Kinlochbervie
3. Aberdeen Beach
4. Bosta Beach, Great Bernera
5. Dunnet Bay, Dunnet Head
6. Beaches near Edinburgh
7. Kiloran Bay, Colonsay, South Argyll
8. West Sands Beach, St Andrews
9. Luskentyre, South Harris, Outer Hebrides
10. Traigh Mor, Barra, Outer Hebrides
11. Arisaig and Morar, West Highlands
12. Coldingham Bay, Borders
13. Coral Beaches, Dunvegan, Skye
14. Scousburgh Sands, Shetland
15. Calgary Beach, Mull
16. Belhaven Bay, Dunbar
17. Elie and Earlsferry, East Neuk
18. Beaches of North Berwick