Staycation used to mean spending a holiday at home but nowadays encompasses a holiday in one’s home country – all the more relevant during the pandemic.
At FINDRA we love wild beaches and rugged coastlines as much as mountains and trails, so Russ pulled together our favourites that may inspire a visit when we can travel more freely.
THE BEST BEACHES IN SCOTLAND
Aberlady & Gullane, East Lothian
We’ll start with some local beaches to FINDRA on the East Lothian coastline that look over the Firth of Forth to Fife and out to the North Sea. Starting at Aberlady Bay you can walk the coast to Gullane and beyond to North Berwick and Dunbar.
Aberlady Bay is home to the UK’s first Local Nature Reserves with mudflats and sand dunes to explore. The Bay is so flat that the tide fills it completely within minutes so care needs to be taken, but fortunately it doesn’t have the tidal ferocity of similar bays or estuaries around the UK.
The John Muir Way also winds it way here and you can ride the trail (as well as hike) and often the treads of fat bikes can be seen in the sand. At low tide remain of an X-Class submarine, scuppered during the Second World War, for target practice reveals itself and its rusting ribs.
Gullane Beach is a beautifully sheltered bay with lovely walks through the dunes with pine woods rising above the bay to give views along the Forth to Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, and on a clear day to the mountains of the Highland boundary north of Callander. Being sheltered, the bay is perfect for open water swimming with a shallow depth that warms up nicely in summer. If you’re up for a spot of paddling, there’s the island of Fidra, Castle Tarbet and The Lamb, along with the distinctively shaped Bass Rock, coloured white from the guano from the World’s largest gannet colony that makes its home here.
Carrying along the coast to the quaint Victorian town and harbour of North Berwick, it’s the perfect spot for fish and chips and ice cream before jumping on the coastal bus back to Aberlady. If you’re feeling super-energetic, continue along the John Muir Way over the cliff tops (and past Tantallon Castle) to the beaches and Wildlife Reserve at Dunbar.
Rockcliffe Beach & Kippford, Dumfries & Galloway
Moving to Rockcliffe in the south west of Scotland, this small beach is also on an estuary, but totally different in character and feels more like a Cornish village in some respects. Take a coastal walk over the hillside footpath to Kippford with views across the Solway forth to the Lakes, then follow the lower coastal path back again.
Rockcliff is also near to the Galloway Forest Park where you’ll find mile upon mile of forest roads to explore by bike with numerous campsites in the area for an extended stay. A hike up nearby Criffel Hill (570m) from New Abbey provides spectacular views from its isolated summit to the Lead Hills, Lakes, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Machrihanish Beach (near Campbeltown), Argyle & Bute
It’s an extremely long drive to the southern tip of Mull of Kintyre, but you’re rewarded by Machrihanish Beach on the opposite side of the peninsula to Campbeltown.
This 3-mile stretch of golden sand gives classic west coast views to the inner Hebrides of Isle of Islay, Jura and across to Northern Ireland in the south. Being on the west coast, the beach is popular with surfers and you can even hike or cycle (MTB recommended) the 160km Kintyre Way from Tarbert in the north, criss-crossing the peninsula on its way south to finish at Machrihanish Beach.
Achnahaird Beach, Achiltibuie & Sumer Isles, Ross & Cromarty
Heading north to beyond Ullapool and the Summer Isles is the tiny costal village of Achiltibuie that looks out to the myriad of tiny islands that make up the Summer Isles. On the north of the peninsula is the compact river-split beach of Achnahaird that on a sunny day is a delight to experience with turquoise waters making you think of the Mediterranean.
The road to Achiltibuie from Ullapool takes you past Stac Pollaidh (612m) which is worth the short but steep hike it takes to the summit and cycling the remote singletrack roads to the likes of Lochinver are a sheer pleasure – although be prepared for short steep climbs as the road winds it way up and down along the coastline.
Balnakeil Beach, (near Durness), North West Highland
In the north west of Scotland near Durness is the wild and rugged Balnakeil Beach with white sand, large dunes and clifftop walks. On a sunny day the sea is turquoise and idyllic, but on a winters day with a storm blowing in from the Atlantic, it can be very cold and intimidating place indeed.
In nearby Durness you’ll find the quirky (and slightly hippy) Balnakeil Craft Village of artists that have made their home in this abandoned Ministry of Defence outpost. Further along the coast to the east, there’s plenty of coves to explore (including Smoo cave) where that wild peat moors of Sutherland fall into that same white sand and turquoise sea. Ben Hope and Ben Loyal are to be found here also with great views over Sutherland and across the water to Orkney. And of course a visit to Cape Wrath is a must with a short boat ride on the Keoldale Ferry to gain access to the road that tales (roughly 10 miles in distance to reach the very northern end of the UK.
Lunan Bay (near Montrose), Dundee & Angus
Heading from the rugged north west to the North Sea is Lunan Bay, a hidden stretch of sand and dunes near Montrose. There’s not much to say about this unexpected mile long stretch of sand, but it’s lovely place to hang out on a sunny day with a picnic if you’re in this part of the world.
Tentsmuir Sands & Tentsmuir Forest, (near Tayport), Fife
Tentsmuir beach and Forest is near the east coast town of Tayport, on the Firth of Tay opposite Dundee and curves its way round Fife to Leuchars and St Andrews in the south. It’s also bounded by Tentsmuir Forest, planted in the 1920’s and has a network for forest walks to explore on foot or bike.
The northern tip of the beach has sand banks that extend into the Firth and are home to seals (often resting up) and you’ll always see a curious head or two popping out of the water to watch you from the sea. One note of warning on a foggy day is to take care and not get lost on the sandbanks as I did one early morning when the tide was coming in. It’s not an experience I’d like to repeat and was extremely luck with the outcome!
Some other favourites Scarista Beach, Harris, Outer Hebrides
The beaches of the Hebrides could easily take another dedicated post devoted, but Scarista is a favourite due to its sheer beauty and also where I got married.
Findhorn Beach, Grampian
Findhorn Beach stretches for miles along the Moray Firth and you can follow the Moray Costal Trail to Spey Bey where the River Spey enters the North Sea. The woods at Findhorn beach are perfect for a night in a camper van (or tent) and a perfect spot for a barbeque and to relax after after hiking the Speyside Way.
Not sure this really counts as it’s not on the coast, but there’s amazing spot of sand on the southern end of Loch Ericht near the Ben Alder Cottage bothy. You can reach it with an easy off road bike ride from Loch Rannoch (and some hike-a-bike across a bog) and it’s a superb spot on a sunny day.
And that's that for our selection of favourite beaches around Scotland. Do let us know your favourite spots by sending us a message on Facebook.
BOOKS OF THE WEEK With sea air and exercise comes a healthy appetite and this week we have two books with outdoor cooking ideas to to fuel your coastal adventures.
Do Wild Baking by Tom Herbert
Published by the team behind the Do Lectures, Do Wild Baking is great inspiration for cooking outdoors with tips for building an open fire to making bread and hot smoked salmon on your outdoor adventure.
The Campervan Cookbook by Martin Dorey With 80 recipes for cooking on two rings, barbeque or campfire, hit the road with Martin’s recipe ideas and there’s no need for another pot of pasta ever again!
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Black Bean Burghers with Chipotle Mayo
This recipe by Mary Ann from The Beach House Kitchen may possibly be the perfect veggie burger. Head over to her website for veggie burger nirvana.
MUSIC OF THE WEEK Swim Until You Can’t See Land by Frightened Rabbit
Frightened Rabbit are a Scottish from the Borders town of Selkirk and Swim Until you Can’t See Land is from their third album The Winter of Mixed Drinks.
Frightened Rabbit – Swim Until You Can’t See Land