The Best Beaches on the West Coast

by Roisin McAuley  |  Published April 20, 2018

Scotland’s rugged west coast navigates Glasgow before escaping north to some of the most remote areas of the country. The central beaches are nothing in comparison to endless space and serenity that are experienced in the beaches of the north west coast; in fact some of the central beaches even come with a health warning due to dangerous levels of contamination.

Luckily, the beaches outside of the central belt make up for this. Soft sand and rocky bays roll for miles down the coast, with uninterrupted views. Some beaches are often so secluded that visitors might find they have them all to themselves. Though the Scottish climate doesn’t offer the sorching sunbathing scenes that are experienced in the Mediterranean, the country offers a little something different: wild, fresh beaches, some perfect for surfing and others for exploring. Below we’ve selected seven of the best beaches that make up Scotland’s west coast.

Big Sands near Gairloch with the mountains of Wester Ross beyond (Picture Credit: Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland)

  1. Big Sand Beach, by Gairloch

For those in Wester-Ross exploring the North-West Highlands, there are a few secluded beaches along its rugged coastline.The mountainous backdrop with the distant volcanic peaks of Assynt, envelope visitors creating this serene Scottish paradise. The Big Sand beach sits opposite the uninhabited island of Longa, which acts as a wind barrier for the beach. From these vast sandy surfaces, there are views of both the Isle of Skye and neighbouring village of Torridon as well as spectacular sunsets with silhouettes of the Hebrides. On occasion beach goers are treated to views of the whales who occupy the North Sea. 

Where to stay…
The Millcroft is a 3-star hotel and one of the closest to the Big Stand Beach. Due to its excellent location, rooms are limited and in high demand in this area so it’s advised to book in advance. For individual traveller or those on a smaller budget, the Gairloch Sands Youth Hostel is even closer to the beach and great for meeting others who are discovering the rugged coastal beauty of Scotland.

  1. Machrihanish, in Argyll

If you could cram all of Scotland into one viewpoint, it would be the sight from Machrihanish. Straddling the coast of the small village of the same name, Machrihanish is three-mile stretch of sand with rock pools dotted across it. The views from this beach pass the tip of the island of Mull of Kintyre; on a clear day being made up of the faint coast of Ireland and the endless Atlantic. Looking northwest, the islands of Gigha, Islay and Jura all make up the seascape. This beach is almost the very edge of Scotland, giving it a wild climate: perfect for surfing. 

Where to stay…
The Dellwood Hotel is located in the nearest town to Machrihanish, Campbeltown, which offers a small selection of accommodation. The Dellwood Hotel is a Mansion House with its own grounds and parking facilities. It is a half hour drive from Machrihanish beach and golf club, where parking is available for those visiting the beach. 

Westport Beach from Machrihanish Dunes, Kintyre, Argyll. (Picture Credit: Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland)

  1. Westport Beach, in Argyll

A neighbour to Machrihanish Beach, above, Westport Beach offers similar conditions that are popular with surfers and has the Machrihanish Dunes as its backdrop. The 6-mile stretch of beach boasts the a number of pieces of Scottish history on its shores, including historic castles and medieval gravestones.

Where to stay… This beach is also well connected to Campbeltown, so the Dellwood Hotel located in the heart of the small town is a good choice for those looking to visit both beaches. A short journey in the other direction guests will find the Argyll Hotel in Bellochantuy, complete with coastal views.

  1. Oldshoremore Beach, by Kinlochbervie

Enjoy huge rolling waves, long summer sunsets and tranquil swims at the Oldshoremore beach, or Am Meallan as it is known locally. Oldshoremore occupies the north west corner of Scotland, with the surrounding area stretching across Sutherland and the Northern Coast. This pristine beach becomes extremely vast when the tide is out; something for visitors to keep in mind when planning their trip.

Where to stay.. There is no accomodation in the surrounding areas of Oldshoremore. The closest stop on the route up the West Coast is Drumbeg, in Lairg. Here, Croft 338 is an excellent Bed and Breakfast where parking is available on site. Driving on to Oldshoremore, visitors are able to park at the bottom of a single track road leading to the beach.

Looking across Achmelvich Bay (Picture Credit: Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland)

  1.  Achmelvich Bay, Lochinver

Lying between port town of Ullapool and the Scotland’s northern coast, this beach will make you question whether or not you really are in Scotland. The rolling stretches of land are covered in pristine white sand and the exotic turquoise sea glows in the sunset. Along the beach expect to find fishers waiting for freshwater catches of cod, haddock, whiting, pollock, saithe and mackerel, whilst the sea fills with water sports enthusiasts: water skiing, windsurfing and kayaking. Those touring this coast often come by caravan, using the nextdoor caravan park or opt to camp as well. Achmelvich Bay is particularly busy in the summer months.

Where to stay… The Park House Bed and Breakfast is located in Lochinver, a small town reached before the beach as you head north. Parking is available, with shared lounge and dining facilities. For those wanting to be closer to the beach, Achmelvich Beach Youth Hostel sits a short walk from the shore and shares its tranquil surroundings.

Sanna Bay, Lochaber (Picture Credit: Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland)

  1. Sanna Bay, Fort William & Lochaber

On the most western point of mainland Britain discover the rugged beauty and scenery of Sanna Bay. On the shore, rocks and white, shell sand run along the coast, offering a base for visitors to get a glimpse of both the aquatic wildlife: dolphins, otters and pine marten, and the small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Glance at the vast views west, where visitors will find there is nothing but water for some 4000 kilometres until North America.

Where to stay… Short of staying at the neighbouring castle, there are few options for accomodation in the immediate surroundings of Sanna Bay. Renting cottages and homes is an option too. Mingarry Park is 4-star accommodation located in between the main town of Fort William and the beach. Driving onwards to the beach it is possible to park just a short walk away. A similar distance from the beach, and with rooms at a lower prices, is Loch Shiel Hotel. This hotel is particularly popular with solo-travellers and has a shared lounge area to meet other guests in. 

South Beach, Troon, Ayrshire (Picture Credit: Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland)

  1. Troon, Ayrshire

Though it doesn’t have the rugged beauty of those above, Troon is one of the most popular beaches for those from Glasgow to visit and the most accessible of all on this list. Part of a seaside town, a lively esplanade runs along the side of the beach and when, or more aptly if, the summer weather comes to Scotland the beach fills with families and Scots from the surrounding parts of the country. Given its location, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy watersports, relax in restaurants or go for a traditional serving of fish and chips along the front. Views include the Isle of Arran that lies only a short boat journey from the nearby harbour.

Where to stay… Located on the beach front, the South Beach Hotel has great access to all aspects of Troon, with free parking available on-site. For those travelling on a larger budget, Piersland House is a relaxing getaway that offers easy access to both the beach and local golf course.