Surfing the waves, hiking across dunes, and lying on sandy shores aren’t the first activities that come to mind when thinking of Scotland. But low and behold, the U.K. country is made up of several travel-worthy beach destinations, most of which still remain as hidden gems. And on behalf of today being National Tartan Day—when the Declaration of Scottish Independence was signed—we’re revealing our favorite four beaches in Scotland to put on the top of your bucket list.
1. Silver Sands of Morar (from Arisaig to Morar)
Follow the twists and turns along old coast road and stumble across the Silver Sands of Morar—a rock-framed beach with a stunning backdrop pointing towards the Small Isles of Eigg and Rum. The coastline is home to a 9-hole golf course called Traigh and a fishing school, plus cottages and camping sites for outdoor lovers. But of course, just walking along the bay and taking in the scenery is highly encouraged.
2. St. Cyrus Beach in St. Cyrus
Located in the small village of St. Cyrus, this three-mile sandy spot between Aberdeen and Dundee is serene, to say the least. St. Cyrus Beach is part of Scotland’s National Nature Reserve—working to protect the country’s wildlife and landscapes—with noticeably clean sand dunes and cliffs that are ideal for strolling. And make sure to visit in the summertime, when the lush surrounding grasslands go into full bloom with purple bellflower, creating a burst of color against the natural setting.
Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris
Famously known as the set for Cast Away, this beach (one of the largest on Harris) brings visitors peace instead of isolation. It can be argued that Luskentyre’s crystal-clear waters and white sand make it seem more part of the Caribbean than Britain, where unexpected wildlife can be spotted—from wild ponies to hovering eagles and otters. Water activities such as kayaking, diving, and surfing are available for the more adventurous type, but everyone can take part in gazing at the breathtaking coastal scenery.
Claigan Coral Beach on the Isle of Skye
This tiny beach, stretching a touch over two miles, isn’t known as one of Scotland’s “wee gems” for nothing. Take a leisurely walk across the white sand of Claigan Coral Beach, made up of crushed Red Coralline seaweed that historically served as agricultural fertilizer on the island. Climb up the small hill known as Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain for an incredible view of the beach, and during low tide, follow the coral walkway leading to an offshore island called Lampay for additional exploration. And don’t forget to check out the 800-year-old Dunvegan Castle—the oldest inhabited castle throughout Scotland—located a short distance away from the coastline.
© 2016 AFAR Media