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The Guide to Seaside Staycations in Scotland

While dreaming of a relaxing foreign holiday, you might picture white sand beaches with crystal-clear waters, world-class food and picturesque village streets flooded with the sound of music and laughter. But did you know, you can enjoy all these things during a holiday in Scotland?

One of Scotland's white sand beaches

One of the best destinations in Europe for a seaside staycation, visitors of all ages will find it hard not to fall in love with Scotland and its epic coast. Boasting dramatic scenery, enormous sandy beaches, quaint villages and thriving towns, and mile upon mile of coast path, it offers something for everyone.

And with coronavirus restrictions in Scotland easing from 26th April now is the perfect time to book a holiday north of the border. Holidaymakers from England, Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom can now stay overnight in Scotland, although this is limited to one household per property for the time being.

With remaining limits expected to be eased by the summer, we share our tips on where to stay and what to do in our guide to seaside staycations in Scotland.

Why Choose Scotland?

A haven for sea-lovers, Scotland has over 6,000 miles of mainland coastline alone. On top of this, it also boasts 900 uniquely characterful islands – many of which offer amazing staycation opportunities. With so much coastline, from craggy coves to miles-long beaches to sheltered harbours overlooked by multi-coloured cottages, you can easily find somewhere special to relax and revive by the water.

Dunnottar Castle on the Aberdeenshire coast
Dunnottar Castle on the Aberdeenshire coast

Particularly alluring to wilderness and tranquillity-seekers, much of Scotland’s coastline is quiet and sometimes remote – great if you would like to get off the beaten track. That said, the sheer variety of coastal destinations means there’s something for everyone, should you be looking for somewhere to stay with your dog, take up water sports, join in with local life, relish local cuisine and so on. In short, whatever it is you love about the coast, you are sure to enjoy the ultimate seaside holiday in Scotland.

Where Should I Stay on the Scottish Coast?

The range and diversity of coastal destinations in Scotland is immense – from the white sand beaches of the Outer Hebrides to the long-distance coastal trails of Ayrshire to the flourishing seaside towns of Argyll and Bute.

For some holiday inspiration to help you on your way, here are our ten favourite coastal towns and villages in Scotland:

Aberdour

The historic village of Aberdour is situated on the south coast of Fife, on the north shore of the Firth of Forth. Benefitting from two beaches, an attractive harbour, a 13th century castle, an 18-hole golf course and a huge array of traditional pubs, restaurants and shops, it appeals to all. The town’s Silver Sands beach is also said to be one of the best in Scotland.

Crail

Crail town in East Neuk is comprised of a salt-kissed tangle of cobbled streets and fishing cottages, all centred around a miniature harbour. A year-round destination for staycations in Scotland, it is especially enchanting in the summertime when the temperatures rise and the broiling sun beams off the sea.

Gardenstown in Scotland
Gardenstown in Aberdeenshire

Gardenstown

Located in Aberdeenshire, Gardenstown is a great choice if you are looking for a laidback escape. Established as a fishing port in the 1700’s, it is still a working fishing village today with a tight-knit local community. As well as its stunning views over the Moray Firth, Gardenstown is favoured for its wildlife-spotting opportunities, heritage, arts and foodie scenes.

Nairn

Said to be one of the sunniest and driest places in the whole of Scotland, Nairn is naturally inviting. An ancient fishing port to the east of Inverness, it is one of our favourites for its three beaches, jaw-dropping scenery and two champion golf courses. It is also home to the fairy-tale Cawdor Castle – seat of the Thanes of Cawdor since 1370.

North Berwick

Near enough to Edinburgh for a whirlwind escape yet far removed from city vibes, the seaside town of North Berwick is a popular choice for staycations in Scotland. Particularly recommended for keen sailors, the waters here beckon water-sports enthusiasts and have hosted many major Scottish and UK sailing championships.

Oban

Dubbed the ‘Gateway to the Isles’ and the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’, Oban is a mecca for fans of fruits de mer. Located on Scotland’s west coast, it is shouldered by miles of dramatic coastline and backed by sprawling countryside. The place to go for fresh fish and shellfish in Scotland, this bustling working port is a must-visit for culinary connoisseurs.

Plockton

It’s little wonder why Plockton is known as the ‘Jewel of the Highlands’. A charming village in Lochalsh, Wester Ross, Plockton overlooks the shores of Loch Carron and provides shelter for a small fleet of resident fishing boats. Breath-takingly beautiful, this village will appeal to all those looking to enjoy serenity and wilderness in equal measures.

Portree

If you are looking for an unforgettable holiday on the magical Isle of Skye, we recommend a stay in Portree. The island’s capital, Portree makes for an ideal base for exploring the island’s most famous attractions like Quiraing, the Old Man of Storr, Elgol and the Black Cuillins, as well visiting the nearby beaches, including Coral Beach.

St Abbs

Look no further than St Abbs for a wild retreat. A remote village on the Berwickshire coast, it is encompassed by rocky cliffs and peppered with fishermen’s cottages. While photographers and romantics are drawn to St Abbs for its surf-battered harbour and wind-scoured surrounds, film-buffs may be impressed to know that the village doubled as ‘New Asgard’ in the Avengers film.

Tobermory in Scotland
Tobermory harbour on the Isle of Mull

Tobermory

The capital of the Isle of Mull, Tobermory found fame as the face of the children’s TV show, Balamory. One of the prettiest ports in the UK, the harbour here is hugged by brightly painted cottages that exude cheer. Not just mesmerising to look at, Tobermory also has many top-notch restaurants and pubs too – a welcome bubble for Scottish staycations.

Which Are the Best Beaches in Scotland?

You will simply be spoilt for choice for beautiful beaches to visit in Scotland. From enormous stretches of sand void of footprints to bustling seaside resorts to remote pebble-strewn coves, there really is something for everyone.

Sandwood Bay in Scotland
Sandwood Bay in Kinlochbervie


To help you find your perfect beach in Scotland, here’s a look at our ten favourites:

  1. Aberdeen Beach in Aberdeen, a huge sandy strip with a beautiful esplanade, ideal for recreational beach games and water sports.
  2. Balnakeil Beach near Durness, a year-round dog-friendly beach that calls to both two and four-legged adventurers.
  3. Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull, a sandy beach with a dramatic backdrop that is also frequented by white-tailed sea eagles.
  4. Coral Beach on the Isle of Skye, a magnificent beach with bleached white shores and awe-inspiring views.
  5. Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms, a fun inland alternative to the coast as Scotland’s only freshwater beach.
  6. Luskentyre Sands on the Isle of Harris, an award-winning beach that also happens to be one of the largest in the country.
  7. Sandwood Bay near Kinlochbervie, an unspoilt beach with eye-catching pink sand and an impressive 213-foot-high sea stack called Am Buachaille.
  8. St Ninian’s Isle in Shetland, one of the finest sand tombolos in Europe – a real pathway into the middle of the ocean!
  9. Tolsta Beach on the Isle of Lewis, a stunning bay with soft cushiony sand perfect for picnics by the water.
  10. West Beach in Berneray, a superb 3-mile-long beach that simply begs for drawn-out walks along the shoreline.

What are the Top Things to See and Do in Scotland?

Most people visit Scotland for the dramatic scenery, space and peace and quiet. There are places along the coast and in the Highlands that offer a true wilderness experience. Keen walkers will love the choice of hiking options, which range from flat woodland trails, challenging coastal paths and high mountain passes. Top seaside walks include the Loch Ryan Coastal Path in Dumfries & Galloway and the long-distance Fife Coastal Path.

The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye. Photo by Esse Chua on Unsplash
The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

Walking is also the best way to see some of the coast’s iconic landmarks. These include The Old Man of Hoy sea stack on Orkney and the cliffs at mainland Britain’s most northerly point at Dunnet Head. Visitors to the magical Isle Of Skye will be treated to some of the coastal best views in Scotland, if not the world, especially around the fairytale stacks of The Old Man of Storr.

No trip to the Scottish seaside would be complete without a visit to a castle and there are some stunning historical treasures positioned along the coast. Top choices include the medieval fortress of Dunnottar Castle on a rocky headland on the Aberdeenshire coast, as well as Eilean Donan Castle which is beautifully positioned on a small island at the entrance of Loch Duich and surrounded by mountains.

What’s the Food and Drink Like at the Scottish Seaside?

No seaside staycation in Scotland would be complete without sampling some of the delicious local food on offer. Along the coast are a multitude of pubs, restaurants, and cafés offering warming plates of feel-good classics and modern twists. While the choices are seemingly endless, Oban in particular is a must-visit destination if you fancy seafood, with well-known eateries such as Oban Seafood Hut, Ee-Usk, the Fisherman’s Kitchen and Tralee Bay Fish & Chips.

The Port of Oban in Argyll and Bute
The Port of Oban in Argyll and Bute

For Michelin-level dining by the sea, check out the Cellar in Anstruther, the Isle of Eriska in Eriska and Loch Bay on the Isle of Skye – each holders of the much-coveted Michelin star in 2021. For food festivals on the coast, you should also try Fife Vegan Festival in May, the Crail Food Festival in June, the Edinburgh Food Festival and the Tarbert Seafood Festival in July and the Stranraer Oyster Festival in September (some already postponed until 2022 and all subject to Coronavirus restrictions). Oh, and if you haven’t tried a bowl of Scotland’s Cullen Skink soup yet (with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions), make sure that’s on your list too!

Book Your Staycation in Scotland

Take a sensational staycation in Scotland this year. From white sand beaches and pretty seaside towns, to mountains, lochs and islands, Scotland is the perfect destination for a holiday by the coast. Book your stay in self-catering holiday accommodation and enjoy all that this spectacular country has to offer.

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