With 6200 miles of coast, Scotland has many world-class beaches to visit, often with wild motorhome camping sites on the beach or close by. Whether you’re into beach-combing, surfing, wildlife or horse-riding, beaches in Scotland have plenty to offer.
If you want sunsets, head to the west coast. You could think you’ve landed in the Caribbean, not Scotland: the water is crystal-clear and turquoise, the sand is white, and there are plenty of islands to spot.
The difference is there’s sea-grass instead of palm trees – and you won’t find crowds of people in swimsuits. In fact, one of the great things about beaches in Scotland is that you won’t find crowds of people at all, and any you do see are more likely to wear wetsuits or sweaters than swimsuits.
So – where are the best Scottish beaches for motorhome holidays?
Starting in south-west Scotland, near Tarbert, there two excellent beach camping sites overlooking Islay, Jura and Gigha: south there’s Muasdale Holiday Park at Muasdale, and north lies Port Ban at Kilberry.
The views here are spectacular, especially when the sun sets behind the Paps of Jura. You can often see dolphins in the Sound of Jura. There are also great surfing breaks at Machrihanish, further south near Campbelltown.
Heading north on your motorhome tour of Scotland, one campsite that gets on all the “Top 10” lists of best Scottish beach campsites is Camusdarach, at Arisaig. It has great views across the water to the islands of Eigg, Rhum and Skye, 42 motorhome and tent pitches, three sandy beaches within walking distance and launching facilities for sea kayaks and small boats.
Continuing up the west coast, Sands, near Gairloch, can provide pitches with spectacular views towards the Hebrides, or more sheltered ones among the sand dunes. You can go walking, pony trekking or fishing, and on the first Saturday of July every year the campsite hosts a Highland Gathering.
If you’ve never been to a Highland Games (as they’re also called) you really should experience one. You’ll see Scottish dancing, bagpipe bands, athletics and a lot of local folk enjoying themselves regardless of the weather. Highland Gatherings provide excellent photo opportunities, with plenty of tartan.
Further north, Achmelvich Bay has white sands, turquoise seas, excellent snorkelling, sea kayaking and hill-walking. The Shore Campsite is very popular during school holidays and boasts its own fish-and-chip shop.
Other local camp-sites include the Clachtoll Beach Campsite, just north of Lochinver, or Port a Bhaigh, a little further south at Achiltibuie. The latter has fabulous views out to the Summer Isles, but the beach is of pebbles rather than sand– not good for barefoot strolls!
If you want your own “private” beach, take the road up Loch Inchard, past Kinlochbervie (where you’ll find Shegra Wild Camping site) and park in the Blairmore car park. Then walk about four miles northwards up the coast to Sandwood Bay, a mile and a half (2.4 km) of sand at the mouth of Sandford Loch.
The north coast
It’s worth making the trip to Cape Wrath, Scotland’s most north-westerly point: the weather and waves here can be extreme, but the photos will be terrific. To get there, you have to leave your motorhome and take the ferry from Keoldale and the mini-bus the other side.
On your return to Keoldale, drive north-east to the Sango Sands camping ground at Durness. The site is at the top of the cliffs and the wind can be strong enough to blow tents away, but it’s a great place to spot bottle-nose dolphins from.
The site has its own bar-restaurant, and there’s also a shop and pub in the village. From the village you can walk down to the sandy beach. While you’re there, take a trip to Smoo Cave, one of the largest sea caves in Britain.
Both Thurso and Dunnet Bays have sandy beaches, and Thurso is legendary for its surf: if there’s a big north-west swell you can find waves of triple overhead and more. Dunnet Head Camp Site is a good beach site for motorhomes. Dunnet Head is the most northerly point in Scotland, near John o’ Groats and Duncansby Head, with its spectacular rock “stacks”.
The east coast
South of Duncansby Head is Sinclair’s Bay, another great surfing and walking site. Some two miles of white sand separate two 16th century castles and it’s also a good place to watch seabirds, seals and occasionally orca.
The east coast is less good for beaches than the west, though it’s better for finding sea-glass and interesting driftwood. A few beaches do stand out: Burghead Bay, north-east of Nairn, is one, a long narrow strip of sand with forestry plantations on the landward side. Tentsmuir, at Tayport near Dundee, is very similar but even longer.
South of Aberdeen is the little village of Catterline. The local dive club owns the land but it’s OK to wild camp here when they’re not using it. There are rock-pools to investigate and seals often breed on the island at the mouth of the harbour.
If you want open sandy spaces, St Cyrus Bay to the north of Montrose and Lunan Bay to the south can both provide them. St Cyrus Bay is a nature reserve, so dogs have to be kept on a lead until you reach the beach. Seahorse Stables at Lunan Bay has horses for hire if you fancy a ride along the beach; it’s also a popular surfing venue.
At Leven, on the Firth of Forth, you’ll find two miles of golden sand, three golf courses, and the Leven Beach Holiday Park, which accepts motorhomes as well as having static caravans. The same company also owns the smaller, prettier caravan park at Pettycur Bay, between Leven and the Forth Bridge.
North-east from Edinburgh is North Berwick, with cliffs leading down to a sandy beach. Seacliff Stables can supply horses for riding along the beach or out to the spectacular ruins of Tantallon Castle.
South from North Berwick lies Dunbar, with three spectacular beaches. The nearby Bellhaven Bay Caravan Park has views out to the Bass Rock and is close to the beach. If you have small children, the miniature railway and petting zoo at East Links Family Park are worth a visit.
This route would take weeks to do in full but hopefully it will give you some ideas for shorter motorhome tours in Scotland, and where to find the best Scottish beach campsites. There are hundreds more fabulous beaches and wild camping sites to choose from, so just start driving and see what you find – and please tell us, so we can tell other people!
You’ll notice I haven’t covered the islands at all; I think they should have a post to themselves!