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As a travel writer I’ve been lucky enough to travel to more than 100 countries. Indeed I am writing this blog for you on board an Etihad flight to Australia. A few weeks of the best that Australia has to offer beckon, but I can say now with a high degree of certainty that I won’t find any better beaches in the Antipodes than I’ve discovered here in Scotland, for me the country with the finest beaches in the world.

Scotland boasts countless idyllic stretches of sand up and down the mainland and out among the 800 or so islands. Some of my favourites lie seriously off the beaten track. I think these remote stars are well worth the effort of getting to. Join me now as we venture out and I share my top five remote beaches in Scotland with you.

McKelvie Family on Torrlinn

Torrlinn (c) Robin McKelvie

Torrlinn, Isle of Arran

I’m a little reluctant to share this one to be honest as it has been a McKelvie family favourite ever since I was a wee laddie. Arran is, of course, deservedly on the tourist trail of Scotland, but this remote gem of a beach certainly isn’t. We’ve got a secret parking spot I cannot reveal as it will only annoy the local farmer even more than I already do! Instead park in Lagg and make your way from there. The bonus of this approach is that you can visit the Torrylin Cairn en route, a glorious prehistoric indicator that others long before us have appreciated Torrlinn’s charms. Once you are here you can get changed in the rock shelter, which as a kid I was told was ‘McKelvie Rock’. If the tide is out you can wade way out in the shallow waters as you enjoy views out towards the offshore Isle of Pladda and the unmistakable rock stack of Ailsa Craig. As kids my brother and I were surprised when a seal cruised up to check us out in our wee dingy. The locals are friendly in these parts! My wee girls also love playing in the bountiful rock pools. There is nothing, nothing at all, at Torrlinn so bring a picnic.

View of Pladda and Ailsa Craig from Torrlinn

View of Pladda and Ailsa Craig from Torrlinn (c) Robin McKelvie

Port Ban, Iona

This pilgrimage island of Iona is deeply evocative in many ways. I love that one of its beaches is called the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. You just have to go somewhere like that! But although that is on the way to our destination it is not where I’m taking you. No, not when I have an even better strip of sand to share. It’s called Port Ban and it’s a white sand stunner. Last time I was here I was visiting on a cruise ship, but I’d have happily ditched my comfy cabin and posh meals to join the people I found wild camping on the bluff overlooking this most special of beaches. Swim here and you’ll likely be alone, but watch out for basking sharks and dolphins! Both harmless, but amazing to share the waters with. It’s a quite a yomp from the Iona ferry so come prepared.

Port Ban on Iona

Port Ban on Iona (c) Robin McKelvie

West Beach, Berneray, Outer Hebrides

I often hear people exclaim that Scotland’s epic beaches are ‘just like the Caribbean’ or ‘just like Thailand’. Well the Thai Tourist Office obviously thought so, as they ran an advert showcasing Thailand’s glorious beaches that used an image of West Beach here on Berneray in the Outer Hebrides! They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and this stretch of sand really is a show stealer. It lies overlooking the Sound of Harris gazing out over the Atlantic. The next landfall is the Americas. This long sweep of pure white sand is the sort of place that has grown men giggling and running around like wee weans. I speak from experience. It may often be windswept, but you will struggle to show me photos of many beaches better in the world – as the Thai Tourist Office obviously found too!

West Beach, Berneray, in the Outer Hebrides

West Beach, Berneray (c) Robin McKelvie

Easting, Isle of Unst, Shetland

I won’t lie, this is a long way to come for a beach, but the effort is more than worth it. You can actually drive or cycle fairly close to the sands, but you will have had to take two ferries from Shetland’s mainland to Unst to even get within striking distance. As you slip down towards this mind-blowing beach you will get the idea that it is a deeply special place with remnants of the Vikings sprinkled around the surrounds. They obviously felt the same as me about a view I wish my house looked out on. Easting is starched impossibly white, with the waters of the Atlantic milky blue when the sun hits them. It does look like the Caribbean, much better as far as I am concerned, with no development at all. The end of the world vibe, the bountiful wildlife and pretty wildflowers back from the beach are, in Caribbean resort parlance, all inclusive.

Easting Beach, Unst

Easting Beach, Unst (c) Robin McKelvie

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

I guess I would get shouted at by someone if I wrote a list of great remote Scottish beaches and did not feature this famous, or rather infamous, remote beach. It’s the only mainland beach on this list, as many of these are easier to get to. Not Sandwood Bay! You can park four miles away and then yomp along the coast. You will know when you get here. For me there is an even better, also remote, beach nearby, but I’m not going to share that with you in this blog. That is all part of the fun of beach bumming in Scotland – finding your own idyllic wee patch of the sandy stuff. I hope you have glorious fun finding it!

Sandwood Bay

Sandwood Bay (c) Alan Bird


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