Dog-friendly beaches in Scotland holiday cottages

Dog-friendly beaches in Scotland

Scotland is the crowning glory that sits at the top of the British Isles. If you were to include the 700 plus islands that sprinkle the coastline, it amounts to over 10,000 miles of glorious ruggedness, white sandy beaches, and secret coves. It offers a wide and varied choice when pondering where to head for a sandy stroll with your canine companion.

However, not every beach loves dogs as much as we do, so here is our guide to finding the ultimate in dog-friendly coastal walks in the different regions.

Northern Highlands and Islands

Imagine Scotland and you will probably conjure up an image of the Highlands. Clichéd as it may seem, this truly dramatic concoction of unparalleled rugged beauty, culture, architecture, the ever-changing skies and the tempestuous history that sculpted the lay of the land, it is indeed the stuff of movies, inspiration and dreams.

Haunted with an air of mystery, the landscape of the Scottish Highland is dotted with beautiful and romantic castles, such as Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye and the Castle of Mey on the mainland where the coastline has to be seen to be believed.

Balnakeil Beach, Durness, the Highlands
Balnakeil Beach, Durness, the Highlands


Balnekeil in the north-west Highlands with near white sands, turquoise waters and grassy dunes, is often described as looking like an oil painting or a film set. Whichever you choose to see, the scenery is unquestionably phenomenal.

A ruined church and graveyard sit on the edge to add to the air of mystique and drama and there is a café where it is possible to get a hot drink after blowing away your inner cobwebs.

Big Sand Beach, Gairloch, the Highlands


Big Sand is a small and remote crofting village situated on the shores of Loch Gairloch and three and a half miles from Gairloch Village. Perched on the edge of the Outer Hebrides and looking across to the Isle of Skye sits its sheltered and beautiful bay.

The snow-capped mountains of Skye and Torridon rise up in the distance and the incongruity is immediately apparent as well as mouth-droppingly stunning. Considering the remoteness of this coastal reach there are toilets, showers, and even a small shop.

Central Highlands and Islands

Home to 23 inhabited islands and a 'secret coast', this region combines stunning scenery with unique island paradise and rugged, awe-inspiring mainland landscapes. There are seven nature reserves, so not surprisingly, this is the best place in the country to spot iconic and rare wildlife such as the white-tailed sea eagle. You can enjoy the unspoiled white expanses of beach around the Isle of Colonsay or discover one of the many hidden coves in the area.

White Shore (Port Ban) near Tarbert, Loch Fyne


This little beach is one such secret cove and is accessed by a path from the busy fishing port of Tarbert Harbour. It meanders through woods where you can spot wildlife and seabirds from the sheds dotted along the way and then opens out on to the pebbly beach. There is a picnic table and when the tide is low, the beach turns from pebbles to beautiful white sands that is actually crushed shells.

The view back towards the harbour and bobbing boats is lovely from here, but if you feel adventurous there is an extra half-mile loop that takes you through even more peaceful woodland to a viewpoint called Cnoc Mor. You will probably need wellies and a dog towel for this bit as the ground underfoot can often be boggy, but the view is worth the squidgy trek. The nearby Loch Fyne is a 5-mile drive from here and is devastatingly beautiful.

Westport Beach, Campeltown, Argyll


If you travel further south from Tarbert you will come across this lovely beach in Kintyre that is miles and miles and indeed miles of perfect white sand and rolling white horses. When conditions are right, it is possible to swim or even surf with your dog and a dolphin may well pop up to say hello. This beach is part of the Mull of Kintyre Half Marathon and has been voted the 'most scenic race in the whole of the UK', a title it most definitely wins.

North East Scotland

Many people miss this slice of the country with their headlong rush to the honey-pots of Isle of Skye and Loch Ness, but it is a beautiful region that houses scenic glens, rich farmland, the River Spey and Moray and is jam-packed with castles!

Nairn Beach, Nairn


This very long stretch of sand is divided into East, Central and West Beach and is so dog-friendly, the dog walkers great each other in a jovial and enthusiastic manner. There is also a spot known as Secret Beach by the locals. West Beach has nooks, crannies, and rockpools in which to fish for treasures and East Beach is a huge expanse of sand backed by dunes and a forest.

Be aware of the tide though if you venture as far as the sand bar as it approaches quickly and it is possible to get cut off. There are cafés for warming cuppas and the view stretches over towards the Moray Firth. Parking is free and if it is your lucky day you may see a dolphin playing in the surf.

Edinburgh and the Lothians 

Cosmopolitan and culture-rich the city of Edinburgh borders the lush countryside and coastline of the Lothians, so this region enjoys the best of both worlds. Bursting with history, natural beauty and adventure, be prepared to be swamped with entertainment options and places to see, but where can Fido go?

Cramond Beach, near Edinburgh


Cramond Beach is popular with Edinburgh locals and a hidden gem away from the hustle and bustle of city life, but only a whisker away. There a fishing village vibe, a harbour and it is possible to walk to Cramond Island when the tide is right. Beware, there is only a two-hour window of opportunity otherwise it is a long wait for the next low tide!


Taking into consideration the fact that Longniddry Beach is only 10 miles from Edinburgh, this beach is a quiet and relatively undisturbed haven.

Strewn with many rock pools and visited regularly by the local wildlife, the beach is popular with walkers, water sports enthusiasts and families. Especially dog-friendly, there is even an area dedicated to their exercise. 

South Scotland

The south is more populated and accessible than the wild, ruggedness of the north of the country, but still has a beautiful coastline where much of it is unspoiled. The fishing port of Arbroath is famous for its Arbroath Smokie and Ayr is a popular holiday resort with ferry crossings across to the Isle of Arran. 

Saltcoats Beach, North Ayrshire


Backed by a long esplanade, Saltcoats Beach is wide and sandy with far-reaching views across the Firth of Clyde to the mountainous Isle of Arran. Close to two town centres, Ardrossan Castle sits not far from the beach atop of a small hill. Oliver Cromwell's army destroyed most of it in the seventeenth century and it is said to be haunted by William Wallace's ghost!

Ganavan Beach, Strathclyde


A few miles from Oban and nestled around the clear waters of Ganavan Bay is this splendid and scenic beach. The views stretch to the cragginess of the isles of Lismore and Mull and dogs are welcome all year round. 

Central Scotland

Not geographically central to Scotland, but known as the Central Belt it lies between the Highlands to the north and the Southern Uplands to the south. It is the most densely populated region of the country and although it is sometimes referred to as the Midlands, there are beaches in this region and many of them are dog-friendly.

St Andrews East Sands, East Leven and West Leven are worth a mention, but if you are a fan of big skies and wide open spaces, head for Kingsbarn Beach eight miles down the coast from St Andrews.

Sunrise at Kingbarn in Angus, Fife


This beach was awarded the Keep Scotland Beautiful Seaside Award and if you were to be there at sunrise on a clear summer's day, you'll get to see the magic of this alluring spot. 


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