The beaches in Shetland and Orkney come in all shapes and sizes, some are strewn with boulders while others offer seemingly endless stretches of white or golden sand. We’ve showcased a selection of our favourite beaches and bays:-
Sands of Sound, Lerwick, Shetland: This is the main beach in Lerwick and is popular with locals during the summer months. The gentle sloping sands are great for sea swimmers and paddlers, and you may even spot a nosy seal or two bobbing in the shallows too!
Scousburgh Sands, South Mainland, Shetland: Also known locally as Spiggie Beach, this north facing beach offers a beautiful stretch of white sand flanked by cliffs and rolling, green countryside.
St Ninian’s Ayre, South Mainland, Shetland: This beach is a sand tombolo, which links the mainland to St Ninian’s Isle. The sea laps at both sides of the beach which is composed mostly of shell sand. It makes an excellent, albeit often bracing, walk, although there are also plenty of sheltered corners for a picnic too.
Levenwick Beach, South Mainland, Shetland: Popular with families thanks to its gently sloping sands, which makes it ideal for paddling, and its numerous rock pools.
Sands of Breckon, Yell, Shetland: This lovely, sheltered beach faces the Atlantic in north Yell and is a peaceful and beautiful place to visit.
Skaw Beach, Unst, Shetland: This sheltered beach with fine soft sand lies in the far north of Unst and is Britain’s most northerly beach.
Meal Beach, West Burra, Shetland: Another popular beach with families, Meal lies just to the south east of the village of Hanmavoe on West Burra. It’s south facing with plenty of sheltered spots among the rocks and there’s a smaller beach among the rocks to the west. It’s a great option for swimming and all manner of beach games.
Tresness, Sanday, Orkney: Possibly the most spectacular stretch of sand in Orkney, the beach and dunes at Tresness are a real highlight of this north isle. The beach itself is part of a thin peninsula, splitting a sheltered tidal bay and the North Sea. Backed by huge dunes, the white sand carries on northwards up the coast, offering endless views.
Dingieshowe Beach, East Mainland, Orkney: This is the perfect place for a seaside stroll, with stunning views towards Copinsay and Orkney’s east coast. The beach itself is almost a double crescent of golden sand backed by dunes and is one of the most popular beaches in the area, particularly for walkers and families.
Rackwick, Hoy, Orkney: One of the most remote and beautiful beaches to be found in Orkney, Rackwick is overlooked by a towering sandstone cliff and surrounded by hills. There is an ‘end of the earth’ feeling about this small stretch of sparkling sand, but therein lies the attraction.
Glimps Holm, Orkney: On an uninhabited islet you’ll find this long lazy beach with beautiful blue water which lies in the shadow of the 3rd Barrier, built during WWII to protect the Home Fleet based in Scapa Flow. The barrier is partly responsible for the development of this beach, changing the tides and currents, but its legacy is a stunning stretch of coastline.
Waulkmill Bay, West Mainland, Orkney: One of Mainland’s most spectacular beaches with a huge expanse of golden sand at low tide taking up the whole bay and leading towards the shallow, clean and clear waters of Scapa Flow.
Sands of Evie, West Mainland, Orkney: Perched on the north west coast of the Orkney mainland, the golden sands here overlook the uninhabited island of Eynhallow and Rousay beyond. It can be a wild place when the wind is blowing, but during calmer weather you can paddle in the shallow water and watch seals just offshore.