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Looking for the best Outer Hebrides beaches?
Then this post is for you, since it is exactly what this post is about.
There are so many beaches in the Outer Hebrides it is difficult to know which ones to visit. And especially which ones are the best ones.
I have been to every beach and sandy bay in the Outer Hebrides. Based on my experience I have put together the below list to help you decide where to go.
Each beach has a photo and a description of how to get there. At the start of the post is a beach map so you can see the general location of the Outer Hebrides beaches.
Isle of Harris might have the best beaches, but don’t dismiss the other islands. Especially Lewis and North Uist have some amazing beaches.
Which Hebrides Island Has the Best Beaches?
North Uist has beaches that are nearly as impressive as Harris but with less people (although it never gets busy anywhere in the Outer Hebrides).
And Lewis should not be discounted either. With its steep cliffs and the Uig hills providing a much more dramatic backdrop than the beaches found further south.
Can You Swim in the Outer Hebrides?
Yes, you can but unless you have a wetsuit there are not many days during the year where it is warm enough to do so.
Note that not all beaches are suitable for swimming, some have strong currents and large waves. The ones that are best for swimming are mentioned below or check with a local.
When to Visit the Best Beaches in the Outer Hebrides?
Regardless of what time of year you visit expect to experience every season in a single day.
April, May and the summer months have the highest chances of clear skies, but the Scottish definition of good weather might be different to what you are used to. Most locals you meet will tell you “It is good weather today” but this just means it is not raining.
When deciding what time of year to visit it is worth noting that from October to April many cafes are closed or have very limited opening hours.
Outer Hebrides Beach Map
Best Outer Hebrides Beaches
1. Ardroil Beach / Uig Sands – Isle of Lewis
What’s special: The dramatic landscape with the Uig hills in the background
Best for: A whole bay of sand at low tide
Try to plan your visit to Ardroil beach for low tide. At this time it is possible to walk for miles admiring the bright white sand, the Uig hills and the interesting rock formations.
How to get there: The easiest access onto the beach is from the south side of the bay through the small village of Ardroil.
There are signposts for Ardroil beach or enter ‘Ardroil campsite’ into Google maps to find the beach.
A short track leads down to the beach.
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2. Seilebost Beach / Traigh Seilebost – Isle of Harris
What’s special: The different shades of turquoise waters
Best for: Fabulous views
It is tempting to walk far out on the idyllic looking white sands at low tide. Be careful since there is quicksand in the area and the water rushes in quickly when the tide turns.
The best time to visit is an hour or two after low tide on a sunny day. You won’t be able to walk on the beach but this is when you can see the turquoise waters that this area of Scotland is known for.
How to get there: There is limited access to the beach with the best access being a few hundred metres after the turn off to Luskentyre beach.
3. Luskentyre Beach / Traigh Rosamol – Isle of Harris
What’s special: Picture perfect views with the Harris Hills in the background
Best for: Walking
Luskentyre beach is by far the best-known Outer Hebrides beach. It regularly features in the Tripadvisor traveller awards for the best beaches in Europe.
And for good reason, it is breath-taking. But as this list will show you there are so many other fantastic beaches which also deserve a visit.
The best walk on Harris is a circular walk along Seilebost and Luskentyre as well as climbing Beinn Dhubh. A detailed description of the route can be found in the Cicerone guide to Walking on Harris and Lewis.
How to get there: A single lane road runs the last few kilometres out to the large car park by the beach. A 5 minute walk from the car park through the sand dunes takes you to the water’s edge.
4. Traigh Mhor – Isle of Barra
What’s special: Nowhere else in the world can you see a plane land on a tidal beach
Best for: Plane spotting
The beach itself is nice enough but given all the other beaches in the area it would be nothing special were it not for the fact it is also the island’s airstrip.
Twice a day the runway is washed away by the tide so flight times have to change with the timing of low tide.
At low tide, when the beach operates as an airport, the beach is closed to the public. However, it is possible to watch planes come and go from the airport car park.
How to get here: The best way to get here is by plane! The only departure destination for the Twin Otter planes is Glasgow.
Flight tickets are expensive but the airport has good infrastructure with a bus stop and ample parking.
5. Udal Beaches – Isle of North Uist
What’s special: Home to one of the best beach hikes in the Outer Hebrides
Best for: Walking
Like many beaches in Scotland several of the beaches in North Uist and on the Udal peninsula have no name.
The only way to access these beaches is on foot. The two and a half hour circular hike around the peninsula takes in several beaches that would all be worthy of having a place on this list.
A detailed description of the walk can be found in the Cicerone guide to Walking on Uist and Barra.
How to get there: At the village of Grenitote take off to Balranald Nature Reserve (please note that there is a larger Balranald Nature Reserve at the other side of the island so make sure you don’t end up there).
There is a small car park at the end of the road. It fills up quickly on a nice day with dog walkers and hikers.
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6. West Beach – Isle of Berneray
What’s special: Miles of white sands and you will probably have it completely to yourself
Best for: Walking
Many of the Outer Hebrides best beaches could feature in a holiday brochure. In fact, this one did. Berneray beach was mistakenly used by the Thai tourist board in an advertisement for Kai Bae Beach!
The 3-mile white sandy beach is truly stunning. In fact it was voted the 3rd nicest beach in Lonely Planet’s 2021 ranking of the Top 20 European beaches.
How to get there: Drive from Borve along the narrow road running out towards Giant MacAskill’s memorial. From here it is a short walk to the beach.
7. Traigh a Bhaigh – Isle of Vatersay
What’s special: Sheltered beach, good for swimming and water sports
Best for: Swimming
Vatersay is the southern-most inhabited island of the Outer Hebrides. It is also one of the smallest islands at only 3 miles-long.
There are two beaches a couple of hundred metres apart close to the Vatersay Hall Cafe, which is worth a stop for its delicious cakes.
Traigh a Bhaigh is on the eastern side and is best for swimming. Traigh Shiar, on the other side, is wilder but also tends to be a lot less crowded.
How to get there: Parking is available next to the cafe or in the village of Vatersay.
8. Stilgarry Beach – Isle of South Uist
What’s special: 20 miles of bays and beaches run all the way along the western side of South Uist
Best for: Walking
At low tide the full length of the western side of South Uist (20 miles!) is just one beach after another. The beaches form part of several bays.
What makes Stilgarry beach special is the backdrop of the mountain with Beinn Mhor in one direction and Benbecula in the other. Many of the bays further south look out to sea.
At low tide the beach is much wider and more spectacular. One insider tip is to walk a few hundred metres south on the road after you park before going down to the beach.
Due to tides and currents large piles of seaweed normally collect at the northern end of the beach which is the end where you park.
How to get there: Maps show a road running along the beach but it is not in good condition. Drive past Lochdar and Kilaulay and park by the cemetery.
The beach is right next to where you park.
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9. North Ford between Benbecula and North Uist
What’s special: At low tide white sand span the entire ford across three islands
Best for: Otters
Of the 5 best beaches in Benbeula nothing matches the North Ford. It stretches for nearly 4 miles between Benebecula, Grimsay and North Uist through a series of causeways.
To see the vast areas of sand you must be here around low tide. At high tide there is no beach left, just water.
About two hours before high tide or at dawn the causeways are some of the best places in the Outer Hebrides to see otters.
They are very difficult to see and unfortunately the closest you are likely to get is one of the otter road signs along the causeway.
How to get there: it is difficult to stop or get down to the beach at the northern end of Benbecula. The easiest access is by Grimsay where you can stop close to Baile Glas.
There are also two viewpoints with parking along the causeway between Grimsay and North Uist. These are good spots to look for otters but it is not recommended to try to get down to the beach from here.
10. Eriskay Beach / Rubha Chalidh – Isle of Eriskay
What’s special: The shades of blue water on a sunny day
Best for: Admiring the views out to sea
Out of the amazing Eriskay beaches Prince Charlie’s Bay gets all the attention. And yes, the beach is pretty but don’t miss this little beach called Rubha Chalidh whilst visiting the island.
On a sunny day the water colours have amazing shades of blue. Next to the beach is a small bench. It is the perfect place to sit with a takeaway coffee from the local community shop and look out to sea.
How to get there: Eriskay is connected to South Uist by a causeway. To Barra it is a short ferry journey.
In Eriskay village drive down to the pub called The Politician and continue past the cemetery. Shortly after park on the side of the road right in front of the beach.
11. Gary Beach / Traigh Ghearadha – Isle of Lewis
What’s special: Spectacular rock formations
Best for: Swimming
Gary beach is the prettiest of the beaches close to Stornoway.
It is in a sheltered bay which together with the location makes it one of Lewis’ most popular beaches for swimming.
It also has some interesting rock formations at the eastern end of the beach, making it very photogenic. At low tide it is possible to walk right up to the sea stacks.
How to get there: At the end of the B895 there is a large car park with easy access to the beach. In the summer, if the weather is good, this car park often gets full so arrive early.
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12. Hushinishi – Isle of Harris
What’s special: The feeling of being at the end of the world
Best for: Seeing highland cattle
The 30 minute drive from Ardhasaig out to the beach is the reason this beach is special. You cannot get any further west on the Isle of Harris and it feels like you are at the end of the world when you get here.
Look out for the friendly highland cows which normally roam around the beach.
How to get there: At the end of the B887 there is a car park and facilities for campervans. These facilities include free toilets and chargeable showers.
To plan a day trip out here read my Hushinish post. It includes all the stops to make on the way to the beach as well as the best walks to do in the area.
13. Bagh a Deas – Isle of Vatersay
What’s special: Quiet and secluded bay
Best for: Walking
Bagh a Deas is on the island of Vatersay which is as far south as you can get by car in the Outer Hebrides. The road ends where you can park in Vatersay.
From here it is a 15-minute walk to the beach. On the walk you are more likely to meet grazing cows than other people.
How to get there: the shortest route to the beach is a 15-minute walk from Vatersay village but the more interesting way to get here is the 3-hour Vatersay Heritage Trail. The walk passes 6 beaches (including Traigh a Bhaigh, described above), an ancient standing stone and the ruins of Eorasdail.
Parking is available in Vatersay village.
14. Clachan sands / Traigh Hornais – Isle of North Uist
What’s special: Shallow and sheltered bay, good for swimming and water sports
Best for: Swimming and kayaking
The water is shallow making Clachan Sands a good place to swim and it is safe for kids to play in the water. It also means you get the above turquoise coloured waters when the tide is right and the sun is shining.
Next to the beach is a campground for tents and mobile homes. There can’t be many better places to wake up in the morning than this!
How to get there: When travelling south on B893 do not follow the signs for “Clachan Sands”, this is a dead end. Drive on until a signpost says, “Clachan Sands Cemetery” and “Beach Access” and take this turn off.
15. Scarista Beach – Isle of Harris
What’s special: Watch the wild weather and crashing waves
Best for: Rolling waves and surfing
Scarista beach on Harris is the only beach with golden sand on this list of best beaches. Outer Hebrides beaches normally have white sand. It also one of the few beaches to have waves come crashing in from the Atlantic most days making it a popular surfing spot.
If golf is your thing the views of the beach are amazing from the golf course at the nearby Isle of Harris Golf Club.
How to get here: Park along the road just after leaving Scarista village. There is only room for a couple of cars along the road but it is rarely full.
A small path leads through the grassy banks down to the beach.
16. Northton Beach / Traigh na h-Uidhe – Isle of Harris
What’s special: Northton has four beaches, fantastic walks, museums and cafes
Best for: The village experience
Northton beach is on the north-western coast of the Isle of Harris. The bay is pretty but it is Northton village and all the different things to do here which makes it such a special place.
Most villages in the Outer Hebrides are small and don’t have that many interesting things for visitors to see – Northton is one of the exceptions.
There are four beaches within a short walk of each other, all worth exploring. Climbing Ceapbhapal provides some of the best views on Harris. There are also two small museums and the best café on Harris – Temple Café.
Northton beach is popular with families and you will often find young kids playing on the beach. The beaches a bit further out, such as Traigh an Teampuill, are quieter.
How to get there: From the parking at the end of Northon village there is easy access to Northton beach. If the parking area is full then park along the road.
17. Reef Beach – Isle of Lewis
What’s special: Camping site right next to a mile long beach
Best for: Camping
Reef beach is more than a mile long and it is especially pretty during the summer months when the wildflowers are on glorious display.
It is great for water sports with the islands offshore protecting the bay against the waves from the Atlantic. The beach often gets busy since there is large caravan park behind the beach but what a place to stay if you are a camper!
How to get there: Reef beach is on the Valtos peninsula along the B8011. Driving around the peninsula in a clockwise direction you also pass Cliff beach and Valtos beach.
Reef beach is the last beach you get to. After Valtos beach, where the road goes steeply downhill, you can park at the side of the road.
The beach can be accessed from here or park at the caravan site at the other end of the beach.
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