The Out About Scotland complete guide to the best beaches on Tiree
What’s this attraction all about?
The Inner Hebridean island of Tiree is famous for a number of reasons thanks to its low-lying treeless landscape, its abundance of wildlife, and its beautiful expanses of golden beaches, and it’s equally well-known for its weather which sees this tiny island bathed in an average 1,450 to 1,500 hours of sunshine annually.
That’s one of the highest amounts in Scotland and probably the last thing you’d expect to hear about one of the west coast islands, but if you visit it for yourself you’ll soon discover there’s more to this quaint island than glorious weather.
Tiree is very much a summer isle for tourists as the weather in winter can be pretty atrocious with frequent short and dreary grey days, but when the sun really starts to blaze from May to August it has to be one of the best places in Scotland to take a beach holiday.
The beaches on Tiree are some of the best in Scotland – if not the entire UK – with crystal-clear seas surrounding the island’s 36 miles of coastline with its shallow bays of pristine golden sand. It’s completely idyllic and thanks to the Gulf Stream which warms the waters around the island it has to be the best place in Scotland to go for a swim, and while you’re out there you might even see a few of the white-beaked dolphins and minke whales that appear to enjoy these waters just as much as the invading humans.
It’s a quiet island too thanks to its population of just 650 residents, but this number increases significantly in summer when tourists arrive in their droves to enjoy the landscape. But even so, as the amount of accommodation is in short supply it never feels too busy or over commercialised and it’s always possible to find an unused remote beach somewhere.
I feel that Tiree has got a different atmosphere about it compared to many of the other Western Isles which is probably due to the fact that it’s nowhere near as commercialised as Skye or Mull and it’s much, much flatter, but what you lose in dramatic mountain peaks you more than make up for in beautiful sheltered beaches, and I reckon it’s the perfect place for a quiet summer holiday.
You can find out more about the Isle of Tiree in my useful Guide to Tiree.Read more...
What can you do there?
You’re not exactly going to be blown away by the number of restaurants and shops on this little island but to be honest I think that’s part of its charm, so if you’re going to visit Tiree you really have to be prepared to take a step back in time and forgo some of the usual touristy mod-cons that you might be used to. While there are plenty of beautiful beaches to explore during the day you’re not going to find rows of bars in the evening, and there’s no cinema or fine-dining restaurants to enjoy either.
What you’ve got instead are activities that can be best summed up by the phrase ‘the best things in life are free’. Long, balmy evenings where you can sit outside in daylight till 10 pm, nights skies filled with a blanket of stars (there’s hardly any light pollution on Tiree), and strong yet soft sea air that keeps midges away all day long. These are the perfect conditions for getting out on a beach with friends and family and just enjoying each others company.
But don’t worry if you’re looking for something a bit more exciting than lazing on a beach because Tiree’s got you covered when it comes to watersports. Due to the prevailing south-westerly winds brought in from the Atlantic, Tiree is officially one of the windiest places in Scotland and at certain times of the year the island’s beaches are hammered by impressively large waves.
It’s thanks to these conditions that the world’s longest-running windsurfing event takes place each year in October when the Tiree Wave Classic attracts the sports premier talent from across the globe to compete in a week-long competition that celebrates surf culture. It’s a fantastic event and one that I totally recommend you attend if you get the chance.
Tiree has quite a few beaches (15 in total) for such a small island and some of them are fairly remote and hard to find, which is actually a good thing because it limits the number of fellow tourists you’ll have to share them with.
There are tiny little coves like the one you’ll find at Scaranish and vast stretches of sand at places like Gott Bay, but every beach is clean and offers a great experience, and I’ve listed a few of my personal favourites below.
The best beaches on Tiree
Balephuil Bay is located on the south-west coast of Tiree and has gained a reputation for having one of the best beaches on the island. It’s a surprisingly large beach at around a mile in length and because it’s so shallow it gets some impressive waves when the winds blow in from the Atlantic. In fact, the waves are so good that it’s been chosen as the main site to host the world championship windsurfing event, the Tiree Wave Classic.
The beach at Balevullin is probably the most popular on the island with surfers thanks to the warm waters brought in by the Gulf Stream, but it’s also a favourite site for nature-lovers to spot the wealth of wildlife that lives around this part of the island’s north-west coastline. If you visit Balevullin take your binoculars and keep a lookout for seals, otters and basking sharks while walking along this picturesque white-shell beach.
You’ll find Caolas beach on the north-east corner of the island bordering the Gunna Sound – the narrow stretch of sea situated between Tiree and the nearby island of Gunna. This is often one of the least-visited beaches on Tiree which makes it a great place to sit with a good book, and the small rock outcrops at either end are perfect for keeping the kids occupied in the rock pools left behind by the retreating tide.
Crossapol beach is situated on the middle-south end of the island where it offers nearly a mile of pristine white sand. It’s one of the largest beaches on Tiree and is easy to find so it’s often the busiest, although ‘busy’ on Tiree needs to be thought of in the context that compared to most British beaches it’s actually very quiet.
If you fancy taking a dip in the sea then Crossapol is one of the best places to go on the island as the water here is shallow and the bay is wide, making it a perfect place to let the kids run around and have a splash.
You’ll find Gott Bay on the north-east of Tiree between the small villages of Scarinish and Brock. This wide expanse of beach is the largest on the island and is popular with windsurfers and kayakers due to the fact that it’s so sheltered and safe, and sand yachts can often be found zooming up and down the beach as they take advantage of the strong winds that blow in from the east.
Gott Bay is also the first beach you’ll see when you come onto the island as the Caledonia MacBrayne ferry terminal is located on its southern end near Scarinish.
Sandaig is a small beach on the west coast of Tiree that’s a little bit rockier than the other beaches but is no less pretty for it. You’ll find sweeping plains of machir (a mix of wildflowers and grasses) behind the beach and Ceann a’ Mhar – one of the few raised headlands on Tiree – a short distance away to the south-west. This is another location on the island that’s very quiet due to the fact it’s not very well signposted, so if you’re looking to relax it’s a great place to go.
Scarinish is the main village on Tiree and while the beach is small the harbour leading into it is very picturesque. The harbour is exceptionally quiet save for a couple of fishing boats and it’s ideal for exploring in a kayak. There’s a pub facing the harbour so you can stop off for a pint if the mood takes you and the co-op slightly inland is well-stocked if you fancy having a BBQ on the beach.
Scarinish beach and harbour is one of the more rugged areas of coastline on Tiree but it’s a perfect place to visit if you’ve got accommodation in the village and fancy an evening drink.
The beach at Vaul offers a wide sweep of white sand that’s low-lying so it’s usually covered with washed-up seaweed, but it’s extraordinarily peaceful. The small bay at Vaul is quite secluded thanks to the promontories of land at either end and it’s an easy walk to get to another great beach at Salum, located in the next bay along heading north.
While you’re there I recommend you take a walk to the ‘ringing stone’ located between Vaul and Balephetrish which emits a metallic ring when struck and was supposedly thrown there by a giant from the Isle of Mull!
What I liked about this attraction
- The beaches on Tiree are beautifully pristine
- They’re usually very quiet too
- The sea around Tiree is exceptionally clean and is perfect for swimming in
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- Tiree’s strong winds change direction often so you might have to move to a beach on the opposite side of the island
- There aren’t any visitor conveniences on Tiree’s beaches so don’t expect to see a choc-ice stall while you’re there
- Some of the beaches are quite remote and difficult to get to
Isle of Tiree,
- Telephone: NA
- email: NA
- Website: Isle of Tiree
Prices and opening times
All beaches on Tiree are open 24/7, 365 days a year.
There is no fee to visit any of the beaches on Tiree.