With 130 miles of coastline, it's no surprise that Islay has some wonderful beaches on offer. While most beaches are sandy, some are also shingle. The safest beaches for swimming are at Laggan Bay, Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal. Most beaches on the spectacular Atlantic west coast aren't suitable for swimming but provide stunning scenery. On the map below, the beaches are numbered in red with brief summaries. Some of these beaches are also featured on the Islay walks page. For images of Islay’s beaches, also see the Islay Beaches Guide.
1. Claddach by Portnahaven
Mainly shingle, but includes one sandy area called “Currie Sands”.
2. Lossit Bay on the west coast
A beautiful sandy bay, but not suitable for swimming.
3. Kilchiaran Bay on the west coast
Very scenic, mostly shingle, accessible by car and suitable for swimming.
4. Machir Bay on the west coast
Offers two kilometres of dunes and beach, entered in the middle by a stream from the car park, but not suitable for swimming due to strong currents.
5. Saligo Bay on the west coast
Famous for its beautiful light, has several sandy bays and dunes with spectacular waves breaking on the beach. Approach on foot, not suitable for swimming and there is limited parking for cars.
6. Traigh Bhan on the west coast
This beach is only accessible by sandy dunes. Access by car and a short walk.
7. Sanaigmore Bay on the west coast
A beach surrounded by sandy dunes. Access by car and a short walk. Carpark at the Exmoor Monument.
Sandy beaches interspaced with rocky areas, backed by sand dunes. Seals and otters are sometimes to be seen along the coast. Access by foot.
9. Tayvulin, Loch Gruinart
A former fishing village and an attractive sandy beach with some of the warmest waters on Islay for bathing. Access by foot and suitable for swimming.
10. Killinallan in Loch Gruinart
Sandy beaches backed by extensive sand dunes. Seals are regularly seen here when the tide recedes. Access by foot.
11. Loch Gruinart
A sandy tidal area where cockles and mussels can be found in season. Access by car.
12. Ardtalla on the east coast
Sandy beach with beautiful views to Kintyre. Access by car.
13. Claggan Bay on the east coast
Shingle and sandy beach with lovely pebbles and wonderful views towards Kintyre. Islay's hidden gem. Access by car.
14. Aros on the east coast
Sandy beach. Access by foot.
15. Ardlistry and Loch a Chnuic (Knock Bay) on the east coast
A sheltered sandy beach surrounded by trees and adjacent to the Dower House. Access by car and suitable for swimming.
16. Kilnaughton adjacent to Port Ellen
A sheltered sandy beach adjacent to the ruined chapel, on the road to Carraigh Fhada. Access by car. A good bay for yachting, water skiing and other water sports.
17. Traigh Bhan on the Oa
The Singing Sands just behind Caraigh Fhada Lighthouse.
18. Lower Killayan on the Oa
A rocky beach with small sandy areas backed by cliffs and higher ground. A very quiet beach that's great for spotting wildlife. On a clear day, Northern Ireland is visible. Access by car and foot.
19. The Big Strand bordering on Loch Indaal
12 kilometres of sandy beach, stretching from Laggan Point through Machrie to Kintra, the longest stretch of sand on Islay. Access by car and foot at Laggan, the Airport, Machrie and Kintra. Loch Indaal has many water sports on offer, including yachting, canoeing and surfing. Kintra Beach leads to other beaches. Particularly attractive is Port Alsaig at the base of Cnoc mor Ghrasdail. Bathing is possible, but swimmers are discouraged from going too far out.
20. Black Rock on Loch Indaal
Sheltered picnic spots with fairly shallow water, suitable for bathing and swimming. Access by car.
21. Port Ban (at monument between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte) on Loch Indaal
Several small beaches, usually sheltered and very safe for swimming.
22. Loch Indaal
Small beaches suitable for swimming. Located within the village of Port Charlotte and adjacent to the Croft Kitchen Restaurant, opposite the Museum of Islay Life. Access by car.
23. The Strand at Uskentuie
A fine stretch of sandy beach, easily accessible. Good picnic area and a great place for bird watching.