There’s no shortage of incredible beaches around The Coig, and we’ve picked some of the best along The Shire and The Shiel routes for you to explore.

Lee McKenzie
Lee McKenzie, Coig Ambassador enjoying West Kilbride beach

They’re all waiting for you – from gently curving bays with miles of golden sands to rocky outcrops and barnacle-boulders, tranquil coves to bustling seaside resorts. There are huge vistas over the Firth of Clyde and unforgettable evenings as the sun slowly sinks behind the islands. Where will you explore first?

From Largs, looking over the islands of Little and Great Cumbrae to the Isle of Arran
© Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Croy Beach – Maybole

This beautiful shoreline stretch is one of the finest to be found in The Còig’s Shire and Shiel – Croy Beach is close to Maybole and offers a mile of wide white sands with rocky outcrops, all just waiting to be explored. A stunning picnic spot, Croy shore is also popular for surfing and land yachting.

The beach at Croy Shore, Culzean Bay, with Culzean Castle and Ailsa Craig in the distance, South Ayrshire. © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

There are great views to the south, to Culzean Castle and Country Park, and plenty of walks from the beach up into the estate. You can also follow the Ayrshire Coastal Path south to Maidens or north to Dunure. Fans of the hit TV series will recognise picturesque Dunure village and its surrounds from Jacobean drama Outlander.

Croy Shore, Culzean Bay, with Ailsa Craig in the distance, South Ayrshire. © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Saltcoats Beach – near Irvine

Saltcoats Beach is a wide sandy beach, popular with families. It’s easy to reach, lying in a sheltered south-west facing bay between Saltcoats and Ardrossan, and close to both town centres. Saltcoats Beach Promenade runs behind the beach, right along to the historic fishing harbour. The beach itself slopes gently into the bay, creating long shallows – perfect for a paddle or even a wee dip, if you’re feeling brave. 

Saltcoats Beach © OliverC999/Flickr

While you dry off, take a walk through the dunes and gaze out across the firth to ‘Scotland in miniature’, the Isle of Arran, and Goatfell’s rugged peaks. A wander northwards along the beach will bring you to the picturesque ruins of Ardrossan Castle. This 12th century is one of the oldest in Scotland and has its own share of legends. Destroyed in 1648 by Oliver Cromwell’s army, it is said to be haunted on stormy nights by the ghost of William Wallace, and to bear the Devil’s hoof prints on a rock.

Maidens Beach – Maidens, near Maybole

Sandy, mile-long Maidens Beach lies close to the famous Trump Turnberry Golf Course, in the picturesque village of Maidens. It’s a wonderful place to unwind, with breathtaking views of Ailsa Craig and Arran – and on a clear day, right over the firth to the Mull of Kintyre.

Turnberry Point Lighthouse, Turnberry Hotel and Golf Resort, with Holy Island and the Isle of Arran in the distance, South Ayrshire. © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint

To add to the dramatic vistas, you might see horse riders galloping across the sands, watersports enthusiasts taking to the surf or even dolphins, frolicking in the waves. Take your pick of picnic spots on the sand or grassy foreshore and keep an eye out for oystercatchers, terns, golden plovers and redshank. 

The beach is named for the ‘Maidens of Turnberry’, a series of rocks in Maidenhead Bay that form a natural harbour, now incorporated into the harbour wall. Stroll along the pier to peek at the pleasure boats moored in the berths once home to traditional fishing boats, or follow the beach further south to the Turnberry lighthouse.

Turnberry Lighthouse © Peter Ribbeck

A wander northward along the sands will bring you to a wooded headland and Culzean Castle and Country Park.

Culzean Castle Cliff View
Looking over the Firth of Clyde towards Culzean castle © VisitScotland

Largs Beach, Largs 

Fancy a more tropical vibe? Head to Largs Beach, where – thanks to the Gulf Stream – palm trees line the seafront. The town has a friendly seaside resort feel, with several small beaches. You’ll find the main beach at the northern end of town, in a sweeping curve around Largs Bay.

Largs © Peter Ribbeck

It’s hard not to find a great view from the shores of The Shiel, and Largs is no exception – here you look out to Great Cumbrae Island and beyond, across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Bute.

The sand and shingle beach fronts the bustling Victorian North Promenade, and the resort-feel continues with the nearby boating pond and, in the summertime, fairground rides and fast boat trips out into the bay.

Largs Promenade © Peter Ribbeck

At a slightly more sedate pace, and operating all year round, the Calmac ferry from Largs to Great Cumbrae runs from the terminal by the beach.

Child on Crocodile Rock Millport
Crocodile Rock on the beach in the town of Millport on the island of Great Cumbrae © VisitScotland

Irvine Beach – Irvine

Irvine Beach offers another of the finest sandy beaches in The Shire and The Shiel. Lying at the mouth of the River Irvine, and stretching south from the pier, the immaculate golden sands go on for miles. Perfect for a leisurely beach stroll, the stunning views over Irvine Bay and across to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran mean you won’t want to leave.

Irvine Beach © Peter Ribbeck

Up in the dunes you’ll find Irvine Beach Park – and if you like your beaches packed with activities, the Beach Park will definitely float your boat. There are walking and cycling paths, picnic spots with breathtaking vistas, play areas and a boating lake, complete with remote control boats.

Exploring over the dunes, you’ll find the Stone Dragon perched high on a hill. The sculpture is known as the Great Protector of Irvine and sits in endless watch over the coast.

Stone Dragon Irvine Beach Park
Stone Dragon, Irvine Beach Park © Raibeart MacAoidh

Troon Beach – Troon

No list of The Shire and The Shiel’s best beaches would be complete without Troon Beach. A long, sweeping curve of silver sand with a bustling esplanade, the beach is popular with locals and visitors alike. 

South Beach, Troon, Ayrshire © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Here you can embrace the breeze with a spot of windsurfing or sand yachting, take a brisk beach walk along the miles of sand, or simply soak up the Scottish sunshine and drink in the spectacular views over the Firth of Clyde to Arran. You’ll find tasty beach-fare on offer on the esplanade – enjoy an ice cream as you splash-paddle your way along the shore or dine alfresco with a fish-and-chips supper as the sun sets over the sea.

Cyclists By South Beach Troon
Cyclists on the Esplanade by South Beach, Troon © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Looking for more adventures around The Coig?

The Coig’s five routes offer unforgettable experiences around the Clyde Coast and Islands – take a look and plan your next adventure along The Shire, The Shiel, The Arran, The Bute or The Cumbrae!

Be sure to download The Coig app to discover the best of Ayrshire and the Firth of Clyde on-the-go, and join the adventure with #TheCoig on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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