West Berneray Beach – Outer Hebrides, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

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West Berneray Beach

Despite what a Thai tourism board might want you to think, this white-sand beach is in fact located on a Scottish island. 


When picturing the landscape of Scotland, most people probably think of the rolling green hills of the Highlands, perhaps a peat bog or a rocky seaside cliff. But as a place with thousands of miles of coastline, Scotland also has plenty of beaches, many of which have drawn comparison to those in tropical destinations thanks to their fine, white sand and clear blue or turquoise waters. Nowhere is this clearer than on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. The two main beaches on the island are the East and West Beach, with a picture of the latter once mistakenly featured on one of Thailand’s tourism board websites.

The website claimed that the picture, published in 2009, was of Kai Bae beach in Ko Chang District. The mixup was first recognized by Ian McNamara, a British resident of Kai Bae, who noticed that the mountains in the background of the photo weren’t visible from the actual beach. After some research, it turned out that the picture used to advertise Kai Bae had been taken by John Kirriemuir in 2005, on Berneray’s West Beach. The mountains in the background were the Harris Hills all along.

While the white sand and color of the water might make the beaches dead ringers for each other, a closer look helped reveal the truth with a distinct lack of palm trees, mangrove trees, or people swimming in the picture. (Thailand’s average water temperature is over 20 degrees Celsius, whereas the Outer Hebrides’ yearly high is in the lower 10s.)

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