THE beaches of Scotland are among the best in the world, a national treasure often overlooked. It is true that the cool temperatures and high winds mean a St Tropez suntan is not a realistic aim but the raw natural beauty on offer makes them a must on the itinerary of anyone who wants to explore Scotland's wild places.
Lunan Bay in Angus contains one of the country's best beaches. It would be over-run with ice-cream parlours, kiss-me-quick hats and fairground rides if it was any closer to a major conurbation. But it remains remote and relatively unspoilt.
The vast expanse of sand, split in the middle where Lunan Water empties into the sea, is perfect at this time of year when weekdays see only the occasional dog walker, leaving swathes of empty sand to wander along.
In the summer it is busier but makes a great place for families, as there is still plenty of space for the biggest game of beach cricket ever, or the world's largest sandcastle.
At the northernmost end is a line of cliffs that appear insignificant from a distance but up close reveal a labyrinth of caves and sea arches which you can explore when the tide is out. In front of them and to the right is a line of small sea stacks, lying like a dormant dinosaur's jawbone. (Take care if the tide is incoming and watch out for the pools as they are sandy-bottomed and quite deep.)
Once you have seen this and turn to the rest of the bay, there is no safe way of crossing Lunan Water so it is necessary to go back through the pretty village of Lunan – you can avoid retracing your steps at this point by taking one of many paths back behind the dunes.
Once on the other side of Lunan, you climb up to Red Castle, built in the 12th century to repel Vikings. Little remains today except a few crumbling walls but it makes for a dramatic viewpoint of the entire bay, backed by the rolling fields of Angus.
A steep path takes you back down to the beach. This is a good point to collect skimming stones and also to look out for semi-precious gemstones, especially after storms.
A quaint collection of holiday homes is reached at the southern end of the bay and behind these a path leads along the cliff top to a track and then Ethie Haven, a picturesque collection of 19th-century former fishermen's cottages. You don't have to go as far as the cottages but it is worth going to the cliff top for a stunning view of the bay.
It is necessary then to retrace your steps to the car park but the beautiful beach and bay make it a pleasant hour or so.
Distance Six miles.
Height climbed Negligible except a short, steep climb up to Red Castle.
Time 3.5 to 4.5 hours.
Map OS Landranger 54.
North of Inverkeilor on the A92 between Arbroath and Montrose. Turn off at a sign for Lunan. Once in the village turn left then right, following a sign for the beach down a private farm road. At the end is a car park next to sand dunes.
Follow a boardwalk over the dunes to the northern end of Lunan Bay and go left. From the far end of the bay, follow one of a number of paths back, behind the dunes, to the car park.
Follow the private road you drove in on to its end and turn left. Pass Lunan Church, cross a bridge over Lunan Water and as the road starts to go uphill into trees take a path on the left, between two fences and through a small gate to Red Castle.
Follow a path on the shore side of the castle, down steeply to the beach where you go right.
At the southern end of the bay follow a small burn by some holiday homes and bear left to take a path up to the cliff top, where a track leads to Ethie Haven.
Retrace your steps to the car park.
Refreshments There's nothing in Lunan but Inverkeilor has the Chance Inn and Gordon's restaurant.
While you are in the area
Arbroath Abbey – where you can wander the ruins and learn about the famous declaration – is just down the road (01241 878756). It is run and maintained by Historic Scotland (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).