Famous for its starring role in the title sequence of Chariots of Fire, The West Sands beach of St Andrews is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

As the largest of the ‘Sands of St Andrews’, the beach extends for almost two miles of uninterrupted sand, backed with dunes and the world-renowned golf courses.

Now the beach, which overlooks Eden Estuary nature reserve, has been recognised as one of the best in the world at the Golden Beach Awards 2024, organized by BeachAtlas, a UK-based travel startup that specializes in beach-related information.

The Golden Beach Awards look at diverse criteria to select the best beaches across the globe, such as their cultural significance, value to the local community, inclusivity and lifestyle offerings. BeachAtlas then invites selected travel experts and influencers from around the world to cast their votes and help curate the list.

St Andrews West Sands has been ranked the world's 47th  best beach at the Golden Beach Awards 2024, one position ahead of the iconic Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro's crown jewel popularized by the classic bossa nova song "The Girl from Ipanema". 

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The Golden Beach Award 2024 went to Bora Bora in French Polynesia, a famous postcard-perfect vacation destination considered the "ultimate paradise" by BeachAtlas.

Other beaches which feature in the top 10 of the world's best beaches include Boulders Beach in South Africa, Maya Bay in Thailand, Reynisfjara in Iceland and Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

The ranking for St Andrews West Sands comes as more than 50 beaches have been recognised by environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful with a Scotland’s Beach Award.

The award, now in its 32nd year, celebrates the achievements of well-managed beaches across the country, ensuring visitors and local residents can choose where they want to visit with the knowledge that the beach is being looked after for both the people who enjoy it and the environment.

A total of 51 beaches have received an award this year.

The Herald: St Andrews West Sands ranked above Rio's famous Ipanema BeachSt Andrews West Sands ranked above Rio's famous Ipanema Beach (Image: Cesvieira/CC)

Fife once again has the most award winners, with 13 beaches receiving an award. Furthermore Dornoch Beach, located in the Highlands, celebrates its 30th consecutive year of award wins.

Jamie Ormiston, Training and Accreditation Coordinator at Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “We’re delighted to announce the winners of Scotland’s Beach Awards 2024.

“This award is the benchmark for quality, celebrating clean, well-managed and sustainable beaches. Our award-winning beaches demonstrate excellent beach management and I’d like to thank all those who do so much to protect, maintain and enhance our beaches, protecting the sand and sea for us all to enjoy.

“Scotland’s beaches are for everyone to enjoy and we hope that people do  so responsibly and keep them beautiful for us all.

“Every year we are delighted at the standard of Scotland’s Beach Award winners across the country, especially as beach managers and local communities are battling increased erosion and more regular devastating winter storms, often with limited resources. Not only are they able to keep our beaches open and accessible, they are also maintaining facilities to a high standard and supporting local people and visitors to take action for the environment. It really is inspiring to witness.”

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Jeremy Harris, CEO at Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, said: “Once again Fife has the most award-winning beaches in Scotland. This is testament to our dedicated team who deliver the high standards that locals and visitors have come to expect.

“It’s a privilege to work with partners such as Keep Scotland Beautiful, Fife Council and the RNLI to ensure the Fringe of Gold tops the beach charts. And I’m delighted that Leven Beach is once again included, where we expect to welcome many more visitors now that the Levenmouth Rail Link has gone live.”

To receive a Scotland’s Beach Award, a range of criteria must be met, including beach safety, access and facilities, and cleanliness. Focusing on local environmental quality, the award is designed to complement the work undertaken by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency on bathing water quality. The full criteria can be accessed here.

A map showing all the award-winning beaches with directions, facilities and images can be found at Scotland's Beach Awards (keepscotlandbeautiful.org)