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Best Beaches in the UK by Region
The beach has shallow water, excellent for family paddling and swimming. The sand is golden and with the clear water it looks positively Mediterranean when the sun shines. St Ives itself has a Tate Gallery, and with the Barbara Hepworth Museum, you might think that the arty crowd makes it a bit highbrow but it actually has a nice relaxed vibe.
Just a stone’s throw east of Newquay, this untouched beach could not be more of a contrast to its neighbour. Myth has it that the string of enormous slate lumps jutting out of the fine white sand were placed there by the giant Bedruthan to make stepping stones. Not a big leap from there to come up with a name for the beach.
It is a dramatic stretch of coast and makes for a beautiful walk, especially at low tide, but the waves here are pretty lively and there is a dangerous undercurrent, so swimming is prohibited. Access to the beach is via a steep set of steps – be prepared.
We’re cheating a bit here because Salcombe is actually made up of North Sands, South Sands and the wonderfully named Splat Cove. The beaches have fine white sand and are backed by rolling, wooded countryside. North Sands lies just to the south of Salcombe, next to the ruined Fort Charles. The beach has a shop and café, but parking is limited.
South Sands and Splat Cove are just south of this. You can rent water-sports gear at South Sands and there is a shop, café and local pub but, again, the parking is limited.
There is a ferry to take you across the estuary to the beaches on the other side of the estuary.
St Mary’s Bay
This is a lovely sand and shingle beach beneath the cliffs with clear water. Access is a little tricky but well worth the effort. There are great views to be had from the coastal path that runs along the top of the cliffs.
Situated on the Essex Sunshine Coast, Clacton is a brilliant spot for family entertainment with its long sandy beach, safe for swimming, water sports, and the jewel in its crown, Clacton Pier, with its amusements and rides.
If you want a good old-fashioned British seaside resort then Southwold is the place. It has a sandy beach and the Victorian elegance of the town is reflected in the pretty line of multi-coloured huts on the beach, its working lighthouse and the pier with its traditional amusement arcade.
The Greater Yarmouth coastline boasts a 5-mile stretch of clean, soft sand with wide expanses of beach and sand dunes. Wellington Pier, Britannia Pier and Pleasure Beach provide all the amusements and entertainment a family can handle. There is also the more tranquil option of donkey rides and even boat trips from the beach to see the local seal population.
Waxham beach and nearby Sea Palling are becoming more popular but still maintain a wonderful feel of isolation and peace with miles of soft, golden sand. There is usually just a gentle breeze but picnics can be taken in the shelter of the secluded dunes.
The picturesque village of Waxham is also worth a visit with three buildings of particular note - Waxham Hall, St. John’s Church, and the 16th century Tithe Barn.
This award-winning Blue-Flag beach has a wilder aspect, with a stretch backed by dunes, and a fun family aspect, where the bustling promenade runs alongside the lively seaside resort. The clean beach with safe swimming has plenty of entertainment on hand with attractions like Kid’s Adventure World, Dunes Leisure funfair, amusements, crazy golf and a boating lake.
The Sand Train will take you to all the popular stops along the beach and runs to the Seal Sanctuary at the North End of the resort.
A lovely stretch of sandy beach in a traditional English seaside resort, Filey offers beautiful views around the bay with Filey Brigg, a large natural rock promontory, to the North, and Bempton Cliffs and Flamborough Head further down the coast.
In addition to walking and exploring, there is plenty to do with local golf courses, award-winning gardens, birdwatching, fishing, surfing and sailing.
Part of the 36 miles of Heritage coast, the wide, sandy beach is protected by the imposing 365ft headland of Huntcliff and provides some of the best waves for surfing on the East Coast. Surfing lessons are available.
The charming Victorian town has the world’s oldest working water-powered cliff lift, a pier and Italian Gardens.
Not much in the way of sand to be found on this pebbly beach but the curve of Marsden Bay is a magnificent vista, the centrepiece of which is the hulk of Marsden Rock, famous for its seabird colonies – thousands of pairs of Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Gulls and Cormorants nest here.
Wonky rock-stacks stick out of the beach along the sheer cliff face backing the bay. The Marsden Grotto at the foot of the cliff is now a pub-restaurant with a lift inside to the top.
The giant dunes roll away into the distance, and Bamburgh Castle, crowning a hilltop and staring out to sea, is plucked straight from fantasy.
It’s a tradition for kids to build their own versions of Bamburgh Castle in the rich honey-coloured sand, and the beach stretches out for more than a mile when the tide is out.
With so much fun and entertainment everywhere you look in Blackpool it’s sometimes difficult to get as far as the beach, but it is a treat with miles of sandy coast, great for family games and relaxation. A new ribbon of Spanish-style steps run along the coastline making it an easy stroll from the promenade down to the sand to absorb the tranquility of the sea before returning to the hubbub.
When you’re ready to hit the lights again, head for the world famous Blackpool Pleasure Beach with the Big One, Blackpool Winter Gardens and the North, Central and South Piers.
Hell’s Mouth (North Wales)
Not the most inviting of names (given because of the number of ships that came to grief here), but Hell’s Mouth is raw Welsh beauty. Its Welsh name is Porth Neigwl and it is a sandy bay stretching 4 miles between two rocky headlands.
Porpoises can be spotted from the beach, where the huge Atlantic rollers attract hordes of surfers in Autumn (generally when the waves are biggest). Summer is a great time for birdwatching and peregrine falcons and choughs are amongst the prized spots. There are also plenty of well-stocked rock pools at low tide to explore.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
This beautiful little bay is wedged in by limestone’s cliffs and falls back onto dunes and pine trees. The gentle sweep of the bay is blessed with golden sand and when the sun comes out the crystal clear water turns a rich turquoise, and you would be forgiven for thinking you’ve arrived on some tropical shore. The nearest car park is a half-mile walk, so it doesn’t get crowded.
A long sweep of golden sand brings holidaymakers flocking. After a catastrophic fire in 2008 the Grand Pier reopened in 2010 and offers heaps of family entertainment, and there are donkey rides on the beach and a land train for weary feet.
The beach has the second highest tidal range in the world – up to an incredible 15 metres – meaning that you can wander a long way out across the sand. Take care, however, as the sand eventually gives way to sticky mud long before you get across to Wales.
A seven-mile sweep of award-winning beach beneath an attractive cliff line, the bay benefits from a warm microclimate and some of the UK’s highest sea temperatures.
A land train runs along the promenade, shuttling between Alum Chine, Bournemouth Pier (the location of the oceanarium) and Boscombe Pier. Although the man-made surf reef at Boscombe is not yet an unqualified success, it has brought investment and there are smart cafes, restaurants and shops along the front.
A shingle beach, low tide reveals sand and rock pools at the western end inhabited by sea anemones, small fish and assorted crustaceans. Snorkelers can spot pretty fish around the reef, also located at the western end. The bay nestles beneath chalk cliffs surrounded by open farmland, with great views across to Weymouth and Portland.
Lying at the eastern shore of the Solent, the beach has great views across to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This stretch of the beach is only easily accessible from Solent Breezes Holiday Park so it enjoys a secluded feel. The shingle beach is backed by a low, undulating cliff line.
The beach is part of Sandown Bay, famed for its sandy beaches and safe swimming. The Esplanade and beach have all the amenities you would expect and the beach is kept immaculately clean in summer – even the clumps of seaweed are cleared and used as compost by local farmers. Shanklin town-centre is only a short walk from the seafront via a lift, and the old village has a lovely traditional feel with tea rooms and pubs.
The sandy blue-flag beach stretches for seven miles with pretty dunes rolling behind it, a variety of wildlife inhabiting the marram grass that anchors the dunes with its long roots. The village of Camber lies just behind the beach.
The pebbly beach is divided by wooden groynes and the assorted wooden-clad buildings along the seafront add to the tranquil, timeless feel. Whitstable is famous for its oysters and there are restaurants to sample this delicacy and other seafood. A great place for quiet strolls and fine food.
A long stretch of sandy beach with lots of rocky outcrops at the western end of Longniddry Bents, it forms part of the John Muir Way coastal walk. It is teeming with rock pools to explore at low tide and the beach is popular with windsurfers, canoeists and horse-riders.