With the news that Port Eynon in South Wales has been voted Britain’s best beach, we’ve taken a trip around Britain’s spectacular coastline. From Scotland to Cornwall and from sand to shingle, we bring you our prime picks from Britain’s sensational seaside.
Bournemouth, Dorset, England
Bournemouth benefits from seven miles of pure gold. One of the best city beaches in the UK, its soft sand and acres of space are perfect for families. It’s won awards for cleanliness and on a clear day you can see out to the Needles on the Isle of Wight. True, it’s not a deserted paradise, but you can’t ask for much more so close to a major town. And with the building of Europe’s first artificial surf reef, the beach has become one of the UK’s premier surfing spots.
West Wittering, West Sussex, England
West Wittering near Chichester manages to please all comers with expansive sands, superior water quality and a thriving dune ecosystem. The beach shelves gently towards the sea making it ideal for safe swimming and when the tide is out you can bask in shallow tidal pools warmed by the sun. If you feel restless you can walk around East Head, a sandy spit populated by absorbing coastal flora and fauna.
Abereiddi Blue Lagoon, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Not strictly a beach, the Blue Lagoon is actually an old quarry with a tidal channel to the sea. The quarry forms a satisfying circle, protecting and enclosing a disc of shimmering azure water. It’s a romantic spot reached by walking past ruined slate workers’ cottages and quarry buildings. Surrounded by cliffs, it’s popular with cliff jumpers and coasteerers.
Holy Island, Northumberland, England
One of the most haunting and beautiful places in Britain, Holy Island was an early centre of Christianity in the UK. Cut off from the mainland twice a day by the tide, it has a castle, an evocative ruined priory and mile upon mile of deserted sand. If you’re in a reflective mood, this is the one for you. Watch out for grey seals and rare birds.
Holkham, Norfolk, England
Draped in dunes, Holkham is a deliciously secluded beach backed by scented pine forest. Sunbathe, horse ride or explore three miles of seemingly measureless, creamy sands. And if you come to Holkham, you’ll be in illustrious company. The Queen likes to walk her Corgis here and Gwyneth Paltrow strode across the sands for the final scene of Shakespeare in Love.
Croyde Bay, North Devon, England
Hammering surf and excellent surf schools and shops have sealed Croyde Bay’s reputation as North Devon’s best beach for catching waves. The village has retained an old world charm despite the influx of young surfers keen to party and the beach is big enough for sunbathers and swimmers, too.
Blackpool, Lancashire, England
Ice creams, saucy postcards, fish and chips, rock, donkey rides and deckchairs – Blackpool beach is the essence of the traditional British seaside. Apart from miles of sand you’ll find slot machines, shows and some of the biggest and scariest rollercoasters in the UK.
Porthcurno, Cornwall, England
This glorious, pristine beach hugged by craggy cliffs has fine white sand made from sea shells. There are cliff-top paths, rock pools to discover and a stream trickling down the beach – ideal for paddling children. Nearby, the extraordinary Minack Theatre hosts open-air plays with views of the ocean.
West Sands, St Andrews, Scotland
Stretching for almost two miles, and famous from the opening scene of ‘Chariots of Fire’, St Andrews’ West Sands beach is placed between the refreshing sea swirl and the town’s world famous Old Course. The dunes which the beach backs onto provide a perfect sheltered spot for a picnic.
Sinclair’s Bay, Caithness, Scotland
This all but deserted beach just south of John O’Groats has soft white sand that’s lapped by waters tinged an otherworldly blue. It’s hard to find a more atmospheric beach. This one’s guarded by two 16th-century castles and welcomes porpoises and whales. With four miles of uninterrupted sand you won’t have any problems bagging a good spot.