Seaside Staycations: 14 of the Best Beaches in the UK

Seaside Staycations: 14 of the Best Beaches in the UK

Nothing beats fish and chips by the sea. So pack your bucket, spade and cagoule and head out to explore these best-of-British beaches.

Britain is not usually associated with cliché descriptions
of azure waters and powder-white sands, the UK is home to some
pretty impressive beaches. Their quaint charm and laid-back
atmosphere draw returning visitors for bracing winter walks and
snatched moments of sunbathing come summer, while nothing beats
fish and chips by the sea. So grab a bucket, spade and cagoule and
head out to explore these best-of-British beaches.

Making waves: our favourite coastal retreats, hidden coves and
wild shores

Portstewart Strand


Giant’s Causeway steals the spotlight that filters through the
sea mist of Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Venture beyond the
basalt columns, however, and you’ll discover scores of Blue Flag
beaches, including Portstewart Strand. Flanked by cliffs and the
River Bann, this stretch of golden sand in Londonderry is caressed
by the Atlantic. In nice weather, you’ll find a healthy amount of
picnickers, surfers and sand-castle builders here. For respite,
head into tufted dunes populated by butterflies and wildflowers
(you can join the Causeway Coast Way trail) or visit neighbouring
Portrush where the limestone cliffs of Whiterocks Beach have been
carved by the waves. The Cathedral Cave is spectacular.

STAY: Whiterocks Beach House

St Bees


A shingle bank gives way to blonde sands at this mile-long beach
overlooked by the eponymous St Bees Head. This dramatic red
sandstone bluff battles continual erosion, so you’ll find some
fascinating old shells and pebbles here. The area also supports the
North West’s only cliff-nesting seabird colony, making it prime
territory for twitchers – though on a clear day, you’ll also spot
the Isle of Man on the horizon. Time to stretch your legs? St Bees
marks the start of Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast route, which
unravels from here, across the neck of the UK, to Robin Hood’s Bay
in North Yorkshire.

STAY: This converted chapel

Formby Beach


Formby’s monumental dunes are its main draw; they’re a
designated Site of Scientific Interest and can rise and fall as
much as four metres in a single year – often revealing prehistoric footprints. Climb to the top of one
for panoramas that stretch across the mountains of Cumbria – in
good weather, you might even spot Blackpool Tower piercing the
horizon. Sightseeing done, follow the footpaths that lead through
the adjoining pinewoods to a red-squirrel nature reserve or hop in the car
for a 30-minute drive to Crosby Beach where you’ll spot Sir Antony
Gormley’s Another Place sculpture.

STAY: Hope Street Hotel

Kynance Cove


Trimmed by deserted coves, ultramarine waters and a roaring surf
scene, Cornwall lays a strong claim to having the UK’s best
beaches. Porthcurno Beach and Sennen Cove are great options if
you’re near Land’s End, but we recommend hot-footing it to the
Lizard Peninsula’s Kynance Cove. This fairy-tale spot is among the
county’s most painted and photographed places (Alfred Lord Tennyson
was a regular visitor) thanks to moss-clad serpentine rocks that
pierce the green-blue water with jagged shapes. The beach gets cut
off at high tide; plan well and there’ll be a network of caves
begging to be explored.

STAY: Scovarn House

Holkham Beach


You may recognise this vast swathe of a beach from the closing
scenes of the 1999 flick Shakespeare in Love, in which Viola de
Lesseps (aka Gwyneth Paltrow) brooded across the sands at low tide.
Part of the Holkham National Nature Reserve – one of the UK’s
largest of its kind – it’s a haven of rare flora and fauna crowned
by a seemingly endless expanse of blue sky. It can get pretty windy
here; duck behind one of the dunes for a picnic or trace a path
east through pinewoods to the more sheltered

STAY: Morston Hall


Outer Hebrides

Comprised of more than 40 islands and innumerable islets, the
Hebrides archipelago is a go-to for lovers of windswept, secluded
shores. Amid the rugged headland that hugs the west coast of the
Isle of Harris (home of Harris Tweed), Luskentyre is a long and
brilliant stretch, blotched with shallow turquoise water. Keep your
eye out for wildlife: otters, sea eagles, basking sharks, seals and
wild ponies are regular visitors here. Keen photographer? Tack on
an excursion to the Isle of Skye’s Talisker Beach and its colourful
harbour at Portree.

STAY: The Wee Wooden Yurt at Caolas Gallery

Filey Brigg


Some great beaches have washed up on Yorkshire’s windswept
coast. In the North York Moors National Park, Whitby is overlooked
the abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula
; the historic
fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay marks the end of Wainwright’s
Coast-to-Coast hike; Scarborough is a go-to for neon lights and
candy-striped rock. If you’re the type that likes a more
under-the-radar stretch of shore, head to Filey Brigg, a beach at
its most raw and elemental. Jutting out into the North Sea, this
skinny peninsula is almost as tall as it is wide, with cliffs that
climb 20 metres into the air – folklore has it that these are the
bones of a dragon. Weave through rock pools as you follow the
sculpture trail and spot the many seabirds that call this place

STAY: The Talbot

Bamburgh Beach


For long windswept walks, head to Bamburgh Beach in
Northumberland, where history meets nature on a gorgeous sandy
coastline. Overlooking the white dunes sits the ancient Bamburgh
Castle, which has dominated the skyline since the 11th century,
while just opposite are the islands of Inner Farne, once home to
hermits and monks. There are plenty of interesting coves and rock
formations towards the north of the beach, which is also scattered
with seashells – find some washed-up fishing twine and string
yourself a souvenir necklace.

STAY: The Joiners Arms

Rhossili Bay


British beaches certainly don’t just mean striped awnings,
melting 99s and lobster-red tourists. This three-mile long expanse
of wide beach with fantastic views from atop Rhossili Down and an
exposed shipwreck which is visible at low tide is a truly
exceptional stretch of the British coastline – so much so that we
listed it as one of our favourite beaches in the world.

STAY: This cosy barn

Botany Bay


Named after an Australian bay where smugglers are said to have
been deported, Botany Bay is a quintessentially British beach
boasting magnificent views of white cliffs, chalk stacks and
surprisingly clear waters. The bay is just a stone’s throw from the
picturesque seaside towns of Broadstairs and Margate – well worth a
visit for those seeking a traditional British experience. When the
tide is out, hunt for fossils and delve into rock pools before
heading to the Botany Bay Hotel for a good old pub lunch.

STAY: Botany Bay Hotel

West Wittering


West Wittering is an all-time favourite among beachgoers and
it’s not hard to see why. Soft sand, shallow lagoons and neat
grassy areas beckoning for a picnic rug make it an ideal spot for a
day out, while the area holds a blue flag award for safety and
cleanliness. With wonderful views of Chichester Harbour and the
South Downs as well as rows of candy-coloured beach huts that are
available to rent, this is a snapshot of British summertime.

STAY: The Crab & Lobster

Marloes Sands


It’s not all grey skies and rain in Wales – the country boasts
some of the UK’s most incredible topography. One such place is
Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire, where over a mile of golden dunes
meet striking cliffs, making it a favoured walking spot among
families and birdwatchers. The coast surrounding the peninsula is a
designated marine conservation zone where you can spot grey seals,
porpoises, dolphins and rare sea birds. At low tide, there is also
plenty to explore; the rock strata has divided the beach up into
lots of little bays where you can find rock pools and even a
shipwreck sticking out of the sand.

STAY: Grove of Narberth

Saunton Sands


Famous for its ideal surfing conditons, Saunton Sands stretches
for three miles on the north coast of Devon, backed by the Baunton
Burrows, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The long, straight stretch of
coastline is perfect for swimmers and watersports lovers as well as
those after more of a relaxed ramble. The neat, picture-perfect
shore is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, which is probably why
Robbie Williams featured Saunton in his “Angels” music video.

STAY: The Barn

Studland Bay


This National Trust beach is the gem of the south coast,
overlooking nearby Bournemouth and neighbouring the Hartland Moor
nature reserve. The bay boasts chalky white sand and panoramic
views of the nearby heathland, as well as the largest colony of
breeding seahorses in Britain. As well as marine life, the reserve
is home to all six species of British reptile but you’ll find more
than just lizards basking in the sun – Studland Bay is famous for
being one of the most popular naturist beaches in the UK. On your
return journey, a brief detour to nearby Durdle Door is

STAY: The Pig on the Beach

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