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From Blackpool to hidden Huisinis: Britain’s best beaches
Not managed to get away yet this summer? The good news is you don’t have to board a plane to dig your toes in the sand and paddle in the sea.
From cheery hotels to holiday parks, Britain has a great range of coastal accommodation, while you could also visit the hotspots we’ve picked out on a day trip if you live within striking distance by rail or car.
Our round-up of the best British beaches includes a selection of familiar classics as well as some more exclusive, hidden coves around the country.
Brighton, south east England
This fun-time south coast town is one of the originals. Today it’s just as much a piece of London by the sea as it is a beach resort, with many treating it as a stylish but more laidback escape from the big city.
You can explore the pier and shingle beach, swim in the Channel or head into town for a whirl around the quirky and decadent Royal Pavilion, built as a seaside home for George, Prince of Wales.
The Lanes area is packed with cute boutiques, cool bars and great places to eat out, and the alternative vibe which pervades the town means there’s always something cultural going on in the local pubs and theatres.
Find hotels in Brighton in all price ranges.
Blackpool is THE place to go for everything that makes up the stereotypical traditional British seaside resort.
There’s ice cream, candy floss, kiss-me-quick hats and rock candy to get stuck into. There are also world-class theme park rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, a long sand beach, three piers and wall-to-wall entertainment from the immense Comedy Carpet – a concrete art work incorporating jokes and music hall catchphrases – at the foot of Blackpool Tower, to West End shows such as Mamma Mia! at the Opera House in the Winter Gardens complex.
Add in seafront trams, donkey rides, horse and trap trips, a superb zoo, fortune tellers and the Illuminations light show in early autumn and you have a strong contender for the UK’s premier resort.
Stay over in Blackpool for a fun and quintessentially British break.
Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire
Caught in a time warp, the quaint fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay is the perfect place to escape the strife of modern life.
Sheltered from the rest of the world by steep, craggy cliffs, the beach itself delivers a slice of Yorkshire’s coastline at its dramatic best all year round. Robin Hood’s Bay is the type of beach for people who don’t like to sit still on the sand, with rockpooling and walking among the fun activities when the tide’s out.
And when you’re done scrambling through the rocks looking for critters, retire to the pub for some legendary North Yorkshire scampi.
Choose from a big range of North Yorkshire hotels.
Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland
Natives of Northumberland will tell you (or perhaps they won’t – they might want to keep you away…) that their stretch of coastline is the best in Britain. And after a visit, you’d be hard pressed to disagree.
We’ve picked Bamburgh, a multi-purpose gem of a beach watched over by a brooding castle, not just for its beauty, but also its mass appeal. Perfect for a spot of sunbathing (when the weather’s right), this beach is also home to surfers, windsurfers and walkers – it really is a place for everyone to get sandy.
The historic village of Bamburgh, with its quaint pubs and cafes, has a quiet appeal to it, which, like its beach, is why it’s so popular with locals and tourists alike.
Durdle Door, Dorset
Probably one of Britain’s most recognisable beaches, Durdle Door, with its iconic limestone arch, has more than a hint of the Algarve about it.
Surrounded by miles and miles of glorious countryside, this picturesque cove has become the stand-out poster child for the Jurassic Coast. Due to a natural offshore reef, the bay is protected from tidal swells so it’s ideal for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
Not had your fill of stunning British beaches? Head over to nearby Lulworth Cove and Man O’ War beach – there must be something in the water.
Find a cheap hotel in Dorset.
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
This East Anglian resort is located close to the Norfolk Broads waterways, making it an ideal place to combine the beach with the countryside.
There are 15 miles of golden sands, among them the central Golden Mile packed with amusement arcades, gift shops, fish and chip shops and ice cream parlours. On Britannia Pier you can take a spin in the mini theme park, Joyland, or head to the Pleasure Beach for bigger rides, burgers and shakes.
For culture vultures there’s the Tollhouse museum, with its original dungeons, the Potteries for exhibitions of historic clay pot throwing and the Time & Tide fishery museum.
Find a Norfolk hotel for your seaside stay.
The surfing capital of the UK is also rapidly becoming a culinary hotspot, with restaurants from chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein in the area.
The quality of the beaches makes this Cornish resort a delight. Fistral is great for surfers, Crantock is a top spot to escape the crowds, Polly Joke is reachable only on foot and two mile-long Watergate Bay is a stunning stretch of sand just a few miles north of Newquay itself.
If you want to learn surfing, body boarding or the skiing-surfing hybrid known as wakeboarding, the Cornwall Surfing Academy and other schools within the resort will soon have you mastering the waves.
Find hotels around Newquay.
Huisinis, Outer Hebrides
A little further afield than the others mentioned here, you’ll find the remote beach of Huisinis on the west coast of Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Get the weather right here and, with the clear blue waters and golden sands, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Caribbean – all that’s missing are the palm trees.
Along with many beaches in this part of Scotland, the appeal of Huisinis lies partly in what you won’t find here. No fish and chip shops, no gaudy amusement arcades and no entertainment, apart from what nature provides – eagles, deer, cormorants and sometimes even seals, dolphins and whales are among the attractions.
A ferry operates from the mainland to and between the islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire, Wales
The Times may have just handed Pembrokeshire’s Barafundle Bay the top spot in its 30 great hidden British beaches list, but there’s something alluring about the craggy cliffs and secluded bays of Marloes Sands that persuaded us give it the nod for south Wales.
After scrambling over washed-up rocks at the beach’s entrance, a sweeping expanse of golden sand, dotted with dramatic stony outcrops, rewards you for all that effort. When the tide is out, the shallow waters are perfect for paddling, while the wide beach is ideal for games – even in high summer there’s plenty of space available.
Of course, anyone who’s ever been to this beautiful part of the world knows that stunning, out-of-the-way beaches are the norm – the best one is all a matter of opinion.
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A traditional Welsh resort this time, 90 miles west of Cardiff and combining a medieval town with three sandy beaches and lots to see and do. Harbour beach has won many awards, beating competition from across Europe for its beautiful setting.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, cafés and gift shops, you can visit places out of town such as the Dinosaur Park, Saundersfoot beach for crabbing, Pendine Sands to visit the site of many a land speed record attempt, and Laugharne, home to Dylan Thomas’s writing shed.
Find a hotel in Tenby.
Woolacombe Beach, Devon
This three-mile stretch of golden sand on the north Devon coast was voted the UK’s best beach again this year by TripAdvisor users.
Whether you’re after clear water for the little ones to paddle in, crowd-free stretches for a spot of beach cricket or waves to surf in, you’ll find it here. There are also coastal walks galore as well as pubs, cafes and restaurants to refuel in afterwards.
And, from holiday parks and B&Bs to hotels, there are accommodation options for all budgets.
Please note: This is an updated version of a previously-published article.
Where’s your favourite British seaside spot? Share your thoughts below