Jul 11, 2016

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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

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Peerless pier: Brighton

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, Lancashire

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Enjoy a donkey ride on a quintessentially British break

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

Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire

Smuggle yourself down to Robin Hood’s Bay

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.

MORE: Europe’s most beautiful beaches

Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland

Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland

Quiet and calm, Northumberland’s beaches might be the prettiest in the UK

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

Durdle Door, Dorset

Durdle Door’s iconic arch has a hint of the Algarve about it

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

Summer in Great Yarmouth on the beach

Make the most of the 15 miles of golden sand

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.

Newquay, Cornwall

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Surfer’s paradise… in Newquay

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

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Huisinis: the Scottish Caribbean?

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

Marloes Beach, Pembrokshire, Wales

Secluded, peaceful and picturesque – Marloes is a one of Wales’ best kept secrets

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.

Find a hotel in Pembrokshire.

Tenby, Wales


Take the temperature of Tenby, a more traditional Welsh resort

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

Woolacombe in the evening

Woolacombe was voted the UK’s best beach this year by TripAdvisor users

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

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  1. Anonymous says:

    You left out Woolacombe Bay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. winston omero says:

    how can anyone put stoney beach Brighton ahead of half a dozen beaches (SANDY)on the ISLE OF WIGHT ?????

    • John Davies says:

      BRIGHTON!!!!. Britain’s worst beach maybe.

      • David Bowles says:

        Couldn’t agree more

      • Annette says:

        And just what’s wrong with OAPs? They are nice and quiet and polite, unlike the rude loud young people who spend their time boozing and shouting ruderies all the time. Some day you will be and OAP yourself.

    • randy says:

      Brighton beach is stony (note correct spelling) but at least you don’t get sand everywhere you don’t want it! Also this resort has atmosphere and loads of entertainment other than lying on a beach all day whereas the Isle of Wight offers nothing and is full of OAPs.

  3. Ivan Rowe says:

    You don’t have a clue. I could take you to the Uk’s finest beaches and they are all here in Cornwall. In fact at least 5 of the 10 are virtually tourist free and that is in July and August.
    However, I am not going to tell you where they are otherwise the beaches will be destroyed with thousands of unwanted visitors.

    • Kieran says:

      Wow! Somebody obviously hasn’t left Cornwall before and discover the fact that good beaches exist elsewhere! I agree there are some great beaches in Cornwall. Porthcurno being my favourite, but open your eyes to the rest of the country please. There are awesome beaches all over the country!

  4. Thanks for not including any of the fantastic beaches in Nortthumberland, they are much better for being unspoilt.

  5. John Hadland says:

    Why is Great Yarmouth’s flag upside down.

    My favourite is Llanddwyn Island.

  6. Margaret Terry says:

    How could anyone possibly think Scarborough north beach is one of UK’s best beaches? It is small, crowded and usually grubby! Further down the east coast is Bridlington, with miles of golden sand which is cleaned every day. You won’t find a better beach anywhere.

  7. Laurence Woolcott says:

    Woolacombe Bay is fantastic….miles and miles of soft sand, and the tide goes out nearly half a mile.
    Great for kids, a very safe gently shelving beach..
    Kite Boarding, Surfing and Wind Surfing.
    Rock-pools galore on the Northern end of the Beach.
    National Trust land behind the Beach.

  8. CAMPER says:

    Ivan Rowe if you don’t want to say where the so called beaches are then DO NOT COMMENT.
    Combe Martin has a lovely beach

  9. Gillian Crow says:

    Ramsgate has a glorious sandy beach and there are several others in Thanet: Broadstairs, Stone Bay, Joss Bay, Kingsgate Bay and the impressive Botany Bay.

  10. Malcolm Harrison says:

    Northumberland beaches best in the country Bambrough being my particular favourite. Brighton is ghastly need army boots to walk on it.what has entertainment got to do with a good beach?

  11. Malcolm Harrison says:

    Northumberland beaches best in the country Bambrough being my particular favourite. Brighton is not in the running you need army boots to walk on it.what has entertainment got to do with a good beach?

    • Hi Malcolm

      I guess we are all different in what we want from a beach so we tried to come up with a list that covered as many bases as possible. Perhaps we should do a series of articles covering different themes from best beaches for organised activity through to best beaches to ‘escape the world’.

      Kind regards


  12. marge ashley says:

    Beaches of Anglesey – Benllech is just one of them

  13. Robert Stewart says:

    Was at Brighton a couple of weeks ago, forget it, as a beach it does not compare with virtually any other. In Scotland there are beautiful sandy beaches along the East coast, West coast, and the Isles.

    • Hi Robert

      I’m not a fan of Brighton beach to be fair, however as a mass market beach with facilities and ease of access to London it scores well. My personal choice if for windswept remote beaches such as those in the Western isles or Northumbria.

      Kind regards


  14. d kane says:

    So many missed, northumberland, spoilt for choice, little gem at saltburn by the sea has all you could ask for, as does south shields, without being spoilt, real holidays or day trips something for everyone.

    • I agree with you on this one. They are stunning beaches up in the North East, however we only had limited space for our wide ranging round up and it was hard to choose the ones we would write about.

      Thanks for contributing.


  15. spitfire 598 says:

    Rhossili Bay gower no one goes there, only surfers, and the occasional Seal and seagull. rubbish !

    • Hi Alistair

      I hope its not gone downhill since the last time I visited! I found it fairly busy with those determined to find a beach away from the crowds and away from commercialism.




  16. alan griffiths says:

    Barafundel in Pembroke, it’s amazing!

  17. Tony Kennard says:

    I wonder why Clacton beaches have not had a mention as I think they were the sandiest . I spent many happy hours even during the war there and Jaywick was good too There was a Butlins funfare and holiday camp. Another place I enjoyed was the Isle of Wight. Carisbrooke castle and the Alum Bay sands with the myriad of colours. Osbourne House which Quenn Victoria used to stay.It had two holiday camps in Ryde, Puckpool and another one adjacent to it. Cowes with its yatching regatta.

    • Hi Tony

      Loads of choice in there for people to think of. Its so difficult to pick a few when you are covering a wide range of suitability, but I’d agree with all of those you mention. All wonderful places.

      Thanks for your contribution.


  18. Vinyl Richie says:

    As a resident of Brighton, I must stick up for our fair city and its beaches. Yes, the main stretch of shingle between the piers gets horribly crowded and is litter-strewn every weekend by visiting louts who have no idea how to clean up after themselves. That’s why you’ll never find locals on that bit, and it becomes the preserve of the DFLs (Down from London). But head further east or west and there are lovely, quieter stretches at Kemp Town, Hove and Shoereham and the spectacular Undercliff Walk towards Rottingdean and Peacehaven.
    And, of course, if you’re judging resorts by their overall facilities, then Brighton and Hove beats every other UK seaside town for nightlife, culture, arts, food, transport and friendly people: even the bus drivers are welcoming!
    Oh, and BTW Mr Copy Editor, Brighton is in the county of East Sussex, not just “south-East England”

  19. Michael Davis says:

    Dorset has some outstanding, award wining beaches, including Bournemouth, Sandbanks, Studland, Swanage and Weymouth.

    • I had many happy childhood holidays in Swanage where mum and dad used to rent a fantastic beach hut.

      I should go back sometime and take a walk down memory lane.

      Thanks for the contribution.


  20. Rosalind F says:

    What about Margate anyone ?
    Sandy beach and the Turner.

  21. William Anderson says:

    Obviously haven’t went round the coast of Scotland ( BIAS).

  22. Ever been to any Northern Ireland beaches? Ten Blue Flag beaches from the gorgeous seven mile Benone Strand round to breathtaking Murlough Bay at the foot of the Mourne mountains. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

    • Thanks Peter.

      excellent suggestions. Unfortunately the last time I was over it was wet and windy, but still gorgeous. I must come back again sometime.


  23. Elaine says:

    The white sands of Morar, used for so may films as an exotic location but its in Gods Own Country (Scotland) https://www.visitscotland.com/wsimgs/1048825_2028303800.JPG

  24. Northumberland beaches are simply fantastic, been to most of those mentioned, Cormwall, ughhhh, dirty beaches, and none come close to Northumberland. I can say that as someone who does not live there.

  25. Kieran says:

    Might I suggest that everyone takes some time to look at Porthcurno beach in Cornwall.

    Absolutely fantastic!

  26. you missed out lovely Minehead, and Dunster beach

  27. They are all great beaches but not particularly attractive in our ‘lovely’ summer weather…whereas here in Jersey there are hundreds of even more beautiful beaches (sandy and stony) and we have the most sun in the British Isles!!

  28. You’ve left out the wonderful sandy beaches of north Norfolk — Holkham, Wells etc.

  29. Taffy says:

    What about the Gower near Swansea, Langland Bay & Three Cliffs bay all close to each other in a beautiful part of the world !!

  30. Eastern Promise says:

    Great Yarmouth??? Ha ha!
    Does not compare one little bit to other Norfolk beaches such as Hunstanton, Wllls, Holkham, Cromer, and so on, and all the so called “attractions” you mention are tired, dated, dirty and run down. Avoid!

  31. Julian Haywood says:

    I think the selection of beaches on this list has more to do with which local Tourist Boards travelsupermarket has deals with.

    • Hi Julian

      Thanks for your comment.

      I can assure you as both the writer of the article and also one of the senior managers here, we have no deals with any tourist boards either in the UK or overseas and all of our selections are based upon personal travel experiences or commonly regarded beach hotspots. We try to offer a range of choice in our articles and they are not trying to be comprehensive, but to get people to be inspired maybe to get out and explore.

      Do you have any beaches you would like to add to the pot and we could consider including them in a future article?

      Kind regards


  32. beach bum says:

    CLEETHORPES TOP BEACH!! number 1 beach in britain. FACT!!

    • So then ‘beach bum’. Tell us why its number one? And yes I have actually been there but can’t really remember it, so it didn’t make that much of an impression on me. Sorry Cleethorpes!


  33. Steve says:

    Are you gay Bob?
    Surely its the only reason anyone would like the beach at Brighton…

    • Hi Steve

      I really don’t think that anyone’s sexuality has anything to do with how we wrote this article or picked the beaches we were going to feature.

      Kind regards


  34. Jim Woodfill says:

    After the LONDON 2010 stamp show in May of that year, I took a train ride to Brighton, just to look around and see the sights.

    I never experienced a place so cold and windy in my life. I wondered when the warm weather would start. I had seen pictures of Brighton Beach packed with people, so I guess it does warm up sooner or later. But if you go to Brighton for beach weather, don’t go in May!

    • HI Jim

      Sorry you didn’t get the weather. To be fair the UK can be hit and miss anytime of the year and we have know places like Brighton have temperatures into the 70s in March or October before now.

      Try it again next time you are here, but check out the weather forecast first.

      Kind regards


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