Although not normally considered a ‘beach destination’ the UK is actually home to a host of stunning beaches, complete with craggy coastlines and turquoise waters. Swap the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the sound of lapping waves and the taste of salty breeze. Enjoy sandy walks, seaside picnics and, weather permitting, a dip in the ocean. These are the best beaches in the UK.
Top tip: The carpark is quite a walk away from the beach itself so bear this in mind if you have members in your group not up for the distance.
Holkham Beach in Norfolk is a three-mile-long stretch of sand and sea well known for its cute row of colourful beach huts and stunning Norfolk sunsets. This stretch of unspoilt beach is made even more perfect by its simplicity. There’s nothing too modern or fancy at Holkham, but there is a lovely long stretch of sandy beach, plenty of shells, flora and fauna and the prettiest lagoon to paddle in.
Voted one of the ‘best beaches in the UK’, it was even featured in the closing scenes of the 1999 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Shakespeare in Love. If you’re feeling peckish after a busy day of splashing and sandcastles, then head to the local Beach Café. You’ll find it serving up delicious baguettes, crunchy flapjacks and hot drinks.
Top tip: Treat your tastebuds with a visit to Dorset food-hero Rick Stein’s self-titled restaurant for a dinner of fresh fish with waterside views.
Often cited as ‘the best beach on the South Coast of England’, Sandbanks Beach is a small peninsula that crosses Poole harbour into Bournemouth, boasting more Blue Flag awards than any other beach in the UK. It also has an association with the finer things in life, nicknamed ‘Palm Beach’ due to the sky-high land prices around the area.
Yet, Sandbanks is as accessible as they come, with a wealth of things to do on the sandy stretch. From kite-surfing to paddle boarding, there’s enough on the beach to keep you going. We suggest a trip over to Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust, where you can catch a glimpse of the red squirrels, or else taking the chain ferry over to the Purbecks to see Old Harry Rocks – three striking chalk formations which used to join the Isle of Wight to the mainland.
Top tip: Car parking only costs £2 per day, so make the most of it by walking the length from Bamburgh Castle to Seahouses and soak up the spectacular views.
Since leisurely seaside culture was born in the Victorian era, Bamburgh Beach has been a tremendously popular spot. Little wonder really, considering the backdrop of the stunning Bamburgh Castle amidst a beautifully-diverse landscape of rock pools, sand dunes and grassland. While relaxing on the beach, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for dolphins as they are sometimes spotted here.
If you fancy a little adventure we suggest scouting out Bamburgh Lighthouse – the perfect spot for rock-pooling and enjoying the dramatic coastline. Bamburgh Castle, once a fortress to guard the North against sea invaders, is considered a ‘King of Castles’. It is a truly iconic sight that stays in view for miles whilst you explore the stretch of white, exposed sands.
Top tip: This is a strictly no dogs allowed beach, and there are fines in place for those who bend the rules.
Known for its excellent water quality, Porthcurno Beach is in the perfect location for beach-goers to enjoy south Cornwall’s summer sunshine and the seaside vibes of Penzance. This little slice of paradise boasts soft white sands and bright blue water. We’d forgive you for thinking you were on a tropical island somewhere in the Med. About three miles east of Land’s End, there are safe paddling spots for kids as well as cafes and water sports to enjoy.
On the cliffs west of Porthcurno lies the world famous Minack Theatre, an open-air venue, set in the cliffs above the ocean, that hosts a range of dramas, musicals and operas throughout the summer. There are also brilliant coastal walks to be had here, be it westwards towards Porthgwarra (which boasts another amazing beach) and Land’s End or eastwards to Logan Rock and Mousehole.
Top tip: Head to the Worm’s Head Hotel, sporting a great a pub and terrace where you can enjoy a cold pint looking out over the beach and Worm’s Head itself.
Described as ‘the supermodel of British beaches’ by The Independent and nominated as ‘The UK’s number one dog-friendly beach’ by The Times, Rhossili Bay Beach has been raking in the awards for years. The soothing Atlantic swell creates perfect surfing conditions, making it popular with surfers and other water sports enthusiasts, whilst the stunning views draw in nature lovers from afar.
You can also explore Rhossili’s famous Worm’s Head, a beautiful serpent-shaped island accessed by a causeway only exposed at low tide for two hours each day, making it the beach’s elusive treasure.
Top tip: A dog ban is in place here during summer. From May 1 until September 30, dogs are not allowed on the beach from 10 am to 6 pm.
Another surfer’s paradise, Joss Bay is a popular 200-metre long stretch of golden sand nestled between the seaside towns of Margate and Broadstairs. Steep white chalk cliffs and a wide expanse of pristine sand make this beach one of the most picturesque around – the perfect spot to pull up a deckchair and bury your head in a good book, simply soaking up the sunshine, stunning views and relaxed atmosphere.
If you fancy being a little more active, however, then there is a surfing school on the beach itself, where you can hire wet suits and boards and head out for a play on the waves.
Top tip: For any keen runners there is an unmissable Parkrun along the dunes which takes place at 9 am on a Saturday.
Considered to be one of the loveliest beaches in the West Country, Woolacombe Beach is made up of miles of golden sand and rolling surf. Surfers, families and friends alike flock to the beach in the summer months, and the beach and nearby village both have a vibrant, lively feel to them throughout the warmer season.
Don’t let the mention of crowds put you off though: the beach is so long that you’re bound to find your own quiet spot on it. What’s more, due to its popularity, there are lifeguards stationed on the beach throughout the summer season, ensuring everyone is safe in the water and making this the ideal spot for a relaxed family day out.
West Wittering Beach
Location: West Sussex
Top tip: There’s a great circular walk from West Wittering village along a coastal path to West Itchenor.
With stunning views over Chichester Harbour and the South Downs beyond, West Wittering Beach is the perfect sandy spot for a UK beach break. As well as plenty of natural beauty, this stunning spot also boasts fantastic water quality and excellent facilities and is one of the best Blue Flag beaches in the country.
The sea conditions are spot on for wind and kite surfers and at low tide a collection of pretty lagoons are left upon the sandy flats, leaving plenty of areas for little ones to explore and splash around in.
Top tip: The beach is remote so don’t expect lots of facilities. There is a small parking area next to a graveyard and you’ll also find toilet facilities.
Located in the windswept, rugged outer Hebrides, the Isle of Harris is home to an array of breathtaking beaches. The dazzling colours of the waters and the untouched sand set against the backdrop of sheltered coves, craggy cliffs and gently rolling highland hills adorned with wildflowers are enough to capture anyone’s heart.
Luskentyre Beach, on the west coast, is one of the largest and most spectacular beaches on Harris, with its white sands, crystal clear waters and dramatic mountain views. Although you may have to bear with the bracing Scottish weather, come rain or shine this is truly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and well worth a visit.
Location: Northern Ireland
Top tip: There’s a great walk along Mourne Coastal Path which starts close to Bloody Bridge and takes you through some of the usually inaccessible stretches of coastline.
Nestled on the coast of County Down, in Northern Ireland, Murlough Nature Reserve is a sweeping ancient sand dune system, owned and operated by the National Trust. Murlough Beach itself stretches on into the distance, with a four-mile long Blue Flag awarded section.
This is the ultimate spot for walkers and nature lovers. A network of boardwalks and paths, weaving and out of the heath dunes, navigate tranquil heath and woodland expanses which brim with an array of wildflowers, butterflies, birds and other wildlife.
The age of the area and the array of species which inhabit it, some extremely rare, making it a site of special scientific interest. The beach itself has breathtaking panoramic views of the Mountains of Mourne and is close by Brandy Pad – an ancient smuggler’s path from the coast into the depths of the mountains.