The top 50 best beaches in the UK

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1. Bamburgh, Northumberland

Despite the beauty of the beach at Bamburgh, it is one of the few places where you will find yourself more inclined to look inland than out to sea, because of Bamburgh Castle that overlooks it. Northumberland has numerous castles, but the view of the castle from the beach is unforgettable. The beach is an expanse of golden sand backed by sand dunes.

Where: from the unclassified road linking Freshwater East and Stackpole, follow the signs for Stackpole Quay.

Image credit: Matthew Hartley

2. Blackpool Sands, Devon

Privately owned Blackpool Sands beach on Devon’s south coast is perfect for families. There is a safe swimming area, lifeguards on patrol during summer and a lost child collection point. The beach is mainly fine pebbles, but fear not sandcastle engineers, as a sandy area has been added to avoid disappointment. There is also a freshwater paddling pool – perfect for small children on a hot day.

Where: follow the A379 from Dartmouth. Located between Stoke Fleming and Strete.

Image credit: Davina Ware

3. Llanbedrog, Gwynedd

This 16km walk from Llanbedrog to Chwilog forms part of the Llyn Coastal Path in north Wales, a 146km route from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. The path, which opened last year, is Britain’s newest long distance path, and 75 per cent of the walk is beach. A convenient place to join this section of the walk is at the National Trust-owned Llanbedrog beach.

Where: located between Pwllheli and Abersoch on the A499, which runs along the south coast of the Lleyn PeninsulaWhitehaven and Egremont.

Image credit: Matt Prosser

4. Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon

Bigbury-on-Sea has a beautiful beach and clean bathing water – and you can stand with the sea both in front and behind you, as the beach is effectively a sand spit that extends from the mainland to Burgh Island. During summer there is also a limited passenger ferry service, linking Bigbury-on-Sea with Bantham beach on the other side of the estuary.

Where: from the A379, follow the B3392 to Bigbury-on-Sea, then signs to the beach and car park.

Image credit: Macieklew

5. West Sands, Scotland

West Sands beach in St Andrews is said to be one of Scotland’s busiest beaches. It offers miles of wide sandy beach with the impressive backdrop of the historic university town and the world-famous golf course. Reliable wind conditions and plenty of space make the beach ideal for sports, such as windsurfing and kitesurfing. Kite Sports Scotland offers instruction in a range of extreme sports on the beach, including kite surfing and buggying.

Where: St Andrews is well signposted from every direction and is served by roads such as the A91, A915 and A917.

Image credit: JKMMX

6. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

This is a perfect rural beach, and sufficiently off the beaten track to ensure that it remains unspoilt. From the car park it is a five-to-10-minute walk with sea views along a cliff-top path to the beach. The pristine sandy beach, part of National Trust-owned Stackpole Estate, is backed by sand dunes and protected by rocky headlands. The Pembrokeshire coast path also passes the beach and signposted walks can be enjoyed in either direction from the beach.

Where: from the unclassified road linking Freshwater East and Stackpole, follow the ‘brown’ signs for Stackpole Quay.

Image credit: PJMarriott

7. Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire

This small family seaside resort remains a charming place for a beach holiday. The main attraction for children is the gently shelving sandy beach, patrolled by lifeguards during summer. Essential ingredients for a family seaside holiday are all here, from the Evans’s shop selling ” fancy goods, toys and gift ware”, to Underground, the village surf shop. There’s also a good selection of places to eat, whether you’re just after an ice cream or a plate of locally caught seafood.

Where: Saundersfoot is well signposted from the main A477 road from the west and the east.

8. St Bees, Cumbria

The ancient village of St Bees has one of Cumbria’s most popular rural beaches. It is also the start of the scenic coast-to-coast walk, a challenging but very popular 300km route linking St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire coast. The route links the Irish Sea and the North Sea and passes through three National Parks. The beaches at St Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay are both worth a visit, but 300km is a long way to carry your bucket and spade.

Where: follow signs for St Bees from the main A595 road. The beach is to the west of the village and is about 5km from Whitehaven and Egremont.

9. Lowestoft Beach, Suffolk

If you’re keen to be first in the water or to catch the first rays of the day, Lowestoft, as the most easterly town in Britain, is the place to be. Lowestoft has good bathing water quality, calm seas, a gently shelving beach and lifeguards on duty in the summer. The busy family resort also has two piers, South Pier and Claremont Pier, and a sandy beach with groynes. A long promenade runs behind the beach which has plenty of indoor and outdoor attractions.

Where: located south of Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft is easily reached from the coastal A12 road or the A146 from inland.

Image credit: Jim Champion

10. Sennen Cove, Cornwall

The popularity of Sennen Cove in the far west of Cornwall is well deserved. It’s a really lovely sandy beach, with clear blue seas and attractive rural surroundings. Facilities at the beach are also good. The west-facing beach regularly offers great surfing conditions. Surfing lessons and surf equipment hire can be arranged at the beach, and it’s also well known as a place to enjoy impressive sunsets.

Where: Sennen is well signposted from the A30. Follow the winding, rural roads down.

Image credit: Lewis Clarke

11. Studland Bay, Dorset

Studland Bay offers three miles of beautiful sandy beaches in the unspoilt surroundings of Studland National Nature Reserve, a 3,200-hectare area of heathland which is a haven for rare birds. The bay’s four main beaches include a National Trust visitor centre and a watersport equipment hire shop, both on Knoll Beach. Studland Bay is also home to Britain’s most popular naturist beach, which is located between Knoll Beach and Shell Bay.

Where: from Wareham, follow the A351 in the direction of Swanage, then take the B3351, which is signposted to Studland.

12. Bournemouth, Dorset

In the height of summer, you could be sharing this 11km-stretch of sand with up to 100,000 people, but it’s still a family-friendly place to enjoy the sea and sand. Bournemouth’s beaches were the first to introduce the family-friendly Kidzone scheme. The scheme operates in the summer and works by dividing the beach into zones. Each zone has a colour and each child has a wristband of the same colour, so making it easier to return children who manage to give their parents the slip.

Where: follow signs for Bournemouth from the A35 or A338.

Image credit: Robert Pittman

13. Mullion Cove, Corn- wall

Jump on to the south-west coast path at Mullion Cove and head south to Lizard Point, the southernmost point of mainland Britain. The majority of this 13km walk is along cliff-tops. At Kynance Cove the unique appearance of the large rock formations have made the view of this lovely beach from the cliff-tops an iconic Cornish image.

Where: follow the A3083 towards Lizard Point then take the B3296 to Mullion then on to Mullion Cove.

Image credit: John Stratford

14. Porthminster, St Ives

St Ives is an idyllic seaside town with numerous beaches, of which Porthmeor and Porthminster are the most popular. Porthmeor is a popular surfing beach, and its beautifully clear water makes it a most impressive sight for a beach in such an urban environment. Porthminster, on the other side of St Ives, is a popular family beach with gently shelving sand and generally safe bathing conditions.

Where: St Ives is signposted from the main A30 road.

15. Aberdeen, Scotland

Aberdeen is well known as the Granite City and for its ties with the oil industry. However, this lively city is less well known for its large sandy beach, which stretches for around two miles north of the city. The beach is popular with locals and, when conditions are right, waves are sufficiently good to attract surfers.

Where: Aberdeen is accessible from the A90 to the north and south and the A93 from the west.

16. Llanddwyn, Anglesey

Llanddwyn is an idyllic rural beach on the southern coast of the Isle of Anglesey. Access is through over a mile of protected pine forest, which is home to a wide range of plant and bird species. The beach of soft sand stretches as far as the eye can see and there are views of the Lleyn Peninsula and Snowdonia National Park.

Where: Follow signs from Newborough’s main street, which is on the A4080. The turn from the A4080 towards Newborough Forest can be easily missed.

Image credit: Segaboyno2010

17. Camber Sands, East Sussex

Camber Sands offers a vast expanse of sandy beach, which gives children more than enough room to run free. But time your arrival carefully, as although low tide provides time for beach cricket, it’s also a bit of a trek to the water if you want a paddle. There are good facilities close at hand, and the beach is zoned for extra security.

Where: signposted from the A259. Follow the coast road to Camber.

Image credit: Karen Bryan

18. La Rocque, Jersey

A coastal walk to be done in your wellies is the ‘moonwalk’, led by the marine biologist Andrew Syvret, which offers the opportunity to explore the world of rock pools with an expert. The moonwalks are so called because of the vast lunar landscape revealed when the tide recedes on the beach between La Rocque and Gorey Harbour.

Where: the beach runs alongside the A4 between La Rocque and Gorey Harbour on the south-east coast of Jersey.

Image credit: KevinD

19. Rest Bay, Porthcawl 

Porthcawl is a popular sandy beach located between Cardiff and Swansea. Conditions here are typically good for a swim, and the water is clean, but keep an eye out for surfers riding the waves. The busy M4 passes enticingly close by, as if to tempt drivers from the motorway on a sunny day.

Where: follow signs to Porthcawl from junction 37 of the M4. Rest Bay is well signposted as you approach Porthcawl itself.

Image credit: Steinsky

20. Portland Harbour, Dorset

This is the place for watersports: scuba diving, kite surfing, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing. It will also be home to the London 2012 Olympic sailing events, hosted by the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy, which also offers sailing lessons for all levels of ability.

Where: follow the A354 from Weymouth to Portland. As you approach Portland, follow ‘Sailing Academy’ signs.

21. Porthcurno, Cornwall

Porthcurno beach is an idyllic, secluded cove with enticing turquoise water and pale, powdery sand, which is said to be made of finely crushed fragments of seashells. The narrow beach is also sheltered from the wind by towering granite cliffs. Porthcurno is home to the spectacular Minack open-air theatre, which is cut into the cliffside and has beautiful sea views as a backdrop. Every year, there are a series of performances during the summer months.

Where: from the A30, Porthcurno can be reached from the B3315 or B3283.

Image credit: Tanya Dedyukhina

22. New Quay, Wales

Newquay in Cornwall may be the place to go for the surf. But New Quay near Cardigan in Wales is the place to go if you want to see dolphins in the wild, and you’re more likely to see them in these waters than in almost any other part of the UK. The Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, which is based in New Quay, runs boat trips throughout the summer, and you have a good chance of spotting dolphins, grey seals and harbour porpoises. Trips cost from £16 for adults and £8 for children aged 12 years and under.

Where: from the A487, follow the A486 to New Quay. For further information call 01545 560032 or visit www.cbmwc.org

Image credit: Ben Brooksbank

23. Beer to Branscombe, Devon

Beer and country walks have always gone hand in hand, but never more so than on this walk between the picturesque coastal villages of Beer and Branscombe, which forms part of the ever-popular South West Coast Path. The route follows a cliff-top path along the coast, from where walkers can enjoy spectacular sea views as far as Portland Bill to the east and Torbay to the west, ending at Branscombe’s attractive pebble beach.

Where: Beer is located to the west of Lyme Regis. From the A3052 take the B3174 to Beer. For information call 01392 383560, or visit www.southwestcoastpath.com

Image source: Thomas Tolkien

24. Scarborough North Bay, Yorkshire

From as early as the 1660s, visitors travelled to Scarborough to enjoy the health benefits of its spring water, as they did to other spas such as Bath or Buxton. The later interest in the health benefits of sea water ensured the ongoing success of Scarborough. Today, the sea meets regulations for safe bathing and the beach is patrolled by lifeguards in summer, so feel free to continue Scarborough’s bathing tradition.

Where: Scarborough is well signposted when approaching from the north and south (A165) and west (A170 and A64).

Image credit: ogwen

25. West Wittering, West Sussex

Ever-popular West Wittering beach offers excellent conditions for windsurfers of all abilities. At low tide there’s typically calm and shallow water, which gradually changes to choppy and good wave conditions at high tide.

Where: from the A27 take the A286 signed Witterings and follow signs for West Wittering Beach. For more information, visit www.2xs.co.uk

Image credit: Traveler100

26. Calgary Bay, Scotland

Calgary Bay is a beautiful secluded beach on the west coast of the island of Mull, Scotland’s third largest island. If you’re lucky you may even be able to have this beach to yourself to watch the sunset over the headland protecting the bay. The beach is backed by dunes and fertile grasslands, which support a wide variety of plants, so take care where you tread.

Where: from Tobermory, follow the winding B8073 to Calgary Bay.

Image credit: Martin Burns

27. Yellow-craig, West Lothian

This picturesque rural beach is a real find. The powdery soft sand is backed by woodland and the large car park beyond. The sea views are enhanced by the tiny island of Fidra and its lighthouse just offshore. A sign at the beach describes how the island is thought to have been Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspiration for Treasure Island.

Where: Yellow- craig is signposted from the A198 coastal road.

28. Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Lulworth Cove is a near-perfect semi-circle in shape, having been carved out of the cliffs by the power of the sea. The shingle beach is not especially outstanding, but does offer safe bathing in the sheltered bay. From Lulworth Cove there is a popular 2km walk along the cliffs to the equally impressive Durdle Door, a natural arch of limestone rock that overlooks the cove.

Where: Lulworth Cove is clearly signposted from the A352 between Dorchester and Wareham.

Image credit: Jeff Short

29. Tenby South, Pembrokeshire

On a bright summer’s day this beach looks beautiful, with miles of soft sand that stretch from St Catherine’s Island to Giltar Point, and views of Caldy Island, just off the coast. The water also meets bathing quality standards, and lifeguards are on duty during the summer.

Where: follow the A478 from the north or the A4139 from the west.

Image credit: Ronald Saunders

30. Silver Beach, Isle of Wight

This relatively small and sandy beach on the east coast of the Isle of Wight is ideal for learning watersports, such as windsurfing and kitesurfing. At mid-tide there is a large area of waist-height water in which you can get to grips with the basics in safety, and the water is usually calm.

Where: Located just east of Bembridge harbour on the B3395.

31. Holy Island, Northumberland

Holy Island is only accessible by causeway at low tide, when a road is revealed from beneath the water, making it possible to drive or walk across from the mainland. The beaches of Holy Island are often overlooked by visitors. However, at low tide, if you walk across the dunes that run alongside the main access road, you will discover a beautiful expanse of pristine sand.

Where: Clearly signposted from the A1.

32. Weymouth, Dorset

Weymouth’s status as a seaside resort was established over 200 years ago when King George III visited to “take the waters”. However, a fact that is likely to be of more interest to the kids is that Weymouth’s sand is renowned for being particularly suited to sand sculpture and, more importantly, sandcastle-building.

Where: follow the A354 from Dorchester. Beach and car parks are well signposted.

Image credit: Andrew Curtis

33. Craster to Dunstanburgh

The spectacular Northumberland coast still remains relatively undiscovered. A recommended walk within the designated area of outstanding natural beauty starts in the fishing village of Craster, which has long been synonymous with kippers. From Craster, the walk takes in the dramatic coastline and the splendid 14th-century Dunstanburgh castle. This walk then returns to Craster along an inland route via Dunstan Square.

Where: from the A1 take the B1340 and follow the signs to Craster.

Image credit: Becks

34. Croyde Bay, Devon

The pleasant village of Croyde is blessed with a fantastic beach, which has some of the best conditions for surfing in south-west England.

The clean bathing water and gently shelving sandy beach, along with the presence of lifeguards, make it especially appealing if you fancy a swim. Away from the water, Croyde has a good choice of pubs, shops and restaurants. There are also excellent walks along the surrounding cliffs.

Where: a short drive along the B3231 from Braunton. The beach is well signposted from the village.

Image credit: Garethrees

35. Whitesand Bay, Pembrokeshire

Whitesand Bay is a surfing hotspot, set in unspoilt natural surroundings. The waves at this west-facing sandy beach are consistently impressive, so expect to see surfers dashing excitedly, surfboard under arm, from the car park straight to the sea. There’s a friendly atmosphere here, and the cafe is the perfect place to relax post-surf. The beach is equally popular with non-surfers, and there are clearly marked zones for bathing and watersports.

Where: Whitesand Bay is clearly signposted from St David’s following the B4583.

Image credit: Gordon Hatton

36. Sanna Bay, Highlands

This is without doubt one of the Britain’s most secluded beaches, but it is worth the journey. The beach consists of an arc of soft, pristine white sand, which is as likely to be dotted with the footprints of the local wildlife as it is with human footprints. As if to confirm the isolated feel of Sanna Bay, a short distance along the coast is the Point of Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of the British mainland.

Where: Sanna Bay is signposted from Kilchoan on the southern side of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula along mainly unclassified roads. Kilchoan is reached along the B8007 or by ferry from Tobermory on the island of Mull.

Image credit: Geoff Doggett

37. Southwold, Suffolk

Family fun is assured at the quaint seaside town of Southwold (home of Adnams beer). In addition to the smartly renovated pier, complete with telescope for scanning the horizon, there’s a regular Punch and Judy show on the promenade. For junior, there’s also a boating lake, amusements on the pier and a model yacht pond.

Where: from the main A12 road, follow the A1095 to Southwold.

Image credit: Carlesmari

38. Sandown, Isle of Wight

Sandown beach has all the ingredients for the traditional seaside experience such as a sandy beach, a pier, striped deckchairs and rapidly melting ice creams gripped by children. From here, the 19km section of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path follows the coast north over the chalk cliffs of Culver Down to the equally popular Ryde.

Where: well signposted from all directions. Follow the A3055 coastal road from the north or south, or the A3056 from inland.

Image credit: Lets Go Out Bournemouth

39. Sandbanks, Poole

Sandbanks is a great urban beach, and the miles of fine sandy beach here are said to have won more Blue Flag awards than any other British beach. Careful zoning measures are in place to ensure that swimmers and watersport enthusiasts get the most out of their day at this extremely popular beach.

Where: the main roads leading to Poole are the A35, A350 and A338.

Image credit: a.froese

40. Fistral Beach, Newquay

Fistral Beach is the home of surfing in Britain. The great waves attract surfers from across Britain, and competitors travel from all over the world to take part in one of the many surf contests. The British Surfing Association is based here and offers surfing lessons from its National Surfing Centre. There’s also a good selection of places to shop, eat and drink without straying too far from the waves.

Where: follow the A392 from the A30 or A39. Fistral Beach is signposted from Newquay’s town centre.

Image credit: George Hodan

41. Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire

The steep, narrow streets of Robin Hood’s Bay appear to stubbornly cling to this windswept coastline. The village, known locally as Baytown, has a long fishing tradition, but in the 1800s it also became well known for the smuggling of heavily taxed goods such as rum, brandy and tobacco. Today, visitors include walkers on the coast to coast path.

Where: located just south of Whitby and well signposted from the A171.

Image credit: Phillip Capper

42. Charmouth, Dorset

Charmouth beach is one of the best places along the 152-mile Jurassic Coast World Heritage site to find fossils. Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre organises guided walks led by experts throughout the year. The walks help bring to life the area’s 185 million years of geological history.

Where: located to the East of Lyme Regis. Follow signs for Charmouth from the A35.

Image credit: The Voice of Hassocks

43. Eastbourne to Birling Gap, West Sussex

The coastal section of the South Downs Way is arguably one of the highlights of the route. However, if the thought of walking around 240km from Winchester to the coast is not appealing, start from Eastbourne’s promenade and walk the 7km along the coast to Burling Gap. Around 2.5km from Eastbourne are the cliffs at Beachy Head, the highest in Britain at over 150 metres. These cliffs offer spectacular views along the coast.

Where: Eastbourne is well signposted from the A27 and A259.

Image credit: Catrin Austin

44. Cefn Sidan Sands, Wales

Cefn Sidan beach is to Carmarthenshire what Holkham beach is to Norfolk: a seemingly infinite expanse of soft golden sand in an unspoilt natural setting. There are also great views towards the Gower Peninsula. Areas safe for swimming are zoned, the water is clean and lifeguards are on duty during the summer months, so wade on in. The miles of beach are backed by deep sand dunes, behind which is Pembrey Country Park, with plenty of wide open spaces for picnics.

Where: located west of Llanelli on the A484 Llanelli to Carmarthen coast road (off junction 48 of the M4).

45. Watergate Bay, Cornwall

Watergate Bay is quickly becoming a one-stop holiday destination for watersports fans. In addition to the Watergate Bay Hotel and Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant, Fifteen Cornwall, this beach is overlooked by the Extreme Academy, which provides equipment hire and lessons for a range of extreme sports.

Where: from the A30 or A39, follow the A3059 and follow signs to St Mawgan, then Newquay.

Image credit: andy carter

46. Holkham, Norfolk

This clean sandy beach is backed by pine woodlands and at low tide the sea almost appears to be on the horizon, creating a view of nothing but sand and sky. The beach is popular with naturists and naturalists. The naturalists are drawn by Holkham National Nature Reserve; the naturists by the official naturist beach.

Where: access to the pay car park is directly from the A149 coastal road to the west of Wells-next-the-Sea.

Image credit: John Lord

47. Allonby, Cumbria

Allonby has a picturesque rural beach that offers great views across the Solway estuary towards Scotland and inland to the hills of the Lake District. However, for many visitors, especially the kids, the real draw is the local shop, which offers delicious home- made ice cream.

Where: Allonby is four miles north of Maryport on the B5300 coastal road.

Image credit: netlancer2006

48. Rhossili Bay, Swansea

Rhossili Bay is the supermodel of British beaches. Its beauty alone has made it famous and it’s constantly being photographed. However, its reliable waves have also made it a hit with surfers. From Rhossili, there is a five-mile circular walk across Rhossili Down, which is National Trust land. The path runs behind the beach and offers impressive views. Follow the A3055 coastal road from the north or south or the A3056 from inland both out to sea and inland along the Gower Peninsula.

Where: follow the A4118 South Gower Rd, then take the B4247 to Rhossili.

Image credit: Keith Ruffles

49. Tyrella Beach, County Down

Tyrella Beach has received the Blue Flag award every year since 1997 so, as you would expect, there are high-quality facilities for visitors. Conditions are also usually good for bathing at this popular resort beach, and lifeguards are on duty during the summer. If you prefer sunbathing to bathing, there’s 2km of wide sandy beach on which to rest your beach towel and cool box.

Where: situated on the A2 Killough to Clough road, around five miles from Newcastle.

Image credit: Dwyatt 101

50. Polzeath, Cornwall

Almost everyone at the beach seems to be here to surf, and there’s a great mix of surfers of all ages and experience. The surf atmosphere is enhanced by the numerous surf shops behind the beach selling the latest kit. Surfing conditions are said to be ideal for less experienced surfers, and if you’re keen to learn, lessons can be booked easily and equipment hired. Expect to pay around £20 to hire all the kit needed for a day’s surfing.

Where: from the A39, take the B3314 at Wadebridge and follow the signs to Polzeath.

Details were checked at the time of going to press, but prices and availability are liable to change.

 

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