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With UK staycations likely to be on the rise this summer, many will be tempted to hop in the car and head straight for the beach. Whether you’re after a secret sandy alcove away from the bustling crowds, a stretch of pebbly coast to hike along, or giant rolling waves to brush up on your surfing skills, the UK is home to hundreds of brilliant beaches that tick all the boxes. Culture Trip rounds up the best.
It would be easy to head straight for one of the more well-known seaside towns. But with so many beaches flanking Britain’s coastlines, there are countless ones that get overlooked. Here are some of the beaches we think are well worth a visit. However, it’s always important to check the travel advice for any location before setting off.
A long-established fishing village, Robin Hood’s Bay is Britain’s quaint equivalent of the picturesque Amalfi coast. Situated on the Heritage Coast of the North Yorkshire Moors, this seaside town is jam-packed with a fascinating history of smugglers and Insta-ready spots. Narrow, cobbled alleyways are lined with local boutique shops, traditional British pubs and cosy cafés. The beach is adorned with rock pools, and the bay is a popular spot for fossil hunters. The surrounding areas offer great coastal hikes with panoramic views, and not too far out from the bay you’ll reach Ravenscar, where seal colonies line the beaches and can be seen basking all year round.
If you’re after a spot to catch a wave, this long stretch of beach is the perfect place. Saunton Sands is a dog-friendly beach backed by the Unesco Biosphere Reserve, Braunton Burrows. There’s a row of vibrant beach huts peppered along the back, adding a pop of colour to the verdant banks. Three and a half miles (5.6km) of custard-coloured sand sits beside a wide dollop of ocean, popular with beginner and intermediate surfers. Hike up to Crow Point for beautiful views and dramatic cliffs, or pop to neighbouring Braunton for a bite to eat.
Sheringham Beach is award-winning, and despite there being no harbour, the coast was once sprinkled with hundreds of rickety fishing boats; a few can still be seen today floating in the distance or hoisted up along the beachfront. Embrace the history of this seaside town at the local museum, The Mo, an ode to Sheringham’s local fishermen. There’s also a viewing platform offering sweeping ocean views. Stroll along the colourful promenade, lined with multicoloured beach huts, where the walls are pasted with vibrant artwork by local artists. In the town, you’ll find ancient pubs and tea rooms, as well as dainty cafés and classic fish and chip shops. The National Trust’s Sheringham Park is just a stone’s throw away, too: a vast stretch of countryside with spring-green foliage and magnificent coastal views.
You don’t get a better coastal walk than the one at Chesil Beach. This marvellous 18mi (29km) stretch of pebbled land leads from West Bay to Portland, separated from the mainland by the cobalt-blue Fleet Lagoon. It’s not only picture perfect, it’s also recognised as an extremely important area for local wildlife; the Fleet Lagoon is one of the only places in the country that you can walk through a mute swan nesting colony. There are also ample mackerel fishing spots along the strip, and throughout the summer months anglers can be seen enjoying their catch on the fire along the beachfront.
This charming seaside spot was home to the celebrated British composer Benjamin Britten, and his memory is kept alive today – not least through the annual Aldeburgh Music Festival. The south end of the beach proudly holds the Martello Tower; built to ward off attacks from Napoleon, it offers a glimpse into 19th-century history and is made up of almost a million bricks. Coastal walks with impressive views are easy to come by here; follow the river Alde along the signposted hiking trail from Sailors’ Path up to Snape, and imagine how smugglers used to trawl the trails for vulnerable fishermen. Don’t miss lunch from the family-run Aldeburgh Fish & Chips shop, regarded as one of the best places to chow down on fish and chips in the country. They’re open every day except Christmas Day and are committed to serving award-winning British food from dawn until dusk.
This secluded Welsh gem, on the Llyn Peninsula, is renowned for its glittering turquoise waters; it would be fair to mistake Porth Iago for a tropical European beach on a warm summer’s day. Perfect for sunbathing or swimming, the space is relatively private and encased by rugged, Jurassic-Park style cliffs with a carpet of fine sand. The seafront can be reached via a short stroll down the side of the dunes by the new section of the Wales Coast Path. The walk down is a little steep, so take a picnic if you’re setting up camp for the day.
This small seaside town has a picture-perfect postcard promenade lined with a row of multicoloured Victorian-style beach huts. There’s a strong community feel here, and the beach has been previously rewarded for its outstanding cleanliness. You won’t find amusement parks or casinos here; the town is dedicated to keeping the beach as traditional as possible, so you can enjoy the old-fashioned seaside vibe. Grab a cone of cockles and some crab sticks from one of the local fish and chip shops just off the seafront, and head down to the coast in true British seaside style.