The Best Beaches in North West England

Silverdale beach
Silverdale beach | © Emma Lavelle
Emma Lavelle

“Manchester has everything except a beach”, or so Ian Brown’s famous quote goes. Fair enough, there isn’t a beach within the city itself, but there are plenty of sandy strips lining the coast within an hour’s drive. The north west is often overlooked when discussing the UK’s beaches, but if you take the time to explore the coastline (which is actually the least developed area of coast in England), you’ll discover rocky coves, bountiful sand dunes and vast areas of unspoiled sand. Got your bucket and spade ready? These are the six spots to make a beeline for.

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Silverdale beach

Nestled above Morecambe, on the cusp of Cumbria, Silverdale boasts an endless sandy bay each time the time recedes. Stretching all the way to Grange-over-Sands, it may be tempting to wander all the way across the sand, but this area is known for its quicksand and fast tides. Stick to walking your dog on the low cliffs, scrambling around the rock pools searching for crabs and strolling on the smooth sand close to the shore. Take some time to explore the quaint little village and to visit the Wolf House Gallery for its impeccable cakes – after all, the twist and turns of the country lanes that lead you there warrant more than just admiring the view and hopping back in your car.


Formby beach

Every man and his dog may descend upon Formby when the temperature rises, but for good reason. This Merseyside beach is buffered with sand dunes leading back onto a woodland nature reserve that is home to a thriving red squirrel population. The beach itself is vast, offering plenty of space for families, dog walkers and sun worshippers to claim their own patch, but it’s the dunes themselves that are the real pull. Blocking the view of the carpark, they offer picture-perfect vistas while also supplying hidden nooks for picnicking in private.


Crosby’s beach may not be as picturesque as nearby Formby (although the sand dunes still loom), but it attracts visitors for a much more cultured reason. Antony Gormley installed one hundred life-size iron men here in 2005 for his now iconic Another Place exhibition. At high tide, many of the men submit to the sea and vanish, some of their heads poking above the bobbing waves. Visit at low tide to walk among the men, admiring the sculptures and taking advantage of these world-famous art works situated right on your doorstep.


If beachside art beckons you, take a trip further north to admire the sculptures that litter the shoreline of the small town of Cleveleys. The promenade, built as part of the flood defence system to protect the town from high tides, attracts walkers and families looking for easy access to the sand, but it’s the sculptures that offer something a little different to the other beaches in the area. The town’s very own fairy tale, The Sea Swallow blends actual local features with legends, creating a unique mythology that is expanded by the sculptures that link in to the children’s book. The Sea Swallow, the Ogre’s Paddle and Mary’s Shell will delight children while appealing to art lovers.

Blackpool South

Blackpool’s beaches may have been tarred with a bad rep in the past, but that spurred the local council on for a massive clean-up project that has paid off with the iconic seaside resort being awarded its first blue flag beach in 2015. Dogs are banned from this sandy strip of beach, the water is now clean and safe to swim in and the nearby attractions encourage families to the area. On hot sunny days, when the Pleasure Beach and arcades have taken their toll, South beach is the perfect place to retire to with a picnic blanket, fish and chips, and a good old fashioned bucket and spade for traditional British seaside fun.


Just a couple of miles up the coast from Silverdale, Arnside isn’t ideal for families and certainly isn’t recommended for people wishing to stroll on the sand or bathe in the water due to its dangerous tides and quick-sands. It is, however, one of the most idyllic stretches of coastline in the north west, situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and offering beautiful views of both Morecambe Bay and the Lake District. The best times to visit Arnside are either in the evening, to admire the sunset while walking along the coastal path, or to watch The Bore – a rapidly approaching small tidal wave that occurs every couple of weeks.

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