When looking for a suitable place to get your feet wet in Bath, turn your attention away from the eponymous thermal baths and instead head for the coast. The Somerset seafront has some of Britain’s best beaches – think waterfalls pouring into the (albeit, icy) sea, long stretches of powdery sand and cliff faces that stare broodily out into the Bristol Channel. Buckets and spades at the ready, read on for some local tips for where to find the best beaches near Bath.
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St Audries Bay
St Audries Bay is blessed with not one but two waterfalls that gently trickle over the cliff face that edges the bay, keeping a cascade of hanging green plants well hydrated. The bay itself is a crescent cut out of the last meanders of the Quantock Hills (about a 90-minute drive from Bath), and you’ll have to descend down a fairly steep cliff path to reach the mud, shingle and relatively flat tide of the beach proper. It’s here that you’ll be able capture the best shot of the waterfalls. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
Clocking in at seven miles in length, Brean Beach is one of the longest sandy stretches in Europe. On a clear day, head here at dawn when the tide is at its lowest. The water recedes enough to expose seemingly endless miles of mudflats that shine orangey-red in the sunrise. Next, strap on your hiking boots and climb up neighbouring Brean Down to find the remains of a Roman temple and the crumbling ruins of a 19th-century fort that was originally built as a defence against Napoleon. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
The Strand in Minehead
Budding builders won’t want to forget their buckets and spades when heading for The Strand. The tiny locale of Minehead is one of Britain’s busiest seaside towns thanks to its pretty stone harbour, 14th-century church and, of course, its powdery sand that’s perfect for sandcastle building. Get here early to lay your foundations in the best spot (anywhere near the Strand Cafe & Ice Cream Parlour will do), and then spend the afternoon fishing for shrimp in the rock pools closer to the headland. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
A rural and unspoiled stretch of Exmoor’s Jurassic Coast, Kilve Beach is the point where sweeping limestone cliffs reach down towards curving shelves of slate and shingle. Walk along the rocky waterfront at low tide and see how many ammonite and reptile fossils you can spot in the surrounding stones and rock pools – but don’t be tempted to take them with you. This an area of special scientific interest geared around preserving the fossils for future generations. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
If you look up from Dunster Beach, you can see the red bricks and ruined tower of Dunster Castle silhouetted atop the Tor (a steep hill) in the distance. This only adds to the beach’s secluded, mystical atmosphere. Rocks and pale-green hills crumble into the sea, and, with just the one kiosk and no other facilities, it really does feel like you’re out in the wilderness. It is, however, just a few hundred metres from the West Somerset Railway Line where you can jump on an old-fashioned steam train and puff through the surrounding heritage countryside. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
Six miles of golden sand that melts into gentle waves and backed by piles of sand dunes and velvety grasses. The water is so shallow that when the tide is out you can see the wreck of SS Nornen – a Norwegian barque that ran aground here in 1897 and has been stranded ever since. If you walk south along the coastline, you’ll end up at Burnham-on-Sea lighthouse – a popular spot for photographers and, as this is a dog-friendly beach, proliferated by off-the-leash furry friends. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
Ladye Bay and Margaret’s Bay
Just under an hour’s drive from Bath brings you to this pair of beaches that are guarded over by the ivy-smothered tower of Walton Castle – a 17th-century hilltop fort that’s the ideal model for a sandcastle; speaking of which, you’ll want to build these on the sandbanks at Margaret’s Bay, as the wild seafront at Ladye is mostly dark volcanic rock. Swimming is generally not advised unless you’re taking part in the annual Long Swim, which has seen competitors splashing from Ladye Bay to the next cove along every summer since 1928. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
There’s something magical about Porlock Weir’s pebbly frontier. The sea changes from stormy grey to a deep green where it meets the River Severn. Steep wooded hills rise above rows of postcard-perfect white houses. Blue-masted fishing boats sit patiently poised in neat rows on the sandbanks. In fact, its beauty has inspired a handful of literary legends – Coleridge’s Kubla Khan was supposedly written just down the road at Ash Farm, and the coastal path has been walked by both Shelley and Wordsworth. Recommended by local insider Matthew Wilcox
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