Britain may be on the chilly side, but there’s no doubt that the UK has some of the most stunning, historic and plain kooky beaches the world has to offer. Inspired by the incredible scenes in BBC2’s eight-season series Coast (episodes from season eight currently airing on Wednesdays at 8pm), we reveal our eight must-see beaches this summer…
This quaint hidden cove is the place to escape the rowdy hordes in nearby Newquay. Set at the bottom of a quintessentially English village with two charming pubs, you’ll find it by wandering through the National Trust car park. Scale the looming dune and you’ll be rewarded with a goose-pimple inducing view. To the right of the bay, the tidal River Gannel offers ferry runs from the beach to Fern Pit. Here you can order a cooked lobster, caught that morning, or opt for a stunning cliff top walk along the headland overlooking the bay.
You won’t find miles of lush sand and opaque waters here, but tons of pebbles, a burnt down pier and a section of beach for nudists. Don’t worry, you don’t have to don your birthday suit to enjoy this alternative haven on the south coast, but it helps if you come with an open mind. This is the youngest city in the UK, the gay capital of the UK and historically where mods, rockers and drivers of vintage Mini and VWs arrive en mass at the weekends. Whether you find yourself in the tarot booth on the pier, watching an open air screening of Quadrophenia on the beach or skinny dipping in a feather boa, it will certainly be a beach break like no other.
3. Llangennith/ Rhossili Bay
This pristine bay, surrounded by sand dunes sprouting grassy green tufts, sits on the the Gower Peninsula in Wales. This often-empty cove is the place to come for watersports. Sea kayakers, surfers and kite boarders don’t need to jostle for space along the three-mile stretch of water, there are plenty of waves for everyone. Nearby, the pretty local village and St Cenydd church, built by Norman warlords, are well worth a look.
This stunning remote bay will help you unclutter your thoughts. Here in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of mainland Scotland, there are no donkey rides or ice cream vans to keep you occupied – it’s just you and unadulterated nature. Amusement comes from wistfully gazing across the waters towards the island of Scarp, or searching for eagles, gannets and deer on the cliffs, in between refreshing dips in the sea.
On Norfolk’s east coast, you’ll find the same idyllic stretch of butterscotch sand from the closing scenes of rom-com-drama Shakespeare in Love. This spectacular beach, cradled by big blue skies, salt marshes and pine woodlands, is also part of the largest nature reserve in England, where sign-posted walks will lead you through an abundance of wild scenery. If you’ve got little people in tow, the shallow lagoons at high tide are safe, dinghy-friendly places to splash around in.
In north Devon, two miles from Braunton, you’ll find the sleepy village of Saunton and its adjoining three and a half miles of beach, stretching as far as the eye can see. This is the very same place Robbie Williams shot his video Angels, and scenes from The Wall (the Pink Floyd) were filmed. Today, however, it’s known as a surfing epicentre. Longboarders and kite surfers flock here to ride its perfect peeling waves, and dart along in the area’s gusty winds.
7. Holy Island
Just off the coast of Northumberland, Holy Island can be reached twice a day at low tide, via a mile-long paved causeway. The rugged beach (also known as Lindisfarne Beach) is a haven for marine life and little critters, which live among the dozens of rock pools. Meanwhile, the nearby Tudor castle is well worth a look, as is the ancient Pilgrims’ Way, complete with handy refuge boxes for stranded walkers (who’ve lost track of the tidal times) en route. While on the island, don’t forget to indulge in one of the famous local crab sandwiches.
Blackpool’s not exactly known for its inviting water, while those with strong bowels may brave the waters, most visitors stick to its endless activities on land. Over five miles, you’ll find a fairy light-covered vista of amusement arcades, rollercoasters, cabaret joints, historic piers and the iconic Blackpool Tower slap bang in the centre. This place is all about old-fashioned, thigh-slapping fun, it’s so tacky it’s kitsch – that’s why we, and more than a million visitors each summer, love it.