With summer just around the corner, it’s not too late to book a break by the sea. And, after all, who doesn’t love the beach? The comforting sensation of sand between your toes… the sound of the sea lapping against the shoreline… Ah, it’s bliss. When you think of amazing coastlines, you’d be forgiven for casting your mind to a far flung corner of the globe but the British Isles has some of the best beaches in the world! We’ve picked out some of our favourites that are renowned for their high environmental and quality standards – take a look at our top 20 UK Blue Flag beaches.
On the south coast of the Isle of Wight you’ll find a real hidden gem. The seafront at Ventnor, established in the Victorian era, is built on the steep slopes of St Boniface Down and the beautiful beach glistens with a unique red tint. If you crave warmer summers than the mainland can offer, you’ll love Ventnor’s very own micro-climate; the popular botanical garden thrives in the milder weather and is definitely worth a visit.
West Shore, Llandudno
North Wales is blessed with a number of superb beaches and West Shore is certainly one of the very best. Much calmer than the lively North Shore in Llandudno, the tranquil surroundings make it an ideal location for people of all ages to hide away from the usual stresses and strains of everyday life. If you enjoy flying kites (or even want to try out kite-surfing), at low tide there’s ample opportunity for you to make the most of the strong winds and vast stretches of golden sand.
North Bay, Scarborough
Away from Scarborough’s bustling South Bay is the North Bay; a long, flat, sandy beach, strewn with rock pools which beg to be explored at low tide. Due to its level terrain, the beach is often used by recreational water sports enthusiasts all year round. Intrigued by those three pyramid-shaped buildings up the coast? Investigate and you’ll discover Scarborough’s popular sea life sanctuary home to Humboldt Penguins, the Common Octopus and even the Lesser Spotted Dogfish!
South Sands, Salcombe
Deep into Devon is the picturesque harbour of Salcombe, made famous by its 19th century shipbuilding heritage. Today, you’ll find a buzzing tourism industry based on sailing and yachting, as well as intimate beaches and rugged shorelines where you can investigate the region’s smuggling past. South Sands beach is one of the most unspoilt in South Devon and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to boot.
Main Sands, Ramsgate
With a long stretch of golden sand and the world’s only Royal Harbour and Marina, you can see why Ramsgate’s Main Sands beach has been attracting tourists to its shores for years. Excellent for sandcastle building or simply enjoying the sunshine on one of the charming deck chairs for hire, Ramsgate has everything you need for a fun day out at the seaside. And when you need a pick-me-up, there are lots of little bars and cafés close by offering a continental al fresco feel on the waterfront.
Main Beach, Abersoch
Arguably one of the most popular beaches in Wales, Main Beach has everything a day-tripper could ask for. The waters are internationally recognised for sailing, so it’s ideal whether you relish a spot of watersports yourself or prefer to watch the professionals compete. There’s lots of space to kick back and enjoy the lovely British sunshine, not to mention spectacular views of the Llyn Peninsula and nearby Snowdonia National Park.
Nestled within the quaint Cornish parish of St Minver is the sleepy seaside resort of Polzeath. Its beach is a thing of natural beauty, stretching over 1,500 feet across and extending almost as far out to sea at low water. The stunning seashore attracts thousands of visitors every year due to its reputation as a UK surfing hotspot. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a dolphin or two.
Ruby Bay, Elie Woodhaven
Ruby Bay in Fife is a real sanctuary for holidaymakers who prefer to spend their time exploring clusters of rock pools and spotting seldom seen wildlife. Popular with walkers, it’s a great alternative to the usual hustle and bustle you sometimes find at the seaside. Lying just east of the harbour, Ruby Bay is also only a short distance from a number of attractive seaside bistros and restaurants in nearby Elie.
West Cliff Beach, Whitby
There’s much more to Whitby than Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, you know! The North Yorkshire seaside town has beaches on both sides of the River Esk, but the larger sandy beach on West Cliff has an unmissable row of brightly-coloured beach huts along the promenade. It’s the perfect place for families to unwind and sample some of Whitby’s local, freshly prepared, and legendary fish and chips. What could be better?
Perhaps the best of all the beaches on the south coast of England, Sandbanks boasts miles of golden sands along its vast peninsula as well as breathtaking vistas across the English Channel and Dorset’s stunning coastline. The beach itself has held a Blue Flag award for almost 30 years and has an international reputation for quality. The area is also notable for its extremely wealthy residents and lavish houses; it’s an ideal location for holidaymakers wanting to experience the ultimate beach lifestyle in the UK.
Dawlish Warren Beach
With a coastline that stretches for miles, from Dawlish town in the west to Exe estuary in the east, Dawlish Warren is a truly spectacular beach. Its popularity with holidaymakers is largely due to the 506-acre shoreline and vast caravan parks. The sand spit at Dawlish Warren is also home to a renowned nature reserve and an 18-hole golf course which command impressive views of Devon and the English Channel.
Albion Beach, Walton-on-the-Naze
On the beautiful Essex Sunshine Coast, Albion Beach has something for everyone. The gently shelving beach is the perfect place to enjoy a day out at the seaside with the family; you can watch the yachts and fishing boats sail across Hamford Water, peruse the nearby shopping outlets and or sample the local eateries. But if you’d rather get a taste of the local wildlife, a mini expedition to nearby Naze Cliffs and the National Nature Reserve will provide hours of enjoyment.
East Beach, Littlehampton
At the mouth of the River Arun you’ll find the West Sussex seaside resort of Littlehampton. At the popular East Beach you can involve yourself in a range of activities: take a stroll on the clean coastline, try sailing in the harbour or, for any Guinness World Record enthusiasts amongst you, take a seat on the Littlehampton Long Bench – a huge construction between Harbour Park and the eye-catching East Beach Café – which is officially the longest bench in the UK!
Westward Ho! Beach
In the north of Devon is the vast beach in Westward Ho! Stretching over two miles, the peaceful coastline is popular for holidaymakers searching for some much needed ‘R&R’ (that’s ‘Rest and Relaxation’ if you don’t speak American). Take your time to saunter along the unique pebble ridge which links to Northam Burrows Country Park and marvel at the impressive views of nearby Bideford Bay. The sandy beach is perfectly suited to sandcastle building, kite surfing or even long games of beach cricket.
Criccieth Beach, Snowdonia
Another amazing beach located along the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales is in the charming seaside town of Criccieth. This is definitely one for history buffs out there; the coastline is dominated by the striking ruin of a 13th century castle. However you don’t just have to have a penchant for times past to appreciate Criccieth Beach. The surrounding waters are warmed by the Gulf Stream and at low tide, walkers can take in magnificent views of Cardigan Bay and the nearby mountains of Snowdonia.
West Strand Beach, Portrush
In the heart of the Northern Irish seaside resort of Portrush is West Strand Beach. Along its mile-long peninsula, you can enjoy all the usual amenities you’d expect to find at a vibrant UK seaside town. However, if you happen to be on the other side of the peninsula on East Strand beach at 9.30 on a Saturday morning, don’t be alarmed if you’re joined by a few hundred or so runners taking part in the weekly Portrush Parkrun – the only parkrun on a beach in the world!
Western Promenade, Brightlingsea
Located between the well-known Essex towns of Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea is the seaside resort of Brightlingsea. The Western Promenade is a popular spot for locals as well as tourists. Particularly charming is the collection of retro beach huts along the seafront and all-weather paddling pool which back on to the sandy beach. What’s more, there are plenty of places for children to explore the landscape and get in touch with nature in a safe environment.
North Beach, Bridlington
There’s a delightful sand and shingle beach at Bridlington, an old-fashioned seaside town in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Ideal for families looking for a traditional day out on the coast, there’s also a handsome Edwardian promenade to stroll along and admire the chalky cliffs of Flamborough Head which provide nesting sites for thousands of different species of seabird. Perfect if you have a predilection to a spot of twitching!
Southwold Pier, East Suffolk
Blessed with a long, tranquil shoreline and a restored pier that attracts thousands of visitors every year, it’s easy to see why the people of East Suffolk are extremely proud of their seaside town. The promenade and colourful beach huts give the resort a nostalgic feel, while improved sea defenses and the addition of extra sand allows part of the beach to be accessible at both low and high tide.
Widemouth Bay Beach, Bude
As the name would suggest, Widemouth Bay is a huge open beach close to neighbouring Bude and Boscastle in Northern Cornwall. The long, sandy beach is a surfer’s paradise and home to many fantastic local surf schools. The Blackrock area of Widemouth Bay is a great place to explore at low tide but make sure you don’t get caught there when the tide comes in! Part of the beach is dog-friendly all year round so you can even bring your four-legged friend with you for a day out.