With summer 2009 seeing a record number of Britons seeking their sun, sea and sandy pleasures a lot closer to home, we’ve picked out the UK’s best beach spots to suit all seaside needs.
The UK might be a teeny isle hovering on the outskirts of the European landmass, but a substantial plus point of small-island status is that a splashing stretch of coastline is never far away.
Best for… surfers
Set in a sleepy and scenic pocket of southwest England, Croyde offers some of the most reliable waves in the country. Expansive golden sands, a friendly surfing community and plenty of crashing waters make this Devonshire beach a massive draw to surfers of all ages and abilities. As a result, Croyde has played host to the British Surfing Championships on three occasions. The summer months see the beach and waters get pretty packed, with a host of surf schools taking to the waves, but the cheerful crowds just add to the buzz, and satisfied surfers continue to return to Croyde year after year.
Also try: Newquay, Cornwall
While there are grumbles that excessive tourism has worn away Newquay’s charm, great waves, clear Gulf Stream waters and swathes of dedicated surfers keep this stretch of Cornwall coast a firm contender for the UK’s surfing top spot.
Best for… swimming
West Wittering, Sussex
For rippling sand and Blue Flag waters, West Wittering really does come up trumps. The calm shallows of low tide are perfect for paddling water babies and relaxed sploshing, while the more undulating waters of high tide are ideal for a refreshing dip. With the Isle of Wight providing a barrier from the Channel in front and the protective backdrop of the South Downs behind, West Wittering enjoys its own balmy microclimate. Being by far the best beach for miles, things can get rather crowded when the sun’s out, but it’s always relaxed, and the vast sands are definitely big enough to accommodate everyone.
Also try: Tyrella, Co Down
Broad, flat sands with lapping water well worthy of their Blue Flag status make Tyrella ideal for the avid swimmer, and a pretty conservation area adds to the beach’s simple charm. Tyrella has been proud owner of a Blue Flag for over a decade, and lifeguards are on duty in July and August.
Best for… scenic views
Holywell Bay, Cornwall
Even with some seriously stiff local competition, Holywell Bay undoubtedly ranks as one of the most beautiful beaches that the UK has to offer. Backed by sandy dunes punctuated with tufts of long grass, and with the looming figures of the Gull Rocks off shore, this striking spot is a picture postcard of idyllic British beach. Holywell’s clear waters are popular with swimmers, and the extensive beach area is ideal for brisk walks, family ball games and pretty picnics. Plenty of scenic walks can be found along the coastal path, and to the north of the beach lies the Holy Well from which bay gets its name.
Also try: Sandwood Bay, Scotland
For a refreshing walk along a deserted beach, you won’t do better than Sandwood Bay. This piece of Scottish coastline is said to be the most remote beach in mainland Britain (it’s a 7km (4.5 mile) trek across the moors just to reach it) but the peachy sand, ice-silver Atlantic, wild rocks and achingly blue loch make it all worthwhile.
Best for… families
This bubbling south coast location is a magnet for beach lovers of all ages; lively Bournemouth bursts into action the moment the sun peeps out, and, as well as crystal seas and tons of sand, a family friendly Kidzone scheme means added fun for children and less stress for parents. Bournemouth’s Blue Flag beach is noted for its cleanliness, and the 11km (7 mile) stretch has received several accolades, including the Quality Coast Award. With all it has going for it, Bournemouth can certainly attract a hefty crowd, but this always ensures a constant supply of family frolics and plenty of action.
Also try: Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Find a clean, sandy beach and a wealth of traditional seaside attractions at Weston, one of the UK’s most famous seaside towns. Paddle in the clear waters, take a ride on one of Weston-super-Mare’s famous donkeys, and cool off with a brightly coloured ice cream.
Best for… stripping off
Morfa Dyffryn, Wales
Situated on the Welsh coast, between Barmouth and Harlech, the golden sands and grassy-green backdrop of Morfa Dyffryn are a beautiful piece of coastline, a regular dolphin-sighting spot, and one of the UK’s premiere naturist beaches. The naturist section, which is 1km long and found in the northern end of the beach, is popular with singles, couples and families alike; although naturism has been practised here since the 1930s, it wasn’t until early this decade that a section was specifically set aside for naturists.
Also try: Studland Bay, Purbeck, Dorset
This soft and sandy National Trust beach boasts clear waters and pretty surrounds. A designated section is reserved for naturists.