There’s always something a little unglamorous about the prospect of remaining in Britain for the summer holidays. Sea-side towns, in particular, appear old-fashioned, primitive and largely an amusement that is indicative of times past.
Tynemouth, Aberystwyth, Dartmouth, Salcombe and Crosby – to name just a few – don’t exactly conjure images of instagrammable cocktails and envy-inducing horizons.
The realities of a break to a British seaside town – sandy sandwiches, screaming children and wrestling with your deck chair – hardly scream rest and recuperation. But I challenge you to find a friend who has visited one of the many towns along our coastline and not departed with a deep affection for our national character and a fondness for the familiarity of salt and chips with a wooden fork, followed by a 99.
St Ives, Deal and Westward Ho!; Brighton, Whitby and Great Yarmouth: Seaside towns for summer getaway destinations have been favoured for over 300 years. In the eighteenth century, British physician Richard Russell published a dissertation advocating the health benefits of bathing in and drinking sea-water, a work he developed following a period of study in favoured resort, Brighton. This practice was largely preferred by the wealthier members of society, but in 1871, escaping to the seaside became a rite of passage for all, with the Bank Holidays Act, and by 1890, over 360,000 Londoners absconded the capital for the August bank holiday weekend.
Travis Elborough, author of ‘Wish you Were Here: England on Sea’ explained exactly why the British like to be beside the sea. ‘British seaside towns are a jamboree of stuff. They’re relatively egalitarian: in English life, seaside resorts are one of the few places where you can let yourself go – as long as you don’t let yourself down. They’re great symbols of ingenuity, and there’s an element of fantasy. They can always be relied upon to take you out of the humdrum and the ordinary of English life.’
Set aside the romanticism of multicoloured beach huts and the comforting nostalgia of sandcastle-building competitions – Brits choosing to remain in Britain is excellent for local trade. Employment in seaside towns is growing faster than the national average, with particular attention on the hotel and hospitality industries. Not to mention functioning fishing towns, heavily dependent on us urban dwellers escaping the metropolis with a craving for fresh fish, and quaint little markets selling local wares and interesting
As if that’s not enough, the British seaside escape has the almighty advantage of being divorced from soul-destroying airport security, baggage scanners and liquid allowances, instead offering picturesque seascapes, the glinting ocean, coastal walks alongside tumbling hills and rugged cliffs – all only a car journey away.