Put your poorly performing pounds to good use with a seaside jaunt in old Blighty. While the best of the sizzling forecasts might be behind us, late summer days are some of the best times to visit Britain’s coastlines, as crowds grow thinner and the shrill music of ice cream vans tinkles on more distant roads. Our local beaches might not boast the sunshine levels of Greek islands, but with spectacular vistas, tolerable water temperatures and even the chance to take your dog along, there’s far more than just sandy expanses luring you to their shores…
For picturesque perfection – Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
After a gentle amble across windswept fields from Stackpole Quay, your first glimpse of Pembrokeshire’s prettiest beach is framed by a crumbling old stone archway. Duck under, traversing the rocky path down towards the waterfront and you’ve reached Barafundle Bay – arguably Britain’s most beautiful beach. Clichés are rich pickings when describing shorelines, but there’s little else to use for Barafundle – it’s all deep, soft and golden sand curving around aquamarine waters, bleached driftwood branches and shallow paddling aplenty. Thanks to its location between two rocky Welsh headlands, swimmers can even chance the chilly Irish Sea. Put bluntly, this truly is one of Britain’s most gorgeous shorelines that, when lit by peachy sunset rays, is sensationally cinematic.
For gourmands – Margate Main Sands, Kent
There’s little left to feel nostalgic about in Kent’s most edgy coastal resort. Down from Londoners have swamped the expansive Margate mains sands, triggering a beachside revival over the past few years. Spend your morning exploring the new Turner Contemporary gallery that sits astride the ever-bustling beach and spotting the neon Tracey Emin hanging above the harbour tourist office. Aside from packing your bucket and spade for an afternoon snoozing beachside, make sure to bring your knife and fork too. A burgeoning restaurant scene in the old town boasts tip-toe seafood at Antverk & Found and Angela’s, while GB Pizza serves quality plates with a waterside view. If you can bare the crowds of moustachioed Dalston expats, this is the perfect weekend escape with a suitably dapper beach to match.
For nature lovers – Formby, Merseyside
Sun-basking not your scene? The gargantuan dunes, sprawling sands and nearby woods of Formby offer plenty else to explore for beach-shy visitors. Just 35 minutes by rail from Liverpool city centre, the well-heeled town and its adjacent beach boasts the surprising title of being a site of special scientific interest and is home to one of Britain’s only red squirrel reserves. Spot rust-coloured bushy tails, emerald-bellied sand lizards and a number of rare and endangered seabirds along the coast. And, when the tide pulls away from the shoreline, look out for Mesolithic footprints in the ground, left by ancient hunters and their prey over 5,000 years ago and still visible today.
For crowd-dodgers – East Head, West Sussex
Blissfully free of screeching kids and jiggling, sunburnt flesh, the pebble-strewn sister beach to West Sussex’s hectic West Wittering might require picnic chairs for a comfortable extended stay, but the stone shores are worth an escape ftom hellish summer mobs that swarm sandier beaches nearby. Breezy sand dunes, far-reaching shallow waters ripe for paddling and plenty of excellent nearby pubs ready for evening pints make this one of England’s most easily accessible beaches.
For stretching vistas – Holkham, Norfolk
Stretching out like a lunar landscape towards the big sky horizon, you’ll likely be overcome with a desire to holler loudly into the blustering winds that sweep the sands of Holkham Beach when you breach the bordering dunes of this spectacular shoreline. Best visited when the tide has pulled completely away from this pancake-flat sandscape, spot herds of horses enjoying a morning ride along the shoreline and, to be frank, very little else along the empty, expansive beach. Just one word of advice: take a windbreaker – the never-ending stretches of sand entices wind-tunnel style gales.
For walkers – Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Dedicate yourself to a four-mile moorland romp in Scotland’s far-North Eastern corner, and hardy walkers will have their stamina rewarded with a startling view of one of Britain’s most remote – and most beautiful – beaches. We don’t recommend taking a dip in the angry surges of the North Atlantic, but this beach would never be a first pick for sun-bathing. Instead, take time to admire the jaw dropping view of pink-tinged sands butting against black cliffs and the towering Am Buachaillle rock stack which glowers from beyond the headland. Make time to explore the ruined Sandwood Cottage that sits a short detour from the beach path, as well.
For history buffs – Bamburgh, Northumberland
Sat under the foreboding gaze of 11th-century Bamburgh Castle, the wild, beautiful and curving beach of the same name offers a perfect spot to daydream about historic fantasies of being king on this rocky, sculpted shoreline. Castles are aplenty along the Northumberland coast and on clear days you can spot the isle-bound Lindisfarn Castle to the north of Bamburgh, perched atop Holy Island. For jaw-dropping scenery, head down to the sand-dune crowned beach as the sun sets, for coral-pink skies, shimmering dune grasses and a coal-coloured keep silhouette.
For turquoise waters – Pentle Bay, Scilly Isles
They might not reach the bath-water warm temperatures of St Lucia’s lazy waves but the transparent waters of Pentle Bay boast some of the warmest waves in Britain. Half a mile of ash white sand borders the paddle-friendly shallows of azure blue waters, while only elegant oyster catchers will keep you company during a visit. It’s also dog-friendly throughout the year, so Rufus and co. can enjoy the picture-perfect views as well.