The UK is jam-packed with excellent beaches. In fact, nowhere in the UK is more than 70 miles from the sea, so regardless of where you find yourself, you’re likely close to a stretch of spiffing coastline.
Of course, this makes our task – picking the best of the bunch – very difficult indeed. That’s why we’ve focussed on the most beautiful UK beaches. So, when it comes to posting your holiday snaps on Insta, no one will ever believe you’ve been vacationing in Blighty and not some far-flung destination.
From South Wales to the furthest tip of Cornwall, we’ve unearthed the country’s finest beaches, perfect for paddling, bathing and surfing.
This Blue Flag-winning stretch of Cornish coastline, overlooking Hayle Bay, is as deep as it is wide, making for a huge expanse of sand on which to play and sunbathe. Make sure you time your visit according to the tide, as nearly all of Polzeath Beach is covered during high water. You can always explore the local shops, cafes and bars when the sea finally comes to wash away your sandcastles.
Among the country’s most recognisable beauty spots, Durdle Door is an exceptionally photogenic destination on the Jurassic Coast, a world heritage site that stretches from Exmouth to Studland Bay in Dorset. Make sure you wear decent footwear (not just a pair of flip-flops) when heading down to the beach, as there’s a bit of a walk getting there. And keep an eye on the little ones when paddling, as the beach shelves steeply in places.
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Weymouth. Details for onward travel can be found at visit-dorset.com.
With beautiful white sands and sparkling turquoise water, Pedn Vounder Beach, down in the furthest reaches of Cornwall, is one of the region’s prettiest bathing spots. Testament to its beauty, Pedn Vounder Beach was used as the setting for a dream sequence in the TV adaptation of Poldark. Travelers should bear in mind that the beach has no facilities and is an unofficial naturist spot!
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Penzance.
Blackpool Sands Beach, with its golden shoreline backed by evergreen trees is an idyllic little bay with beautiful, clear water. It’s on the South West Coast Path, so a great place to stop if you’re exploring the local region. Once you’re done with paddling, head to the Venus Café for a spot of lunch, with indoor and outdoor seating available, and takeaway for those looking to extend their beach time.
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Totnes. For details of onward travel, visit blackpoolsands.co.uk.
Sheltered from the wind by a promontory, Sennen Cove Beach appeals to both sun worshippers and adventurers alike. A surfing hotspot, the beach also boasts granite cliffs that are popular among climbers. Sennen itself is a small village with a harbour, lifeboat station and, home to the Round House and Capstan art gallery, for when you’re done playing on the beach.
On the National Trust owned Studland Peninsula, you’ll find one of England’s best beaches, with extensive dunes and views out to see – a great place to watch the ships coming and going from Poole Harbour. Peaceful during off-season months, Shell Bay is usually quite popular in the summer. It’s also home to Shell Bay Restaurant and Bistro, a perfectly relaxing place to sample the local seafood cuisine, with windows looking out to sea.
Bantham Beach, which forms part of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is known to a be a safe little spot, perfect for taking the kids on bucket-and-spade outings. From here, you can visit Burgh Island by taking the so-called sea-tractor, a hydraulically controlled platform on wheels. It’s also a decent spot for surfing, with The Sloop Inn nearby, for when it’s time for a drink and a bite to eat.
Seven miles south of Carmarthen lies Llansteffan beach, a peaceful stretch of sand on the Tywi Estuary across from Ferryside. Overlooked by Llansteffan Castle, it makes for a perfect day of adventuring. Follow the Wales Coastal Path round the headland to hidden gem Scott’s Bay where low tide reveals a huge stretch of sand and rock-pools.
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Carmarthen.
This beach has accolades in abundance from ‘best in Wales’, ‘best for picnics’, ‘best for dogs’ and the list goes on! Three miles of sand starts from one of Gower’s famous landmarks, Worm’s Head on the National Trust coastline, where Atlantic swells also make this beach a fine surfing spot. Getting there from Swansea train station is easier than you think, with the help of Swansea Bay Without a Car.
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Swansea.
Often likened to a Caribbean beach, with its golden sands and turquois water, Barafundle Bay is a beautiful little stretch of Welsh coast. Part of the National Trust-managed Stackpole Estate, it is nonetheless a fairly isolated beach with no facilities, and requires a bit of a trek to get there (not suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs). But if you’re looking to find a little peace and quiet in a seaside oasis, this is the place for you.
Getting there: The nearest GWR station is Pembroke.
Worried that plans may change? No need! Until 31st December, you can change your advance purchase tickets fee free with GWR, so you can book, and travel, with confidence. Find out more on our Safety page.
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