A stirring stroll along a sandy beach, followed by a slap-up feed in a seafront caff. What better way to welcome the arrival of spring to the south west? Plus, all three of these shoreline rambles are within walking distance of the GWR network.
Exmouth Beach, Devon
From Exmouth station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the town’s marina. Then it’s sand between the toes all the way to Orcombe Point (which marks the beginning of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site), some two miles to the east. The RNLI Lifeboat Station at Maer Rocks is well worth a visit en route (free tours of the impressive £2m, eco-friendly boathouse are available at weekends).
On the way back down the beach, stop off at Exmouth institution, the Harbour View Café, for a fortifying fry-up and spectacular sea views (it’s dog-friendly too, but note that canine companions are only allowed access to the whole length of the beach until the end of April).
A pebble’s throw from the station, Porthminster is the most accessible-by-train of St Ives’ five beaches. At low-tide, it links with Harbour Beach, below the town centre, to form a mile-long, sheltered crescent of golden sand with stunning views of Godrevy Lighthouse (the source of inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘To the Lighthouse’) on the opposite side of St Ives Bay. Multi-award winning Porthminster Beach Café is rightly renowned for its fresh seafood fare, but also offers top-notch vegetarian and vegan dishes.
It’s a couple of miles’ hike from the station to the seafront, but, once you get there, one of Britain’s longest beaches awaits. The huge tidal range of the Bristol Channel (the second highest in the world, no less) exposes a seven-mile expanse of sand (and, let’s be honest, lots of mud) at low-water, stretching from Burnham-on-Sea to the headland at Brean Down.
Burnham’s North Beach boasts one of the best features along the Somerset coast – the Grade II-listed ‘Low Lighthouse’. This red-and-white striped structure on stilts was built in 1832 and is still in operation. After a welly-clad walk to this much-photographed landmark and back, try the family-run Esplanade Fish Bar on the prom for classic, eat-in, fish and chips (where gluten-free options are always available).