We might not be able to rely on sunshine, but the UK boasts a surprisingly good selection of sand and shingle beaches dotted along its coastline. Whether you want to embrace the traditional Great British seaside experience (bucket and spade at the ready!), or are searching for somewhere unspoilt and secluded, one of these five brilliant beaches is sure to suit.
Sennen Cove, Cornwall
World-weary fishermen and super-cool surfers mingle at this beautiful sandy beach near Land’s End. Cafes selling freshly caught crab and yellow ice-cream made with Cornish clotted cream provide the sustenance for long windswept walks or hours out in the water. It gets busy in summer, but that just adds to the holiday atmosphere.
Where to stay: The Old Success Inn is the local pub with rooms (some with stunning sea views), or base yourself in livelier Penzance 20 minutes away – The Artist’s Residence is eclectically decorated, as you’d expect.
Blackpool Sands, Devon
Skipping along the south coast to Devon, Blue Flag Blackpool Sands is a great spot for families, active types and nature-lovers alike. Bearing no resemblance at all to its northern namesake, this golden beach sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is backed by lush pine trees and rolling greenery. The summer crowd loves making the most of the clear waters, with kayaks, paddleboards and bodyboards available to hire. There’s also a platform in the sea for swimming out to.
Brighton, East Sussex
It’s unlikely to win any beauty contests, but Brighton Beach has a unique, pebbly charm nonetheless. With traditional funfair rides on the pier, stripy deckchairs for hire, and an arched promenade lined with souvenir shops and cafes, it definitely reaches ‘peak seaside’ while also scoring maximum cool points for its arty and eclectic vibe. Explore the maze of quirky shopping streets in the Lanes, wander grungy North Laine, or hit the banging beachfront bars and clubs.
Lunan Bay, Scotland
This unspoilt swathe of Scottish sands is overlooked by red cliffs, green hills and a crumbling castle, providing an atmospheric spot for walkers, explorers and those hoping to catch the occasional glimpse of seaside summer sun. It’s also just two hours’ drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh, or one hour from Aberdeen or Dundee, so you can combine coast and city in one ‘best of Scotland’ break.
Where to stay: If you’re keen on Scotland’s national sport, the nearby Carnoustie Golf Hotel sits steps from the Carnoustie Links golf courses. Alternatively, the Scotsman offers a four-star city base in the heart of Edinburgh Old Town.
Less well-known than next-door neighbour Whitby, Sandsend is the perfect place for long beachfront walks past a picturesque backdrop of grassy cliffs. The little fishing village offers an array of simple seaside pleasures, from crab sandwiches at the Sandside beach-shack cafe, to hunting for fossils among the rocks. You can also walk along the coast to Whitby in around an hour, and wander the famous town’s quaint cobbled lanes lined with cafes, boutiques and galleries.
Where to stay: The Rainwaite Estate hotel and spa sits between Sandsend and Whitby, while the White Horse & Griffin inn boasts a handy location between Whitby harbour and the breath-taking hilltop abbey.
What’s your favourite beach in the UK?