Spend a day at the seaside with Katie McGonagle’s guide to top coastal spots
Ask anyone to name a few favourite childhood memories and at least one is bound to involve a 99 Flake and a British beach.
Our coast comes in for more than its fair share of stick – sure you need to pack a waterproof as well as suncream, and you might still end up with sand in your sandwiches – but on an island where we’re never more than 70 miles from the sea, those sandy stretches deserve more attention.
Holkham Bay, Norfolk
Remember the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love, where Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is shipwrecked and makes her way alone along a wild, deserted beach? That was filmed here. Think vast stretches of untouched golden sands and skies that seem to go on forever. Swimming conditions aren’t brilliant, but it’s the ideal spot for early morning strolls or quiet picnics by the sea.
Book it: Fisherman’s Cottage is a traditional flint cottage in Wells-next-the-Sea, within Holkham National Nature Reserve and a two-mile walk from the beach. It sleeps five, starting at £793 for a week from July 5 with Hoseasons.
St Aubin’s Bay, Jersey
Jersey is the sunniest place in Britain, so pick a long, sheltered bay on its south coast and beach lovers are practically guaranteed a pleasant day. Conditions are ideal for a dip, and the number of Hobie Cats, windsurfers and waterskiers on an average summer’s day shows just how popular watersports are too.
Book it: Radisson Blu Waterfront Hotel, Jersey, is at the St Helier end of the bay, offering direct beach access plus land surfing and canoeing. Room-only rates start at £89 in winter and £139 in summer, paying 10% commission.
Achill Island, County Mayo
Staggeringly beautiful Achill is one of the jewels in the crown of Ireland’s wild west coast. It offers a choice of beach experiences, from quiet and untouched sands at sheltered Keem Bay to the longer and busier Trawmore Strand, which has great watersports and swimming on its western side. Ann Pye, Irish Ferries head of holidays, says of the latter: “The beach is a great sweep of golden sand with the little village of Keel at one end. It’s fantastic for a walk or horse-ride before breakfast, for paddling and sandcastle building, or beach cricket.”
Book it: Irish Ferries offers a week self-catering at Trawmore Holiday Bungalows in Keel from £543 this summer for up to six staying in a four-bedroom holiday home, including ferry crossings with car.
Fistral Beach, Newquay
Forget surfin’ USA – Fistral’s west-facing Atlantic coastline and famous Cribbar reef make this one of the premier surfing spots in the UK, and home to several surf schools. It’s also a great family beach, with Newquay Zoo, Waterworld and a boating lake nearby.
Book it: Coast Cottage is a semi-detached bungalow sleeping up to six, just a 275-yard walk from the beach. Cottages4you offers a week self-catering arriving August 9 from £1,032.
Ring of Kerry, County Kerry
For anyone shouting ‘it’s not a beach’, this 111-mile coastal drive deserves a spot on this list for its raw, unspoilt beauty and views over the wild Atlantic Ocean. No matter how good the panoramic setting on your camera, there’s no way to capture those bright blue seas and emerald-green fields except to stand back in awe.
Book it: Trafalgar’s Best of Ireland 10-day tour includes the Ring of Kerry along with kissing the Blarney Stone, sightseeing along the Connemara coastline, plus Dublin and Donegal, from £1,550 including B&B accommodation, door-to-door airport transfers and sightseeing.
This is the town where Butlins began and has been a popular family resort since the 1930s. The beach has Blue Flag status and an array of family entertainments including a pier and funfair on Central Beach, as well as nearby Natureland Seal Sanctuary, which is also home to penguins, butterflies and reptiles.
Book it: A three-night break at Butlins Skegness starts from £69 arriving July 11, based on four in a standard self-catering apartment.
Troon Beach, Scotland
This Scottish resort is a great all-rounder. Easy to get to with half-hourly trains from Glasgow, it boasts brilliant views over Arran and Ailsa Craig, a play area for youngsters who are bored of building sandcastles, great winds for kitesurfers and a choice of golf courses, including the host of the 2016 Open Golf Championship. If it gets chilly, go for a fish supper at McCallums of Troon by the marina.
Book it: SuperBreak offers two nights’ B&B at four-star Macdonald Marine Hotel & Spa from £69.50 Sunday-Wednesday and £89.50 Thursday-Saturday.
Surprised to see the UK’s stag and hen do capital on a list of best beaches? You shouldn’t be – this Victorian resort is reminiscent of the heyday of the British seaside, and between the Pleasure Beach and Blackpool Tower, it still offers more than enough for a good day out. Stroll the piers, ride the Ferris wheel or brave it on The Big One rollercoaster – there’s no excuse not to have fun.
Book it: Attraction World’s The Big Ticket – Blackpool covers entry to seven attractions including the Blackpool Tower Eye, Dungeon, Sea Life centre and Madame Tussauds, from £45 for adults and £33 for under-14s.
Rhossili Bay, Gower, South Wales
TripAdvisor isn’t always right, but readers got it spot-on when they voted this secluded Welsh bay the best beach in the UK and ninth in the world earlier this year. The three-mile stretch is backed by sand dunes and offers total tranquillity for romantic strolls or early-morning dog walkers. Look out for offshore island Worm’s Head and 19th century shipwreck Helvetia, hike along the scenic coastal path, or grab a surfboard and take to the waves.
Book it: Boutique hotel Fairyhill is six miles away and offers rooms from £190 a night Sunday-Thursday with Welsh breakfast, or at weekends from £280 including dinner.
When millionaires start buying up every spare spot of land, you know you’re on to a winner, and Sandbanks – reportedly the world’s fourth most-expensive place per square foot to buy property – is certainly that. It’s also been awarded Blue Flag status more times than any other UK beach, has excellent wheelchair access, and a chain link ferry to Studland for even more beachfront fun.
Book it: A three-night stay at nearby Haven site Rockley Park, Poole, starts at £330 for up to six sharing a superior two-bedroom caravan.
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