Best UK beaches: 10 hidden shores to enjoy this summer

·6-min read
UK beaches: A view over the rocks of Barricane Beach in Woolacombe, North Devon (Getty Images)
UK beaches do have it all: Soak up this view over the rocks of Barricane Beach in Woolacombe, North Devon (Getty Images)

You don't have to jet off to the Mediterranean to enjoy sun, sea and sand, with UK beaches home to some of the best shores and scenery you could ask for this summer.

But admittedly, escaping the crowds when the sun's shining here might seem like an impossible task. Not so.

There are plenty of hidden gem seaside spots that are just as, if not more, beautiful than their more popular neighbours. You just need to know where to go, and be willing to travel that slight extra mile.

From remote Cornish coves to secret sweeps of sand in Somerset and Scotland, here are 10 of the UK’s best under-the-radar beaches.

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Beach and cove at Porth Joke, Pentire in Cornwall, England. (Getty Images)
Beach and cove at Porth Joke, Pentire in Cornwall, England. (Getty Images)

Porth Joke, north Cornwall

Locals call this picturesque little cove Polly Joke. It’s tucked between the popular beaches of Holywell and Crantock, but is much less busy as you have a fairly hefty walk to get here (around 15 minutes from the nearest car park). Pack a picnic and bodyboards, and spend the day at this narrow sandy oasis, sheltered by two headlands. You’ll find it much less crowded than its neighbouring beaches on either side.

Covehurst Bay Beach, Sussex

If you want to dodge the crowds at Hastings, head a few miles up the coast and you’ll find this largely shingle beach – also known as Fairlight Glen Beach. Its isolated location has made it the preserve of naturists. But clothed beachgoers shouldn't be put off. You’ll have to climb down a steep path to reach the beach, but you’ll be rewarded by a tranquil, undeveloped stretch of coastline that feels a world away from the crowds nearby.

Barricane Beach, north Devon

With its golden sand and world-class surfing, Woolacombe is one of Devon’s best-known beaches. But if you continue along the Esplanade north, you’ll get to this much quieter spot. You have to make a short, steep climb to get to Barricane’s slender shell beach, which is sheltered by the rocks. But it’s worth it. Tuck into a seriously good Sri Lankan curry, served up by the little cafe, as you watch the sun set over the sea.

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View of cliffs and sea at Hive beach, Bridport, Dorset. (Getty Images)
View of cliffs and sea at Hive beach, Bridport, Dorset. (Getty Images)

Hive beach, Dorset

Located close to the village of Burton Bradstock, this sand-and-shingle beach is a great option for families, with a lovely cafe, car park and clean water for paddling. Despite being set on Dorset's Jurassic Coast, it rarely gets overcrowded, even in peak summer, compared to its better-known neighbour Lyme Regis. You still get glorious views across Lyme Bay and along the golden sandstone cliffs towards Chesil Beach.

Sand Bay, Somerset

Sand Bay is all-too-often overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, Weston-super-Mare, which lies a couple of miles away. All the better for you. You’ll find this long expanse of sand and shingle a much quieter seaside option – you’ll probably share it with just a few local dog walkers and horse riders. Walk along the beach, which has views stretching across the Bristol Channel, then refuel at the dog-friendly tea rooms.

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Sunset on Eoropie beach in Ness area, isle of Lewis, Scotland. (Getty Images)
Sunset on Eoropie beach in Ness area, isle of Lewis, Scotland. (Getty Images)

Eoropie beach, Isle of Lewis (Outer Hebrides)

If you’re looking for something really remote, an island in the Outer Hebrides should do the trick. Eoropie Beach lies on the wild northwest coast of the Isle of Lewis. You may have this broad sweep of sugar-soft sand to yourself, though some surfers may be bobbing in the sea – the crashing Atlantic breakers make this beach ideal for surfing. Hemmed in by tumbling dunes and cliffs, it’s also bucket-and-spade terrain and has a four-acre play park.

Porth Cynfor, Isle of Anglesey

You’ll have to walk for about 20 minutes, then make a bit of a scramble to reach this wild, petite pebble-and-shingle cove, also known as Hell's Mouth. Flanked by steep sea cliffs and a derelict porcelain works, it has two-tone water that’s dark blue at the back and turquoise at the font. There’s another equally rugged-and-remote beach, Porth Llanlleiana, just along the coastal path.

View across White Park Bay and Portbraddan, Causeway Coast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Getty Images)
View across White Park Bay and Portbraddan, Causeway Coast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Getty Images)

White Park Bay, Co Antrim

You’re more likely to be sharing this beautiful sweep of honey-coloured sand with wildlife than humans. The three-mile crescent beach is backed by a rich habitat for bird and animal life. Expect rare orchids and a few docile cows munching on grass in the dunes. You may also discover fossilised belemnites (an extinct squid-like sea animal) and ammonites (extinct mollusc) hidden in the dunes that hint at earlier life. There are no toilets, but the beach is accessible from a National Trust car park.

Ross Back Sands, Northumberland

Even on a sunny summer’s day this beauty of a beach is sparsely populated. Why? Because you have to walk for over a mile to reach it (park at Ross Farm). There are no facilities – no toilets, lifeguard cover or shops – so pack everything you need for the day, and set off for its wide sweep of fine sand and grassy dunes, dotted with wildflowers. Build a sandcastle, paddle in near-turquoise water or simply lie back and take in the views – on a clear day, you can see Holy Island and Bamburgh Castle.

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Bay at Steephill Cove, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. (Getty Images)
Bay at Steephill Cove, Ventnor, Isle of Wight. (Getty Images)

Steephill Cove, Isle of Wight

You’ll find good old-fashioned seaside charm but on a much smaller scale at this sheltered cove, on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Though you’re unlikely to have it all to yourself, there’s no road access and some people are put off by the steep path you need to take to reach it from the Ventnor Botanic Gardens. With its colourful beach huts and smattering of waterfront cottages, you’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled upon somewhere truly special.

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