From golden sands to dramatic cliffs and rock pools

Natalie Cornish
·3-min read
Photo credit: Alamy - Alamy
Photo credit: Alamy - Alamy

With lockdown restrictions lifting just in time for the summer holidays, thousands of people are shunning air travel in favour of a trip to the seaside, and the Times has rounded up the best 40 beaches in the UK.

Whether you stick to the popular tourist spots or venture out to some of the more unknown beauty spots along the coast, there’s plenty for you to find. We’ve cherry picked our favourite here, so grab a bucket and spade and a picnic and enjoy.

Photo credit: Alamy
Photo credit: Alamy

Best in the UK: Compton Bay, Isle of Wight

Everyone who knows the Isle of Wight knows about little Steephill Cove and crabbing off the Bembridge coast, but of all the island’s lovely beaches, Compton is surely the best. Two miles of sand beneath multicoloured sandstone cliffs, it’s lapped by the English Channel and backed by West Wight’s downs. Surfers cart their boards down the steep steps from the National Trust car park, where you’ll find loos, a tap and an ice-cream van. At low tide walk towards Brook and try to spot the dinosaur footprints.

Best for Family: Frinton-on-Sea, Essex

Family-friendly Frinton has an air of old-fashioned gentility, with a thriving beach hut community along the promenade and parking always possible. There’s plenty of space on the mile-long stretch for beach games, while the gentle waves are safe for body-boarding children. Seaweed is rare, but some beautiful shells get washed up in the groynes. A grassy area above the beach called the Greensward is perfect for picnics with a sea view.

Photo credit: Alamy
Photo credit: Alamy

Best for pebble: Pett Level, East Sussex

Just a few miles from Camber, the quiet shingle beaches of Pett Level and Winchelsea couldn’t be more different. It’s sandier and good for shrimping at the Winchelsea end, with a sea wall and an inshore area famous for its bird life. At Pett Level, though, near the cliffs of Fairlight Cove, there are rock pools and you can make out the stumps of ancient trees that were part of a fossilised forest dating from the last Ice Age.

Best for sand: Formby, Merseyside

At Crosby Beach you can admire the 100 cast-iron men that constitute Antony Gormley’s Another Place but it’s not for swimmers; at Ainsdale you can watch kitesurfers in action, and at Formby you can seek prehistoric human and animal footprints sometimes revealed when the tide ebbs. The broad band of sand is backed by extensive sand dunes with views across the Irish Sea.

Photo credit: Alamy
Photo credit: Alamy

Best in Yorkshire: Runswick Bay

The beach is along te coast from Whitby and appears at number 16. Artists have been coming here since Victorian days to capture the pretty picture of whitewashed fishermen’s cottages snuggled at the foot of the cliff.

The beach has everything you could want — rock pools, fossil hunting and plenty of space — as well as the unusual Hob Holes, small caves once reputed to be the home of hobgoblins. It is on the Cleveland Way National Trail and the beach is dog friendly.

If you’re looking for a beach house to rent while you’re there – we’ve found the best on the market right now.

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