Best beaches in UK: And the winners are...
1. Porthcurno, Cornwall
This beach has got to be my winner – the water, the rocks, the seals and to top it all, the theatre.
It is flanked by enormous Thai style yellow boulders on one side and a stairway, carved into the rocks leading to the open-air cliff-top Minack theatre on the other. (Be warned – do not use these steps, the path is deadly.) I also saw a seal here, so extra marks for that. Luckier people see basking sharks.
The water is a green, which growing up by the North Sea, I did not know you could get in England. Practically Caribbean.
Beach tip: Since Poldark, the road down to the beach can get gridlocked in the summer. Head down early for a car parking space.
Best beaches in Uk no. 1 photos
The Minack Theatre
2. Porthmeor, Cornwall
This gets a top billing because:
- It backs on to the cobbled streets of St Ives.
- West beach café hugs the base of the cliffs at one end, piping out music from yesteryear, providing indoor blankets for the rain and al fresco benches for the shine.
- At the other end is a magical emerald watered headland walk (with seals).
- In between, the beach cafes and bars sit right on the sand.
Beach tip: Book literally months ahead to secure a table at the glass fronted Porthmeor Beach Cafe for amazing sunsets (we didn’t but wish we had).
Best beaches in Uk no. 2 photos
Marks go to number 3, for having not only white cliffs, but also a natural arch from which the brave can dive bomb into the sea (not from the top mind). Great Harry Pottery sounding name too.
Best beaches in Uk no. 3 photos
5. West Bay
Best beaches in Uk no. 4 photos
5. Kynance Cove
This beach has also been described as Thailand in Cornwall due to the aquamarine water and dramatic beach rocks. You get to it by way of a pretty steep and edgy coastal path. There is always a slight fear of a child just disappearing off the side when the wind’s up.
Beach tip: The beach is only accessible at low tide. Plan ahead.
Best beaches in Uk no. 5 photos
6. Barafundle Bay
Its remote location and stone arch entrance way make this one a winner for Wales. Accessed via about a kilometre of coastal path and with no loos, it keeps the crowds at bay while you float the afternoon away.
Don’t miss the fab national trust cafe for pre/post beach cream teas by the car park at Stackpole Quay.
Beach tip: Calm seas good for boating. Bring an electric pump for your dingy. With new batteries.
Best beaches in Uk no. 6 photos
Vast swathes of empty white sand, huge run-down-me dunes and basking snakes on the headland path you have to take to the campsite when the tide catches you out make the a cut above the rest beach destination.
When the tide is out, walk for miles and stop at the Watering Hole, the only cafe I have found in the country which is right in the middle of the sand, with tropical raffia umbrellas and everything (and windscreens for the other kind of weather we get).
Best beaches in Uk no. 7 photos
The ability to hire chemistry goggles and a hammer from a beach porta-cabin and the prospect of uncovering your own dinosaur skeleton (or at least an ammonite or 2) give this one the edge on the Jurassic coast.
Go after a storm, of failing that, as the tide goes out, for the best fossil pickings. Check out the fossil shop at the end of the beach and marvel at the incredible skeletons found by the luckiest hunters.
Best beaches in Uk no. 8 photos
Hire a lodge just behind the dunes, which you can run to in your wetsuit when on the edge of hypothermia. Wander over a mass of sand dunes, big enough to get lost in. Hide and seek is a bad idea.
A beach walk from lodge, and a drink in thatched Thatch in Croyde village is practically mandatory.
Do some surfing and maybe check out the headland at the other end – Baggy Point (if its not too windy).
Best beaches in Uk no. 9 photos
10. Sennen Cove
Best beaches in Uk no. 10 photos
Comedy best beaches in UK winner - Bigbury on Sea
This South Coast beach comes with a comedy aquatic sea tractor which will transport you to a 700 year old pub and Art Deco hotel when the sea covers the causeway. Or at low (ish) tide you can wade over to it, which has its own comedy value. (Or row around it in a dingy if feeling particularly brave/stupid.)
Watergate bay, Cornwall – cliff top restaurant perched over vast rock pooled sands
Bamburgh, Northumberland – wild, windswept, sand-duned and overlooked by a magnificent castle
Hayle, Cornwall – 5 miles of empty white sand and body boarding water
Blackpool Sands, Devon – wooden-decked beach cafe, emerald waters and green fringed crescent beach
Brighton Beach – pier and party beach
Least attractive UK beach award goes to Severn Beach in the Bristol Channel.
Wooden spoon for this one. The walk from the train station passes depressingly grey prefab style housing to mud flats where dying seagulls flap oily wings in the rubbish strewn stretch of “beach” leading to the thick brown gloop of estuarine “sea”.
Also, give Kidwelly a miss unless you enjoy killer quick sand/mud.
Best beaches summary
These are the best I’ve found so far. I’ve yet to see 3 sisters in Wales or Hollywell in Cornwall. Where have I missed and where should I go next?
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Check out the fab St Ives beaches, walk llamas, bob around in a seal boat and take a wind blasting Minack Theatre.
Pembrokeshire – remote beaches reached through secret cliff tunnels or stone archways, fugitive falcons and a military presence in Wales.
Weather warnings, flooding, power cuts, 2 lifeguard rescues – perfect conditions for a half term beach holiday in Croyde Bay.
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