When the summer sun puts his hat on, few places are more fun than the British seaside. CD-Traveller has teamed up with DK Eyewitness Travel to give you the low-down on Britain’s best beaches
It was the British who invented the seaside resort, complete with changing rooms that could be wheeled into the water, concealing the lissom limbs of Victorian ladies from the public gaze. The expansion of the railways in the mid to late 19th century brought the masses to seaside towns, and by the 1930s, bank-holiday trains would be heaving with city-dwellers flocking to the beach. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, British families looked no further than their own seaside for their annual holiday – until the advent of cheap travel to the Mediterranean and then even more exotic destinations.
In the 21st century, the British are rediscovering the charms of their coast. Some resorts have reinvented themselves: Brighton has embraced the arts, while Newquay has become Britain’s pre-eminent surf resort. Others, such as Blackpool, remain fabulously brash. Piers, donkey rides and fish and chips are still seaside staples, and few sights are quintessentially British than a row of colourful beach huts. Childhood memories of rock pools and sand castles bring parents in search of these simple pleasures for their own children. It is nostalgia, as well as the beauty of the British coastline, that is drawing people back to the sea.
Arran, Southern Scotland
Pebbly coves and sandy beaches ring the rugged shores of Scotland’s most accessible island, and Broddick, its biggest village, has great pubs and fish-and-chip shops.
Largs, Southern Scotland
For years, this great sweep of beach has been Glasgow’s summer getaway. Much more sophisticated now than in its heyday, it boasts a shiny new marina.
Kinsale, Southern Ireland
Set on a superb natural harbour not far from Cork, Kinsale boasts great restaurants, charming hotels and old fashioned pubs, as well as pretty beaches nearby.
Llandudno, North Wales
This legendary Welsh resort’s North Shore beach has a Victorian pier, while the sandy West Shore is the place to be for fabulous sea views and sunsets.
Blackpool, Northwest England
With its trams, sing along pubs and roller coasters, Blackpool is the epitome of the seaside resort. Despite attempts to go upscale, it’s still gloriously tacky.
Morecambe Bay, Northwest England
This resort is renowned for its abundant birdlife, fabulous sunsets and fast-moving tides, which can rush in at the speed of “a good horse.”
Scarborough, Northeast England
Sweeping North Sea views, sandy bays, dramatic cliffs and some of the freshest seafood in England are among the charms of this Yorkshire resort.
Bridlington, Northeast England
This town is home to a seaside museum and the John Bull World of Rock, celebrating the confectionery that is synonymous with seaside fun.
Filey, Northeast England
Known since Victorian times for its bracing sea air, Filey is a fishing harbour with beaches overlooked by the chalk cliffs of Bempton and Flamborough Head.
Southwold, Eastern England
A swathe of sea-smoothed pebbles, a long line of brightly painted beach huts, a brewery and great fresh crab make this quirky Suffolk seaside village irresistible.
Brighton, Southeast England
The Prince Regent (later King George IV), made this city fashionable in the early 19th century. A hub of the arts, its still where London goes for a week-end by sea.
Margate, Southeast England
A favourite with Londoners for years, this bucket and spade resort on the Kent coast now has the Turner Centre – a gallery named after the famous English artist.
Weston Super Mare, Southwest England
This resort has been famous for its donkey rides and arcades for almost a century. An observation wheel adds to its appeal.
Newquay, Southwest England
England’s answer to Bondi Beach has become the southwest’s party town par excellence, loved by surfers, yachties and gap-year party animals.
St Ives, Southwest England
Gorgeous beaches and a heritage bequeathed by some of the 20th century’s best British artists are the hallmarks of this Cornish fishing village.
Torquay, Southwest England
Palm trees line the esplanade and subtropical blooms adorn the gardens of stylish Art Deco hotels in genteel Torquay. Don’t miss the town’s superb Devon cream teas.
For more suggestions on some spectacular places to visit in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, check out Where To Go When: Great Britain & Ireland, Foreword by Julia Bradbury (DK Eyewitness Travel, £19.99).