While the sunshine in Blighty is admittedly thin on the ground, when it comes to world-class beaches, the UK can lay claim to some of the best. From the farthest reaches of the Cornish seaside and the historic, castle-flanked sand dunes of Northumberland, to the remoteness of a Scottish island inlet; these are five British beaches that should be on your bucket (and spade) list.
Don’t believe that it’s all grim up north. The Northumberland stretch of coastline boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. Yes, the water temperatures are bracing to say the least, but for picture-perfect sandy vistas you really can’t get much better. Situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - yep, that’s an official title - the golden sands of Bamburgh beach are overlooked by an imposing 12th Century castle. Backed by high sand dunes, the long stretch of beach becomes a mass of rock pools at the northern end, which provide hours of entertainment for little ones, meanwhile the nearby village of Bamburgh is a mass of traditional English tea rooms and pubs, making the perfect pitstop.
The beach also provides beautiful views towards the nearby Farne Islands - home to both the most famous sea bird sanctuary in the country and a large colony of seals - and Holy Island, which lays claim to a wealth of history, including the treasured Lindisfarne Priory - an epicentre for Christianity in Anglo Saxon times.
Woolacombe Beach, Devon
Hailed by travellers as the UK’s best beach for two years running, the three-mile Woolacombe beach in Devon has retained the top spot in a TripAdvisor list based on reviews and ratings. Renowned for its cleanliness, water quality and facilities, the sheer length of the beach makes it possible to find quiet spots even during the height of summer when thousands of sun-seekers descend. Woolacombe is also a major attraction for international surfers thanks to its rolling, unbroken surf of Atlantic breakers and the adjoining village itself is a lively mix of great pubs, restaurants and places to stay.
Rhossili Bay, Wales
Hailed as ‘the supermodel of British beaches’ by UK newspaper, The Independent, Rhossili Bay has also previously been voted Britain’s best beach by TripAdvisor - who ranked it ninth in the entire world - thanks to its three miles of golden sands, great surf and pretty picnic areas. Positioned on the Gower Peninsula in south Wales, the beach is a short walk away from the tiny town of Rhossili and is accessed via steps from the cliff top.
Kynance Cove, Cornwall
With a spectacular coastline of cliffs, coves, beaches, dunes and headlands, Cornwall is consistently ranked as home to some of the country’s best beaches and one of its best is located on the south coast, north-west of Lizard Point. One of the most photographed beaches in Cornwall, Kynance Cove has been a firm favourite since Victorian times thanks to its winning combination of white sand, brilliant turquoise water and stunning dark red and green serpentine rock formations. At low tide you can explore the rocks stacks and dramatic caves with names such as ‘The Parlour’ and ‘The Drawing Room.’ A remote location (it’s at least half an hour from anywhere) and a steep 10-15 minute walk down to the cove means that amenities are thin on the ground, but thankfully there’s an eco-cafe at the top of the cliff selling fresh sandwiches, cakes and, of course, Cornish pasties.
Machir Bay, Islay
Though an association between Scotland’s notoriously chilly climate and great beaches isn’t an obvious one, there’s a bevy of stunning beaches across the English border. And Islay - the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides - is home to one of the best. Known as 'Queen of the Hebrides', Islay lies just 40 kilometres north of the Irish coast and is most famous for its single malt whisky production - there’s eight distilleries on the island. A short walk through lush, green flatlands - or hike with the south end past a crumbling Iron Age fort - and you'll arrive at Machir Bay, a 2km beautiful sweep of sand. While not suitable for swimming due to strong currents, the white-sand shoreline has a reputation for some of the best sunsets on the island. The nearby, multi-awarded, Machir Bay distillery offers a great post-beach tipple.