Britain’s best beaches

Fancy a day on the coast? The UK is spoilt for choice when it comes to stunning beaches. From the spectacular Isles of Scilly to the rugged beaches of the Scottish Highlands, here is our guide to the most beautiful beaches in Britain

Harris beach

Guide to the UK’s most beautiful beaches, including why they are special and how to find them.

Britain’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, from the far south to the remote north. Grab your beach bag and a picnic and take to the coast with some of our favourite sandy spots.

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1. Durdle Door, Dorset, England

Durdle Door
A colourful sunset over Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast ©Getty

Why it’s special: That iconic stone archway, of course. This natural wonder soars out of the cliffs like a dinosaur curled around a stretch of beach and wonderfully clear water.

How to find it: Reach Durdle Door via a short walk along the South West Coast Path. West Lulworth, Dorset, BH20 5PU

2. Holkham, Norfolk, England

Holkham beach
Holkham beach is located on the North Norfolk coast of East Anglia, ©Getty

Why it’s special: Four miles of unspoilt beauty with a pine forest on one horizon and the rugged North Sea on the other.

How to find it: Take a walk through Holkham’s creaking pinewoods and along its beautiful beach with our five-mile route. Access is via Lady Anne’s Drive in Holkham village, just off the A149, opposite The Victoria Inn.

3. Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland, England

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle ©Getty

Why it’s special: Bamburgh castle standing majestically on the basalt cliff side, watching down on waters home to inquisitive seals.

How to find it: Near Alnwick, NE69 7DF

4. Whistling Sands, Gwynedd, Wales

Whistling Sands
Whistling Sands ©Getty

Why it’s special: Walk along this stretch of beach and you may hear a curuous whistling from under your feet. The shape of the sand grains strike against your feet to produce this intriguing sound.

How to find it: Aberdaron, Pwllheli LL53 8LH

5. Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall, England

Porthcurno
Porthcurno, Cornwall ©Getty

Why it’s special: The beach at the end of our island is a lovely one, a rich seascape of blue waters and golden sand three miles fro Land’s End.

How to get there: Porthcurno, Cornwall, TR19 6JX

6. Bournemouth Beach, Dorset, England

Bournemouth Beach
Bournemouth Beach ©Getty

Why it’s special: A city beach, yes, but seven miles of sands are home to a pier, beach huts and water sports. Buzzy and fun.

How to find it: You won’t miss it, but the postcode for the pier is BH2 5AA

7. Achmelvich Beach, Highlands, Scotland

Achmelvich beach
Achmelvich beach ©Getty

Why it’s special: This slice of the coastal good life is far from the madding crowds, and hence home to dolphins, porpoises and whales.

How to get there: Achmelvich beach is on a minor road sign posted to Achmelvich. Take the B869 about 1/2 a mile from the village of Lochinver on the A 83. Learn more about Achmelvich.

8. Appletree Bay, Isles of Scilly, England

Appletree bay, Scotland
Appletree bay, Scotland ©Getty

Why it’s special: Robinson Crusoe would be at home on this wild beach on the island of Tresco, where white sand, turquoise water and sub-tropical plants may make you wonder if you’ve woken up in the Caribbean.

How to get there: Fly to the Isles of Scilly, catch a boat to Tresco and then hire a bike to pedal along the road to the beach (there are no cars on the island). Phew! More travel info here. 

9. Sandwood Bay, Highlands, Scotland

Sandwood Bay
Sandwood Bay sits just south of Cape Wrath ©Getty

Why it’s special: Only accessible by foot, this remote and beautiful cove sits between a deep freshwater loch his beach and looks out at a tall sea stack standing sentinel in the ocean.

How to get there: The nearest bus stop is Kinlochbervie, or follow this route from Walk Scotland.

10. Southwold, Suffolk, England

Southwold
Brightly coloured beach huts, Suffolk ©Getty

Why it’s special: The string of brightly painted beach huts and the bucket-and-spade charm of this shingly cove on the Suffolk Heritage Coast will take you back to childhood holidays by the sea.

How to get there: Explore Southold list travel advice.

11. Embletone Bay, Northumberland, England

Embleton Bay, Northumberland
Embleton Bay deservedly won BBC Countryfile Magazine’s Beach of the Year in 2017 ©Getty

Why it’s special: Northumberland’s beaches are rarely crowded. Even on a beautiful summer’s evening you will often have the place to yourself

Take a stroll: Walk over ruddy-gold sands, across babbling coastal rivers and through wind-shaped dunes to the dramatic ruins of a 14th-century castle – welcome to Embleton Bay, one of Britain’s most beautiful beaches. Walking route and map.

12. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Overlooking the stunning beach at Barafundle Bay on the Pembrokeshire coast of South Wales UK Europe
Barafundle Bay is part of Stackpole Estate ©Getty

Why it’s special: No roads in, no convenient cafés, no seaside stores – few Welsh beaches can compete with the isolated nature of beautiful Barafundle Bay on the southern coast of Pembrokeshire.

Walk there: The broad-crescent beach is accessible by foot through woodland and grassy dunes along a short trail from Stackpole Quay. Walk description and map.

13. Downhill Strand, County Down, Northern Ireland

Mussenden temple, Castlerock, County Antrim, Ulster region, northern Ireland, United Kingdom.
Mussenden Temple above Downhill Strand, County Down

Why it’s special: From Downhill Strand, the sight of Mussenden Temple teetering on a blustery cliff edge is an incongruous one – the circular neo-classical building more at home in sun-kissed Rome than Northern Ireland’s wild Causeway Coast

Walk there: Discover wild shores, muscular mountains, surfing seabirds and an 18th-century Italian-style temple on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Find out more about the beach here.

14. Beer, East Devon, England

Panoramic view over Beer, Devon
Panoramic view over Beer, Devon ©Getty

Why it’s special: The small village of Beer, sheltered by white chalky cliffs above a steep shingle beach, sits on the Jurassic Coast near Lyme Regis. Along this stretch of the Devon coastline, the rocks provide a haven for wildlife, and it’s a site of geological and historical interest, too.

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Walk there: If you’ve built up a thirst walking from Branscombe along Devon’s coastal cliffs and beaches to Beer, then you’re in luck – the tiny seaside village has a handful of traditional pubs, perfect for a well-earned pint. Find out more about the walk here.