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.
Being an island, we are never far from a stretch of stunning coastline and the UK has an abundance of long beaches with vast expanses of sand. This is perfect for comfortably accommodating a variety of beach users from dog-walkers to swimmers, surfers and kite-surfers.
Alternatively, if this is all a bit too high octane for you, just enjoy a bracing windy walk at one of these lovely locations. Then watch the keen kite-surfers perform tricks whilst relaxing with coffee and cake.
Our guide to the UK’s most beautiful beaches, including sandy and pebble beaches, best beaches for swimming and the cleanest beaches in Britain.
Best beaches in England
Durdle Door, Dorset, England
Durdle Door’s iconic stone archway is popular with photographers, and it’s easy to see why. This natural wonder soars out of the cliffs like a dinosaur curled around a stretch of beach and wonderfully clear water.
Reach Durdle Door via a short walk along the South West Coast Path from West Lulworth, Dorset.
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- Beachcombing guide: things to find along the seashore and best beaches in the UK
Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall
Porthcurno 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.
Bournemouth Beach, Dorset, England
Bournemouth might be a city beach, but its seven miles of sands are home to a pier, beach huts and water sports. Buzzy and fun.
Appletree Bay, Isles of Scilly, England
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. 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!
Beer, East Devon, England
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.
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.
Beachcombing guide: things to find along the seashore and best beaches in the UK
Extraordinary and beautiful treasures can be found along the British coastline.
Beachcombing is a soothing activity which involves combing the shoreline to see what objects of interest you can see. This could be shells, pebbles, seaglass or one of the seashore marvels listed in our guide below.
Holkham, Norfolk, England
Holkam beach offers four miles of unspoilt beauty with a pine forest on one horizon and the rugged North Sea on the other.
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.
Southwold, Suffolk, England
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.
Embletone Bay, Northumberland, England
Northumberland’s beaches are rarely crowded. Even on a beautiful summer’s evening you will often have the place to yourself, including the stunning Embleton Bay.
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.
Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland
Bamburgh castle, near Alnwick stands majestically on the basalt cliff side, watching down on waters home to inquisitive seals.
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Best beaches in Wales
Whistling Sands, Gwynedd, Wales
Walk along this stretch of beach and you may hear a curious whistling from under your feet. The shape of the sand grains strike against your feet to produce this intriguing sound.
Rockpooling along the British coastline
The seas around the UK have the potential to be amongst the most productive and wildlife-rich on earth.
Hidden beneath the surface are landscapes every bit as varied and beautiful as those we see on land, with undersea cliffs, caves, chasms, mountains, dunes and plains. But it is not until the waves have retreated and the tide is low that we get a glimpse of this mysterious world and the weird and wonderful wildlife that inhabits it.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire
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. The broad-crescent beach is accessible by foot through woodland and grassy dunes along a short trail from Stackpole Quay.
Rhossili Beach, South Wales
Often thronged with salt-crusted surfers, this enormous beach is more suited to experts. It can get big swells coming in which means punchy, aggressive waves. Head down to the right side of the beach to keep out of the way of surfers, swimmers and paddlers. There is also a bit of a trek across the sand dunes to reach the beach.
Due to its consistently good winds, Rhosneigr is one of the premier kite-surfing destinations in the UK and consequently some of the best kiters and windsurfers sail here. There are two sandy bays and it works best for kiters at the northern end. But there are rocks around so try and get a good look at low tide to work out where they are. There’s also a café which looks on to the beach that will suit the non-kiters. It’s also a lovely spot for a beach walk or picnic on warmer days.
Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire
For somewhere that is so easy to access, this stretch of the welsh coastline hardly gets any visitors. On a glorious day you can literally have the golden sands and waves to yourself. If you really want to get back to nature, it is possible to wild camp right near the beach in the sand dunes. However, there are reefs around so it’s worth checking out the terrain at low tide. Beginners may prefer the nearby blue flag beach at Newgale.
Best beaches in Scotland
Achmelvich Beach, Highlands, Scotland
This slice of the coastal good life is far from the madding crowds, and hence home to dolphins, porpoises and whales. Achmelvich beach is on a minor road sign posted to Achmelvich.
Learn more about Achmelvich
Sandwood Bay, Highlands
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. The nearest bus stop is Kinlochbervie
The Island of Tiree, Outer Hebrides
If you are looking to get away from it all and fancy having white sands and turquoise waters all to yourself, it couldn’t get much better than the isolated wilderness of the Hebrides. This area receives wind from the Atlantic but is also strangely the sunniest place in the UK. It is also full of rare species such as puffins, golden eagles, basking sharks and whales.
Best walks in Northern Ireland
Downhill Strand, County Down
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
Discover wild shores, muscular mountains, surfing seabirds and an 18th-century Italian-style temple on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.