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

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

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.

Family Walking Along Beach With Picnic Basket

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall

Porthcurno
Porthcurno, Cornwall ©Getty

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 Beach
Bournemouth Beach ©Getty

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

Appletree bay, Scotland
Appletree bay, Scotland ©Getty

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

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

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. 

Read our expert guide to beachcombing

Female beachcomber

Holkham, Norfolk, England

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

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.

Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle ©Getty

Bamburgh castle, near Alnwick stands majestically on the basalt cliff side, watching down on waters home to inquisitive seals.

Couple walking on cliff path

Best beaches in Wales

Whistling Sands, Gwynedd, Wales

Whistling Sands
Whistling Sands ©Getty

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.

Explore our rockpooling guide for tips on what to look for on your next beach trip

Boy rockpooling, kneeling on rocks, Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset, England, february

Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

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

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.


Best beaches in Scotland

Achmelvich Beach, Highlands, Scotland

Achmelvich beach
Achmelvich beach ©Getty

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

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

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

Southwold, Suffolk, England

Southwold
Brightly coloured beach huts, Suffolk ©Getty

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

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

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.

Take a walk to Embleton Bay, Northumberland


Best walks in Northern Ireland

Downhill Strand, County Down

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

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Discover wild shores, muscular mountains, surfing seabirds and an 18th-century Italian-style temple on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.