The best coastal winter views in the UK

Heading to the beach might not be your first instinct during the colder months, but during our moody winters, Britain’s coastal views adopt a bleak romanticism. 

Gloucestershire floods


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Sunrise at the Severn Estuary, Wales

If you’ve ever driven over the Severn Bridge, you’ll know why this one’s included. When the sun and tide are out, reflected light floods the flat estuary for miles into the hazy distance. The land textures, made up of mudflats, sandflats, rocks and islands, saltmarsh and brackish ditches provide great photographing potential. Eyes back on the road, drivers.

The Severn estuary has several impressive acclaims – it has the second highest tidal range in the world at 49 feet, after the Bay of Fundy in Canada. This partly accounts for thriving plant and animal communities – ragworms, lugworms and other sluggy invertebrates provide feed for as many as 100,000 wintering wading birds. Not many of Britain’s estuaries can boast so well.

The 20,000 wildfowl that help to make up this large number include Bewick’s swans which come all the way from Siberia for the winter, lapwings, shovelers, grey plovers and whimbrel, and the Severn is the largest UK site for white-fronted geese.

Elgol Peninsula, Scotland

The landscape in Elgol, a small village on the shores of Loch Scavaig in the Isle of Skye, is more dramatic and sulky in winter. Look northwest through the grey and mist for the black Cuillin Ridge and Glen Brittle and Sligachan mountains. For the geologically minded, the coastline around Elgol is abundant with fossils.  

Dunstanburgh Castle

The ruins of 14th century Dunstanburgh Castle set against the North Sea make this Northumbrian coastal spot an incredible winter view. Dunes, grasslands and rock pools make up this raw wintery setting which is home to many birds – look out for eider ducks, known locally as Cuddy’s Duck after Saint Cuthbert who is thought to have cared for them on the Farne Islands where he lived as a hermit in the seventh century.

Isle of Portland

There’s nothing like being wrapped up in all your coats and thermals and battling with the sea wind.  On an exposed bit of land, the roughness of the weather is heightened, meaning the great views are even more deserved.  On a clear day, views from the island are better than anywhere else on the South West Coast Path. Separated by a stretch of pebbles from the setting of the Olympic Sailing 2012, the jutting land is a great place to get a panoramic view of Dorset’s Jurassic coast with chalk cliffs between White Nothe and Wolbarrow as well as the sea crashing against the rocks.

Hilbre Island in the Wirral

The fiery orange sandstone cliffs on the island brighten the winter pallet. Another estuary important for overwintering birds, a walk to this island at low tide might also bring glimpses of Grey Seals which can be seen swimming round the island most days of the year. Views of north Wales mountains in the distance add to the great views of the estuary.

Lawrenny

Pembrokeshire’s coasts offer more than enough spectacular winter views, but Lawrenny provides a combination of ancient oak woodland and estuary. In the winter, the bare, gnarled oak trees reveal wonderful views of the river.  Winter birds abound, so look out for wigeon and teal, greenshank and little egret, perhaps a buzzard overheard or the call of a curlew.

St Ives

Clodgy Point offers a vantage across St Ives Bay and Godrevy Lighthouse, or the cliff above the Gala Bays if you want to be mesmerized by the crashing waves against the cliffs. The stiff winter breeze goes hand in hand with the wild headlands of north Cornwall, where the sea winds take advantage of the exposed land.

Morecambe Bay

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In winter at high tide, there are often large flocks of wading birds roosting at the edge of the saltmarsh near Jenny Brown’s Point. At low tide sundown, the view from the giant stone seat on Jack Scout shows the winter light illuminating the golden wave patterns in the sand.