The UK’s spectacular coastline consists of rocky outcrops, sandy beaches and hidden coves. According to the Ordnance Survey, the coastline of Britain is approximately 11,073 miles in length.
From coastal walks to quaint fishing villages and traditional seaside piers, the UK coastline has something for everyone. However, in the colder winter months when the crowds depart, the British coastline has a special allure and if you’re lucky you may find you have the entire beach to yourself.
Wrap up warm and head to the coast for a bracing winter walk with our guide to the best beaches to visit in the UK in winter.
Best winter beaches in England
Horsey’s pale sands and huge skies are evocative at any time of year. But as winter storms roll in and colour leaches from the landscape, this otherwise desolate stretch of the Norfolk coast comes alive with hundreds of breeding grey seals
Visit the beach on a 6.3-mile loop walk around the village of Horsey in the north-east of the Norfolk Broads National Park. The path runs alongside the North Sea and then inland through wildlife-rich marshland, before returning to the village pub.
Robin Hoods Bay, Yorkshire
Robin Hood’s Bay is a hidden bit of history, with its raw, brooding cliffs, red-roofed cottages and unusual architecture. The beach itself is one of the UK’s best spots for fossil hunting. Perfect to visit in the winter, you can enjoy a walk along the cliffs or beach to take in the historical village and spectacular scenery and end in one of the many cosy pubs.
Durdle Door, Dorset
Running from Orcombe Point near Exmouth to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage; the Jurassic coast is a wonder in the soft light of summer, but in the winter its striking, rugged beauty really shines through. With over 90 miles of coastal walks, stunning beaches and impressive cliffs, there is plenty of choice about where to go.
Wrap up warm and enjoying the coast without the crowds of the summer. Durdle Door in particular is worth a visit; try and get there early on a misty morning and watch the sunrise through the door.
At the mouth of the river Looe, the town is an enchanting place to go this winter. With a section of the South West Costal Path cutting right through, there’s some lovely walks around the area. With a choice of costal views, hidden caves, woodland valleys and open moorland, the area looks spectacular empty of people and dusted in frost.
Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire
Runswick Bay, just north of Whitby is a treasure trove of all sorts of washed up knick-knacks. The surrounding cliffs are made of shale and clay, so every time it rains, layers of rock crumble, revealing thousands of ancient fossils.
Listed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, tucked away between the mouth of the river Blythe and the Suffolk coast, Walberwick is well worth a visit this winter. It has miles of marshland, heath and coast to enjoy as well as access to the Suffolk Coast Path that stretches 50 miles along the east coast.
A bustling holiday destination in the summer, it’s relaxed and quiet during the winter, with the crumbling Pump Mill ruins and beautiful natural scenery, contrasted with a the historic trading village, there is lots to enjoy.
Embleton Bay, Northumberland
A beautiful long stretch of beach overlooked by the impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, Embleton Bay is a perfect winter beach. On a clear cold morning the ruins can be seen perfectly from the beach and beach itself backs onto dunes, famous for there flowers, grasses and birds.
The village of Heysham has some wonderful views to enjoy this winter. The town backs directly onto the cliffs and beaches creating some beautiful contrasting scenery. The famous graves in the ruins of St Patrick’s chapel are also worth a visit and look particularly spooky shrouded in a winter mist.
There are few family pleasures as simple or as satisfying as finding fossils on the beach. It’s an outdoor experience perfect for children of all ages, and it continues to delight adults, too.
There’s no better place to indulge a passion for fossils than the Jurassic coastline of Dorset and Devon. Now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s made up of 95 miles and 185 million years of prehistoric life, gradually exposed for eventual discovery.
The Dorset village of Charmouth – the gateway to the Jurassic Coast – is pleasantly removed from the blare and glare of other seaside amusements, and is a wonderful starting point for a fossil-hunting daytrip
Best winter beaches in Scotland
Saligo Bay, Isle of Islay
Saligo Bay can be found on Islay’s Atlantic west coast, west of Loch Gorm. Many say Saligo Bay is the island’s most beautiful bay, and offers stunning light conditions for photographers. Pack a flask of tea and a blanket and head down to this gorgeous bay to watch an unforgettable Atlantic sunset.
Port Mora and Port Kale, Dumfries and Galloway
On the south-western tip of Dumfries and Galloway in southern Scotland, a series of spectacular cliffs overlooks the Irish Sea.
Snuggled into this idyllic coastline, about a mile north of Portpatrick, are the twin coves of Port Mora and Port Kale. Without vehicle access to the beaches, the only traffic you’re likely to encounter here is the distant glimpse of a ferry sailing between Cairnryan and Larne in Northern Ireland.
The single track road heads west, navigating the valley floor between the low, tortoise-back tors of north-west Scotland. Fissured hillsides of heather and shrub rise and fall beside the car, sinking into grassland before arriving on to the shores of Achmelvich Bay – a sweep of soft, white sand, scythe-like, sheltered between the gnarled rock of two stunted headlands.
Dunbar, East Lothian
Another beautiful Scottish beach surrounded by both countryside and coast, Dunbar is an enchanting spot for a winter walk. Two popular walks around the area encompass both the rural and historic side to the town – the first explores the red sandstone cliffs and golf courses and the second the historic high street and and harbours.
Or why not go a bit further and walk part of the John Muir Way from from Dunbar to North Berwick further up the coast.
Take a closer look next time you’re walking along the seashore and you may be surprised about what you find – a pointy top shell, a colourful periwinkle or a spired whelk.
Each species in our ID guide has specific patterns and markings, and varies in shape and size, offering clues about the animals’ evolution and their day-to-day lives.
Killantringan, Dumfries and Galloway
A coastal point just outside of Portpatrick, Killantringan is an impressive area of raw cliffs and rugged beaches. A lonely lighthouse position at its peak adds to the surrounding view. With the rolling Galloway hills to one side and coast to the other, it’s a hotspot for wildlife, including golden eagles and red deer. Half a mile south there is also the Dunskey Castle ruin, a 12th century tower house.
Best winter beaches in Wales
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower
A hidden beauty throughout the year, during the winter this spot is really an isolated wonder. The sunken Three Cliffs Way is eerily quiet during the winter, with the surrounding cliffs enclosing the beach.
You can also enjoy a coastal walk up to the ruined castle to really take in the spectacular views and sounds of nothing but the nature around you.
Extraordinary and beautiful treasures can be found along the British coastline. Here is our expert guide to beachcombing, including things to look out for, how to beachcomb and best beaches for beachcombing in the UK.
Traeth yr Ora, Anglesey
The isolated, sandy beach of Taeth yr Ora lies midway between the villages of Benllech and Amlwch on the north-east coast of Anglesey.
The cove can only be accessed by foot or boat, meaning few people venture to this remote spot, especially in winter.
Explore the island of Anglesey on a three-mile easy walk across a remote stretch of Anglesey’s north coastline. Look out for seals, porpoises and bottlenose dolphins as you stroll through Anglesey’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire
This dramatic headland northwest of St David’s and Whitesands beach is spectacular for sea views and coastal walks. In winter, the sea churns up some beautiful surf and crashing waves that are mesmerizing to watch.
Along the British coastline you will find a range of dramatic rock formations which range from hidden caves, arches and stacks. Our guide to the most spectacular coastal caves, arches and stacks along the British coast.
Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve, Glamorgan
You don’t need a stomach for roller-coasters to take on Merthyr Mawr’s ‘big dipper’ – the second highest sand dune in Europe.
A Carboniferous limestone ridge covered with sand, this huge dune’s steep sides tower over Merthyr Mawr Warren National Nature Reserve’s unique wildlife-rich landscape, where rich, soft colours of moss and marram grass blend into sultry butterscotch sands.
Best winter beaches in Northern Ireland
Murlough National Nature Reserve, County Down
The granite tops of the Mourne Mountains – Northern Ireland’s highest peaks – overlook Murlough National Nature Reserve/Credit: Alamy
Situated 3.5 miles north-east of the coastal town of Newcastle in County Down, Murlough National Nature Reserve is a wildlife-watchers’ dream, even in winter.
Its range of habitats play host to a vast diversity of flora and fauna, and the long, sandy beach is the focal point of a fantastic walk, overlooked by the iconic Mourne Mountains.
Downhill/Benone beach, County Derry
Downhill and Benone beaches stretch seven glorious miles to Magilligan Point. Here, the wind throws the body off-kilter, stings the lips with its spume-blown salt and fills the ears with the roar of the Atlantic. With waves reaching upwards of five and six feet, it’s a place to surf or walk, not sunbathe.
Cushendall and Cushendun, County Antrim
Cushendall’s ancient tower once served as “a place of confinement for idlers and rioters”, and Cushendun, near which there is a large boulder snared in the roots of an ancient tree with a small altar beside it. Roman Catholics would furtively worship at this Mass Rock when the penal laws banned them from practising their religion in the early 18th century. A local priest still conducts a service there each summer.
Cushendun’s sea caves made waves as the ominous Stormlands in Game of Thrones but despite the fanfare, these ancient red sandstone caves remain down to earth. Visit in winter for added atmosphere.