Virtual escapes: Britain’s shimmering shores

Discover magical marine life, beautiful beaches and awe-inspiring clifftops with our stay-at-home guide to the UK's most spectacular coastlines.

Cornish coastal scenery at Porthmeor Cove near Zennor, UK

For those of us who love the outdoors, visits to the countryside, walking in beautiful places and holidaying in the wild outdoors are restricted for the time being due to the Coronavirus crisis.

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We at BBC Countryfile Magazine have always shared wonderful wildlife stories and beautiful landscapes, and will continue to do so with our virtual escapes. So sit back and relax from the comfort of your home and get your fix of the great outdoors even if you can’t physically be there.

Woodland in sunlight
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Experience the sights and sounds of the sea with our stay-at-home guide to the UK’s most spectacular coastlines.

Jurassic Coast, Dorset and Devon

The coastline of East Devon and Dorset offers something unique: in just 96 miles of colourful and varied rocky cliffs, you can time-travel through hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s history.

The rocks give us an unrivalled insight to an exciting time in the life of our planet and you don’t have to be a trained scientist to appreciate it. With a little help, anyone can decipher the evidence and look back to lost worlds filled with exotic creatures.

Discover the Jurassic Coast’s ancient shores with this spectacular aerial film:


Holkham, Norfolk

It is said that in Norfolk you can tell how far you are from the coast by the roundness of the flint on the outside of the buildings – the rounder the flint, the closer you are to the sea.

The interaction between sea and land is strong along the North Norfolk coast, where mudflats and salt marshes sit alongside miles of beaches. One such beach is Holkham.

Here, a fusion of pinewoods and sand dunes tumble on to the beach and into the sea. The shoreline is part of one of the largest national nature reserves in the country, home to many rare species of flora and fauna and a favoured place for birdwatching. This walk is for both nature-lovers and those looking for the harmony offered by seemingly endless beaches, seas and skies.

Fly high above the North Norfolk Coast with this aerial adventure:


St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

The coastline from Lamorna to Marazion offers a tempting tropical cove, possibly the prettiest fishing village in England and a chance to explore an iconic Cornish heritage site, St Michael’s Mount.

Located 366m (1,200ft) off the coast and linked by a granite causeway, St Michael’s Mount is well worth a visit. At low tide, you can follow in pilgrims’ footsteps across the causeway. At high tide, boats putter between Marazion and the island.

Take a virtual tour of the mount at sunrise:


Stacks of Duncansby, Highland

Wave-raked and wind-battered, the dramatic sea stacks of Dunscansby march upon the north-east coast of Scotland like marauding Vikings.

Bands of Old Red Sandstone striate the magnificent pillars, offering natural nesting shelves for seabirds, such as guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and puffins.

This dramatic drone footage explores the cliffs and stacks from the air:


Seven Sisters, East Sussex

At the National Trust hamlet of Birling Gap, the sea’s aroma sits strong in the air. From the top of the steps above the beach and its numerous rockpools, the views of the Seven Sisters and Seaford Head are excellent.

For many, these huge chalk cliffs are even more picturesque than the famous White Cliffs of Dover up the coast.

The chalk grasslands here are rich with spring flowers such as milkwort, round-headed campion and cowslips, the latter of which attracts early Brimstone butterflies.

Fly alongside these iconic white cliffs:


Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Tiny, pantiled cottages, honeycombed with narrow courtyards, tumble down a narrow gully to the sea. Front doors look over neighbours’ roofs and vertiginous stone steps link the different levels.

Down at the shore of Robin Hood’s Bay, boats are still drawn up on the rocks of Landing Scar, a reminder of the village’s smuggling days.

Robin Hood’s Bay sits on the coast of North Yorkshire in England in North York Moors National Park, between Whitby and Scarborough. It is a small fishing with a long history.

In 1800, everyone who lived in Bay Town, as its known locally, was said to be involved in the illegal transportation of goods. The villagers linked their cellars up the steep slope so that contraband, received at the shore, could be passed underground to the cliff top, unbeknown to Bay Town’s customs officers.

It’s far more peaceful now, and can explored from your armchair with this stunning video:


Pembrokeshire, South-West Wales

Established in 1952, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of three national parks in Wales.

The park, covering 243 sq miles, includes an incredible coastline of natural arches, stacks and sea caves, along with a wealth of sandy beaches and seaside towns. Away from the coast, the park also includes marshes, inland forests and the rolling Presell Hills.

Enjoy a flying tour high above the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park:


Newborough Warren and Ynys Llanddwyn, Anglesey

With its vast seascape and extensive views of the Snowdonia peaks, Ynys Llanddwyn, on the south coast of Anglesey, adds an air of infinity to one of Wales’ most spectacular sections on coastline.

Adjoining the tombolo and its resident lighthouse is Newborough Warren, formed 700 years ago when a tremendous storm blew sand inland. Marram grass, planted in Elizabethan times, helped to stabilise the sand and, in the 1950s, part of the dunes were planted with trees. Although the forest is not part of the reserve, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with red squirrels and a large raven roost.

The ridge of pre-Cambrian rock that passes through Newborough Forest ends at Llanddwyn Island, a narrow finger of land with a lighthouse, pilots’ cottages and islets, where cormorants line up. The warren is known for its wildflowers and butterflies, while the water’s edge attracts ringed plovers. Look carefully and you may even spot grey seals in the bay.

This video reveals the beautiful of Llanddwyn by combining timelapse and drone footage:


Traeth Mawr , Glamorgan

The cliffs at Traeth Mawr reach into the spring sky like the stepped, ivory walls of a Mayan temple. Peregrines nest upon the ledges of the tottering limestone bluffs, and choughs, the rarest members of the crow family, chee-ow and soar. 

Greater knapweed, wild cabbage and knotted hedge-parsley gather in clumps on the grassy crests, while down in the valley, where the land meets the sea, common rockrose sings yellow alongside the occasional clustered bellflower or horseshoe vetch.

Experience Traeth Mawr and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast from the air:


Causeway Coast, County Antrim and Londonderry

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. At its base, trains thunder out of the tunnel to hug the beach before veering away from Magilligan Point to follow the River Foyle into Londonderry.

The undeniably impressive Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland comprises dozen of spectacular features like Downhill Strand. Marvel at this coast’s geology and breathtaking views in virtual solitude:


Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Sandwood Bay is one of Britain’s most remote and beautiful beaches. Flanked by grassy dunes and buffeted by the rolling breakers of the Atlantic, the swathe of white sand is a wild and wonderful place.

At the southern end of the bay, a dagger-like sea stack, Am Buachaille, punctures the skyline, while at the other end high cliffs, home to puffins and other seabirds, stretch north towards Cape Wrath. Devoid of human interference and protected by the John Muir Trust, the landscape dominates and nature reigns supreme.

Perhaps because of its isolation, Sandwood has strong links with unworldly phenomena – mermaid sightings were reported as recently as the 19th century. Treacherous offshore currents wrecked many a ship and there are tales of ghosts, one of the most enduring being that of a bearded sailor, said to be the spectre of a seaman who died when a Polish ship sank in the bay.

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Travel north by drone from Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath: