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Ten of the best beaches in the UK – Readers’ Choice

July 24, 2013
by Laura Canning | guides

Bournemouth. Pic by Chris Downer. Wistfully, we asked our Facebook and Twitter followers last week about the best beaches in the UK. It was wistful because it was a weekday and the law does not (yet) allow for mandatory beach-going once the temperature goes above 25° (oh, how any party who proposed that would get the vote). So we researched the country’s best beaches and looked enviously at photos of them instead. Bah.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach and can have sand between your toes every morning, we salute you. And we’ll see you there this weekend. Until then, we’ll pretend we’re on of one of the top ten beaches we’ve picked from your suggestions:


Voted the best beach in the UK and the fourth best in Europe last year, the Blue Flag beach at Bournemouth has seven miles of sand, beach huts for hire, a land train along the 10-km promenade to Boscombe Pier or Alum Chine – and the award-winning Bournemouth Air Festival . Too busy a beach for your tastes? Try other Dorset beaches at Weymouth or Swanage , or head from Bournemouth beach to beauteous Hengistbury Head.

Satnav: BH4 8AF

Dogs allowed? All year round, but only in certain areas.

Stay nearby : St Leonard’s Farm Caravan & Camping Park is one of the closest campsites to the Bournemouth beach, and has grass pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £11—16. There are also two-bedroom holiday homes from £50 a night, with a minimum stay of three nights.

Rhossili in autumn. Pic by PDTillman/Kevin Foster. Rhossili Bay

Bournemouth might have won it last year, but 2013’s best beach winner was this stretch in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an award which enraged an Antipodean . Rhossili’s been lauded as ‘a magical place’, ‘the supermodel of British beaches’ and ‘the UK's No.1 dog-friendly beach’ – all over three miles of Welsh coast.

Satnav: SA3 1PR

Dogs allowed? Yes, all year round.

Stay nearby : Kennoxstone Camping and Touring Park overlooks the bay, has a National Trust Nature Reserve on the doorstep, and twenty other beaches within easy reach. Pitches start from £13.

Whitsand Bay. Pic by Phillip Halling. Whitsand Bay

Trying to decide on the best beach in Cornwall is an impossibility, particularly in this heat when one can be moved to the verge of tears just trying to decide on Magnum versus Solero. Beaches at St Ives usually come in among the top ten; Newquay is famous for its surf (and for banning mankinis , for which we salute them); but we’ve been informed that Whitsand Bay is the place to go. There are three miles of sand here but steep access points to reach thrm, meaning the beach isn’t at crowded as some of its Cornish counterpoints.

Satnav: PL11 3AZ

Dogs allowed? Yes, all year round.

Stay nearby : Award-winning Dolbeare Park at Saltash is five miles from Whitsand Bay and has grass and hardstanding pitches from £10.45 – £20.70 a night. There are also Eurotents sleeping up to six (maximum of four adults) from £270 a week.

Bigbury-on-Sea from Burgh Island Bigbury-on-Sea

Like Cornwall and Dorset, there are tons of top beaches in Devon, with Woolacombe and Ilfracombe pulling in the crowds in north Devon and Dawlish in the south. But Blue Flag Bigbury has Burgh Island overlooking it, which you can walk to at low tide or catch the sea tractor over to when the tide’s in. The beach itself is one for rockpooling and it’s safe for kids because of its shallow waters.

Satnav: TQ7 4AZ

Dogs allowed? Yes, but restricted in some areas during summer.

Stay nearby : Parkland Caravan and Camping Site is five miles from Bigbury at Kingsbridge, with pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes from £12 a night with no size restrictions. There’s 15% off electric super pitches until 31 August 2013.

Sea Palling. Pic by Richard Humphrey. Sea Palling

To prevent flooding, the Environment Agency funded nine artificial reefs just off the shore at Sea Palling in Norfolk , leading to a nicely sandy beach popular with surfers and jetskiiers. Sea Palling has Blue Flag quality waters, shallow bays for safe swimming and was described by its nominator as ‘Britain's best kept secret beach’. Bag some local catch from the fish stall, hire a bike for Norfolk coast exploring or spot seals while walking along the beach to Waxham and Horsey.

Satnav: NR12 0UH

Dogs allowed? Not in certain areas from 1 May to 30 September.

Stay nearby : Seven miles away at Cromer is the award-winning Forest Park Caravan Site in the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with beach views, indoor pool and bike trails. Electric grass pitches start from £17.50.

Cullen. Pic by Lucas Cullen. Cullen

Marine Conservation Society Recommended, Cullen is a high-rated and sheltered beach in front of Cullen golf course in Moray with dolphins spottable from both beach and bay. Scuba diving, snorkelling, surfing and sailing are all popular here, and there are coastal walks and trails leading from the sands.

Satnav: AB56 4WB

Dogs allowed? Yes, all year round.

Stay nearby : Moray’s Station Caravan Park is about 22 miles away but has accommodation for all kinds of camper and caravanner, with tent, tourer and motorhome pitches from £7.50 – 21.75 and two-bedroom holiday homes from £295 – 315 for a full week. If you want sand a bit closer than Cullen on a day when you’re feeling lazy, the park has direct access to the beach and rock pools at Hopeman’s West Beach.

Beach huts on Abersoch. Pic by Philly0Fish. Abersoch

This gorgeous Gwynedd beach doesn’t have good waves for surfing but is well-known for other watersports and has internationally recognised sailing waters, with regular competitions and festivals throughout the year. The beach is a sheltered sun trap and has sunbathers on it for most of the year – and there’s a New Year swim to tackle if you’re there in winter.

Satnav: LL53 7DP

Dogs allowed? Not from 1 April – 30 September on the stretch of beach from the yacht club to the Golf Road slipway.

Stay nearby : Llwyn Ffynnon Caravan Park is about eight miles from Abersoch, has a fishing lake on site and ‘welcomes everything from the smallest tent to the biggest motorhomes’. Pitches start from £20, with no charges for awnings or pup tents, or book a static caravan or lakeside lodge from £60 – 80, sleeping up to seven or six.

Huts at West Wittering. Pic by David M Moore. West Wittering

This was the most mentioned beach by our Facebook and Twitter users (so we’ll see you there this weekend). It’s Blue Flag and in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and wildlife haven at Chichester, West Sussex . There are several different habitats around it to explore: coastal pastures to the north; reedbeds and wetlands towards the village, and the dune spit of East Head.

Satnav: PO20 8AJ

Dogs allowed? Not on the main beach from May to September.

Stay nearby : Chichester Lakeside Holiday Park is only a few miles from the Chichester beach, and has ten fishing lakes on site for days away from the sand. Pitches are for tents, tourers and motorhomes, and start at a bargainous £5.40 for non-electric and £9 for electric.

Ballygally. Pic by Anne Burgess. Ballygally

We might have said Blue Flag Whiterocks at Portrush for our favourite Northern Irish beach, but Ballygally just north of Larne is bally good too. This teeny beach is in Co Antrim (course) and has views to the Antrim coast and Scotland to its north and east; look south for luvverly Ballygally Head and take a trip after the beach to the haunted castle, now a hotel and said to have more ghosts than guests.

Satnav: BT40 2QZ

Dogs allowed? Yes, all year round, but must be on leads from 11am – 6pm from June until the end of August and on public/bank holidays.

Stay nearby : Also in Co Antrim, Glenmore Caravan and Camping Park is near the seaside town of Ballycastle, one of the most-visited towns in N Ireland over the summer season. The park is in an Area of Outstanding Beauty in the Antrim Glens, has a bar, several camping areas and a fly fishing lake. Tent pitches start from £16, with tourer/motorhome electric pitches from £23.

Bamber Castle. Pic by Alfie Tait. Bamburgh Castle

Although Alnmouth was also suggested as a best Northumberland beach, we’re going for the sands at Bamburgh Castle for the views towards the fab Farne Islands, its location in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its Marine Conservation Society Recommended water (although Alnmouth is probably quieter for birdwatching among the dunes).

Satnav: NE69 7DF

Dogs allowed? Yes.

Stay nearby : Five-star Haggerston Castle Holiday Park ten miles away at Berwick-upon-Tweed has stately grounds, seven fishing lakes, a spa and Italianate gardens. Hardstanding electric pitches start from £93 for three nights in August and from £28 for three nights in September.

We are fully (and sweatily) aware that we’ve left out bucketloads of best UK beaches (hi, North Yorkshire ). And then there’s the Republic of Ireland . And France .  But, well, we’re running out of space and it’s hot. Got any more? Mullet over and add a comment – we’d shore like to know.

All credited photos used under Creative Commons Licence.