Although the UK has a reputation for being a little cold and windy, it has some of the most amazing landscapes and beaches in the world. Have you ever wondered where New South Wales got its name? England, Scotland and Wales have swathes of beautiful white beaches lined with rugged cliffs and giant sand dunes, as well as little islands which feel as remote as any desert island with water as blue as the Caribbean.
Although the UK’s historical landmarks are a drawcard, you’ll find that the best beaches in UK are surprisingly lovely. It’s worth taking the time to explore some of the spectacular coastline, whether you head for the windswept coastlines of Norfolk or Wales, or the otherworldly white beaches of Scotland, you’re sure to be surprised at the beaches in the UK.
- 20 Best Beaches In UK
- Best Beaches In UK – Southwest
- Best Beaches In UK – South and Southeast
- Best Beaches In UK – North
- Best Beaches in UK – Scotland, Ireland and Wales
20 Best Beaches In UK
Best Beaches In UK – Southwest
1- Portreath, Cornwall
Cornwall is famous across the UK for its spectacular beaches, which wouldn’t look out of place in the Maldives.
Portreath is one of the many beaches in the area, with soft white sand – although there are shingles in the water, so water shoes are recommended.
The area has plenty of beach shops and restaurants close by for an authentic British beach experience.
Cornwall’s main draw for visitors is its excellent surfing, and the harbour wall at Portreath is popular for this reason.
There is also an arcade, tearoom and three pubs in the village which borders the beach, so you’ll have everything you need for the perfect day out.
2- Sennen Cove, Cornwall
Sennen Cove is well-known as one of Cornwall’s most loved surfing hotspots, which is great when the tide is in for beginners and pros alike.
When the tide is out, it reveals swathes of soft golden sand with enough space that you can find a patch all to yourself.
There is also a small harbour and an art gallery nearby if you want to take a stroll, and if you’re feeling particularly daring, the nearby granite cliffs are popular with avid climbers (or you can just watch!).
3- Saunton Sands, North Devon
Devon and Cornwall make up southwest England’s best stretch of coastline, and Saunton Sands in North Devon is one of the area’s most famous beaches.
It is backed by Braunton Burrows, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
As the water is calm and the beach is long, it is perfect for beginners to water sports like surfing as well as swimmers.
There is a range of cafés and shops and a walking trail to Crow’s Point for sweeping views over the area.
This is also North Devon’s most wheelchair accessible beach.
4- Woolacombe Beach, Devon
Another Devon beach that regularly tops the list for best beach in the UK, Woolacombe, is three miles (4.8 km) of pretty, sandy beach frequented by tourists, families and locals who flock there to live a traditional British seaside experience.
Many activities are offered, including swimming, surfing, kayaking, kitesurfing and jet skiing.
You can also rent one of the many beach huts for the day, but you’ll find plenty of seaside shops, cafes and restaurants to keep you occupied.
5- Porthminster Beach, Cornwall
Porthminster Beach is a lovely little cove with views across to Godrevy Lighthouse.
Like many in this area of Cornwall, the beach is popular because the climate here is far warmer than most of the UK.
The warmer weather allows palm trees to grow there, and the water is beautifully clear, making it the perfect place to escape if the rest of the country is a bit too cold for you.
The beach is not far from St. Ives, which is a bustling tourist hotspot so you’ll have plenty of exploring to do.
One of the memorable experiences on this beach is to relax in a deck chair and order yourself a fresh smoothie or juice.
There are also plenty of beachfront dining options after you’ve exhausted the various water sports options and swimming since the sea is very calm and safe to swim in.
6- Pentle Bay, Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly are commonly known as the UK’s answer to the Mediterranean but don’t expect this beautiful location to come easy.
Often, there’s just one ferry a day departing from Cornwall at 6 am, arriving at the island three hours later and it can be a very choppy ride.
The beauty of this is that its stunning white sand beaches, with sparkling blue water, are normally deserted.
This is not the only beach on Scilly and due to their distance, it is worth spending a couple of days on these unusual islands to explore the villages, harbours and, importantly, some of the most stunning UK beaches.
7- Bedruthan Steps Beach
One more Cornwall beach to round them off, Bedruthan Steps beach is beautiful for its golden sand and its strange but dramatic landscape.
The beach is littered with towering jagged rocks that rise into the sky like pinnacles made of slate.
There are loads of caves and nooks to explore, or just walk along the beach and take in the area’s beauty.
Unfortunately, due to a recent severe rockfall that partially destroyed the steps, the beach is currently quite inaccessible but once it reopens, it will once again be one of the area’s most visited destinations.
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Best Beaches In UK – South and Southeast
8- Camber Sands, East Sussex
Camber Sands is a gem of a beach on the Sussex coastline.
While many beaches in the area have rocks or shingles, this beach is not only sandy, it is huge.
Backed by miles of grassy sand dunes, the beach stretches out for a few hundred metres before reaching the sea which also stays shallow for a long way out and is ideal for paddling with kids.
The beach is also a popular windsurfing and kite surfing spot if you want to try out some sports, but also for good reason, as the massive five-mile stretch is extremely flat, meaning it can get very windy at times.
9- West Wittering, West Sussex
West Wittering is another huge, sweeping Sussex beach, and the perfect place for a day out for a picnic and a paddle.
Hire water sports equipment from the beach shop, however, be aware that kite and windsurfing are limited to members of the local club.
The main activities here in the summer are simply walking along the coastline, sunbathing, swimming and having a barbecue or picnic on the sand.
Setting up camp towards the back of the beach will mean the sand dunes protect you from wind (and sandy sandwiches).
10- Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs
Kingsgate Bay is one of Kent’s most picturesque beaches.
Backed by towering high chalk cliffs, you’ll get the stunning backdrop of the white cliffs you’d find in Dover but with a soft sandy beach instead of pebbles.
It is well-known for its sea caves, which are some of the best in the UK and are fun to explore, although beware of changing tides.
The beach is very popular with families and has a couple of excellent pubs on either end, with a view over the water where you can grab some traditional British food.
11- Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, Dorset
Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door are located on the famous Jurassic Coast in Dorset, an area formed over time by nature to create a spectacular landscape.
Lulworth Cove is a perfect place to head for the day as it is not so much a cove as an entire circle, meaning it is almost fully protected from the open sea.
Although the beach is pebble, it is still a great place to put down a towel and lap up the sun.
It’s also a popular spot for coastal walks.
Nearby is the world-famous Durdle Door, a spot particularly popular with photographers capturing the unusual arch.
12- Sandbanks, Dorset
Regularly voted one of the best UK beaches, Sandbanks is a picture-perfect beach with golden sand and endless views.
There are many different water sports on offer and you can rent equipment from many shops on the beach, and if you’d prefer to stay onshore, you can enjoy beach volleyball, table tennis and mini-golf.
Hire a deck chair and parasol to sit back and relax for the day, or take a walk along the length of the beach to take in some of Dorset’s best views.
13- Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach may not be the most beautiful beach in the UK in terms of white sand and blue sea as it has pebbles all the way along and often rough surf.
But if you are looking for a fun day out with plenty of activities, you can’t go wrong.
With two piers, the original iconic burned-down pier, and the newer pier with lots of arcade games, food stalls and a mini theme park, the activities are endless.
The beach can get windy in winter, and packed with tourists in summer, but you’ll never be far from the city centre which is filled with bars, quirky shops and art galleries.
Best Beaches In UK – North
14- Budle Bay, Northumberland
Budle Bay is a slightly unusual beach in the UK, as the entire area is an important bird sanctuary.
There is no one beach, but rather large swathes of sand and mudflats that become exposed at low tide.
There are also lots of grassy sand dunes, and the area is extremely flat meaning you always have stunning views that stretch for miles around.
This is the perfect place in Northumberland, especially if you love birds, as the area is protected and there are often thousands of migrating and breeding birds to be spotted.
15- Saltburn by the Sea
Saltburn by the Sea is a cute little Yorkshire beach with lots of history, with a somewhat deserted pier which nevertheless makes for great photos.
Aside from relaxing on the sand for the day, a fun trip is to go up and see the Saltburn Cliffs tramway, which was used in Victorian times to carry ladies down to the beach.
The beach is popular with surfers and receives huge waves, but the water can be quite cold in the north so if you’d prefer to stay on dry land, there are an array of beachside cafes, restaurants and shops along the beach.
16- Wiseman’s Bridge Beach
Pembrokeshire is a hugely underrated destination for beaches in the UK.
Wiseman’s Bridge Beach is something of a hidden gem, but if you are passing this way then it’s worth stopping off for half a day to enjoy it.
There are quite a few tunnels, caves and coastal paths to explore around the area.
The beach is safe for swimming although there are no lifeguards and bring everything you need with you, as you won’t find too much in the way of shops or restaurants.
Best Beaches in UK – Scotland, Ireland and Wales
17- Sheigra Beach, Scotland
Starting off with one of the UK’s most wild and remote beaches, Sheigra Beach is located in Scotland, as far northwest as you can go.
The landscape is wild, and the beach is small and windswept, but with beautiful sand and choppy ocean, making it popular for wild camping.
There are few amenities here, but clambering around the area’s rocky outcrops and caves, and exploring its lush green coastline is perfect for a weekend trip away.
18- Giant’s Causeway, Ireland
There is no doubt you will have seen photos of Giant’s Causeway, and although not strictly speaking a beach, it is no doubt the UK’s most unmissable stretch of coast.
The UNESCO site is a world-renowned geological wonder due to the thousands of stone columns shaped by wind and sea over the years.
Although it isn’t a place for swimming or normal beach activities, there are plenty of organised tours to fully explore the area and a couple of cafes and shops so you won’t be completely without amenities.
19- Rhossili Bay, Wales
If you ask anyone about where most of the UK’s best beaches lie, Wales and Rhossili Bay, in particular, will be your answer.
Inspiring the name New South Wales, the beaches here are impossibly white, and the sea is sapphire blue.
The only downside is that, more often than not, the weather renders the sea too choppy and cold to enjoy but visiting in summer will be an unmissable experience.
The bay has three miles of sandy coastline, backed by lush green hills, with plenty of water sports, cute cafes and other activities for you to enjoy.
20- North Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales
North Wales is just as spectacular as its southern counterpart for beaches but far less visited, and North Shore Beach has a classic British seaside feel about it.
The beach is sheltered between two headlands, Great Orme and Little Orme, which you can also explore via cable car as a day trip for incredible views.
It has soft sand, a long traditional pier and you can take a ride on a donkey, have some ice cream, listen to a live band play music or watch a much-loved Punch and Judy show before crashing out on a striped deckchair.
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