The UK might not be world-renowned for its beaches, but we have some superior stretches of sand to rival even the finest Caribbean shores. Well, almost. The UK is an island, after all – and we have thousands of beaches to explore, including some within easy reach of London that should be on every visitor’s must-do list this summer.
West Wittering, West Sussex
The train from London Victoria will whisk you to Chichester – gateway to the Witterings – in just 90 minutes. The sand is white, the sea is blue, and with a line-up of traditional candy-striped beach huts, it’s as idyllic as British beaches get. Explore rockpools, swim in safe tidal lagoons or just lie back and sunbathe in this family-friendly location.
Botany Bay, Kent
Botany Bay is one of the most photographed beaches in the UK, with good reason. The sandy cove is backed by the longest stretch of chalk cliffs in Britain, and is hidden away with not so much as a shop in sight. It’s an hour’s walk from Broadstairs, which is a pretty seaside town in its own right, and under one hour 20 minutes by train from London St. Pancras.
Mersea Island, Essex
This tiny estuary island is only accessible at low tide, via an ancient Roman causeway from the mainland. It’s a destination for foodies as well as beach lovers, with liquid refreshment on offer at the Mersea Island Vineyard and Brewery, and plenty of spots to slurp on local oysters. Relax on the quiet beaches, or if you’re feeling active, hunt for fossils – some have been found here dating back 300,000 years. The train from London Liverpool Street to nearby Colchester will get you here in under an hour.
Camber Sands, East Sussex
With seven miles of beach and dunes, Camber Sands provides plenty of space to sunbathe and build sandcastles. It’s even been used as a movie location to stand in for the Sahara Desert. Get here via a fast train to Rye from St. Pancras followed by an 18-minute bus journey. And if you tire of sun, sea and sand, head back to the chocolate box town of Rye to explore its cobbled streets and medieval timbered houses.
If you’re more into soaking up the seaside atmosphere than sunbathing, Whitstable is just over an hour on the train from either Victoria or St. Pancras. This picturesque town offers excellent seafood restaurants and independent boutiques, as well as pubs and oyster bars with sea-facing terraces and colourfully painted houses and beach huts, all on the edge of a pretty shingle beach.