Some Brits spend so much time dreaming of far off beaches we forget we’re living on a group of islands possessed of some pretty splendid sandy stretches. We should be proud and let visitors in on the secrets of our isles too. So here in celebration of our own beaches, we present a small selection of favourites from the multitude on offer…
Harlyn Bay, Cornwall
About ten miles up the North Cornwall coast from the more famous beaches of Newquay, Harlyn Bay is sandy, safe and extremely surfer-friendly, especially for beginners. It’s a beautiful spot for a relaxing family outing and is just three miles from pretty Padstow, a lovely fishing port known as the home of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant.
Blackpool Sands, Devon
Blackpool Sands lies just down the road from Dartmouth within South Devon’s Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The serene semi-circular bay is sheltered and backed by green hills and features a fine shingle beach, which makes it even better for swimming. The tide tends to be steady and calm and the water has a wonderful turquoise hue. Windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding are all available here and you can get organic and local dishes and snacks right on the beach at the Venus Café too.
Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula
At the southwestern tip of Wales’s Gower peninsula, Rhossili Bay (known locally as Llangennith Sands) has a superb unbroken three-mile stretch of sand. Reaching it via a rather steep path is something of a challenge, making the rewards of the beach all the more sweet. The spot is a favourite of surfers and paragliders as well as walkers. At low tide you can see the hull of the Helvetia, wrecked there in 1887 and also access the small tidal island of Worm’s Head. If you fancy a test and somewhere extra quiet, try the walk via the village to the equally great Fall Bay nearby, which is so remote it’s never crowded.
The Isle of Harris (not actually an island itself, but one half of Lewis and Harris) in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides is home to several spectacular beaches and Luskentyre is the most special of all. A wide expanse of soft white sand of a kind you rarely see in the UK, it stretches for miles. Topped off with azure waters, backed by lush greenery with vast dunes on its northern side, it’s a commanding site in any weather and simply heavenly on a sunny day. The whole area is beautiful too, with a series smaller beaches dotted along the coastline.
Downhill Beach, Northern Ireland
Downhill Beach is seven magnificent miles of blue flag-awarded sandy coast stretching between County Londonderry and County Antrim. Perfect for walking and watersports, the breadth of the beach also attracts many horse riders. Towards the eastern end, atop the dramatic 120ft cliffs stands the much-photographed Mussenden Temple, which offers incredible views along the strand towards County Donegal. Make a full day of it as you’ll want to take in the sights from above and below.
Set amist a nature reserve, with pine forests and sand dunes, an abundance of birdlife and a stately home surrounded by a park full of fallow deer, Holkham seems to have everything you’d want from the English countryside. And then there’s the long, sparse and secluded beach, whose uniquely British air of romance led it become the backdrop for the final scene of Shakespeare In Love. There’s a (clearly marked) nudist section too. If somehow that isn’t enough for you there’s another brilliant beach at neighbouring Wells-Next-The-Sea.