The UK is home to an insane number of beaches. Britain’s mainland alone enjoys nearly 18,000km of coastline, making it one of the best places in Europe for a day out at the seaside.
What the UK has in quantity it also has in quality. You’ll find top beaches north, south, east and west. With so much choice, finding the right beach for you can be challenging. We’ve put together a list of the best beaches in the UK to help you find the right one for you and your loved ones. You can even tie in a day out at one of these fabulous seaside wonders with a few nights staycation at one of our parks. From the delights of Devon up to the stunning surroundings of Scotland, this list of beaches each offers its own type of inspiration.
Rhossili Bay Beach, Swansea, South Wales
The beach at Rhossili Bay was one of the first to spring to mind when we were considering our list of the best beaches in the UK. This welsh wonder sits right at the top of the tree. It set the pace in 1956 as part of the country’s inaugural Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Given the fantastic features of some of the other names on this list, that’s quite the achievement. Fast forward decades and it’s being talked about as one of the best globally, not just one of the top beaches in the UK.
This three-mile stretch of sand has played host to several TV series, with Doctor Who one of the most famous to use its stunning shoreline. The beach reaches its pinnacle when the tide recedes to reveal a glistening golden terrain. You’ll see seals basking in the glory alongside the historical remains of the Helvetia, a Norwegian ship that's been wrecked on the sand since 1887. An island also reveals itself at low tide. The aptly named Worm’s Head Island is great for an adventure. When you’re done, food and drinks can be found just a short walk away in Rhossili village.
Freshwater West Beach, Pembrokeshire, South Wales
A journey out to the far South West of Wales brings you to Freshwater West, a stretch of sand overlooking the Irish Sea and a sure-fire inclusion on the list of best beaches in the UK. This unspoilt beauty is backed by a generous set of dunes, with a grassy backdrop to the north arching round to give visitors a great view of the rocky bays. This beach is a real rural paradise, and closer to the island of Ireland than any major UK city. The beach’s generous size is great for relaxation with the waves it attracts growing on more and more surfers as each year passes.
Picture-perfect, the beach has also played host to famous films. It became a site of pilgrimage for Harry Potter fanatics because of its role in one of the most iconic scenes in the ‘Deathly Hallows’. Freshwater Beach acts as a house-elf cemetery after the famous Dobby’s life ended in Harry’s arms. If you’ve ever watched a film about the 1940 Dunkirk evacuations, Freshwater is likely to have featured. The spectacular scenery is simply too good to not bring to a bigger audience. Get yourself down to Freshwater West and find out why it’s one of the best beaches in the UK.
Woolacombe Beach, Devon, England
If the UK was looking for the best beach to represent it at an awards ceremony, it’s fair to say that Woolacombe in the West Country would be very close to the top of the conversation. The famous North Devon coast plays home to this serene stretch of sand, with its Atlantic-facing coastline providing a paradise for surfers. With excellent amenities like daily cleaning and beach hut rentals, the hideaway is also a haven for families seeking a traditional day out at the seaside.
The view from the beach is stunning, with the Bristol Channel truly becoming part of the ocean on the horizon. The alluring Lundy Island adds land to the view around you, with the three-mile-long lush paradise owned by the National Trust and home to scores of different species. You can travel here via ferry from Bideford or Ilfracombe. The Woolacombe area is another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to make the list of the UK’s best beaches. And it's also another with an intriguing history, training the US Army for one of the most crucial battles of the Second World War- the Normandy landings.
Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland, England
Bamburgh Castle and its surrounding beach have been playing host to people for centuries. The present-day pristine stretch of sand combines with an age-old place in Northumberland’s history to bring you one of the top beach experiences the UK has to offer. Overlooking the North Sea, the area is a delight to discover all-year-round, with walks taking you along the unspoilt coast. You’ll see the beautiful Farne Islands in the distance. The archipelago is uninhabited and the number of islands that appear depends on the tidal level. The wind often picks up here, generating waves that are ideal for surfing. When the weather is calm, the beach is a delight for families to relax.
Around the sand, the castle is undoubtedly the centrepiece. Standing in various forms over the course of 1,400 years is something to shout loud about. The present structure has been standing since the 14th-century, standing high above the beach to give its previous occupants a great view of the horizon. You’d be forgiven for thinking it's out of place in the present-day peace, but a visit makes it easy to see why this structure was so strategically important. The beach has played an important part in safety at sea, with the world’s first lifeboat being used here.
Ainsdale Beach, Lancashire
The best in the North West, Ainsdale has been providing a sanctuary to Liverpudlians and Mancunians for decades. The beach sits neatly between some of the Lancashire coast’s more talked about towns like Blackpool and Formby. It offers a relaxing day out in what is one of the UK’s most densely populated counties. Despite its neighbours, Ainsdale can be fit into one of the quieter of the best beaches in the UK. It’s also one of the most prestigious, being the sole recipient of the Blue Flag title in North West England.
It spectacularly plays host to one of the largest unspoilt sandy areas in the whole country, with dunes dotted for miles along the Irish Sea coastline. In recent years, it's made a name for itself as one of the country’s best beaches for all kinds of kite activities. Kitesurfing is also a popular pastime a mile or so from the shore. Inland, there is a nature reserve covering a huge 988 hectares, playing host to various plants and animals.
West Wittering, Sussex
West Wittering offers one of the best locations of any beach in the UK. The beach stands where Chichester Harbour meets the English Channel, with the long stretch of stand extending as far as East Head – a National Trust Site. From here, visitors enjoy fantastic views of the peaceful Hayling Island, a barrier between the quiet West Wittering and bustling Portsmouth across the border in Hampshire. It’s no surprise that this stunning area is another on the Outstanding Natural Beauty List. The western end of the sand is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Spacious and serene, the beach is great for basking in the sun and is in what is one of the UK’s warmer places.
The tide gives way to shallow puddles that are ideal for a paddle, and there are grassy dunes for all to explore. An abundance of facilities makes the beach one for an extended day out, with locally produced seafood available steps away. Additional amenities are on hand during the busy months too. Deck chairs add comfort and lifeguards add assurance to any swimming. If you fancy stretching your legs, take a walk down to East Wittering, home to an even greater range of restaurants. When it comes to peace and convenience, West Wittering strikes the perfect balance. It’s a great way to round off our list of the best beaches in the UK.
St Andrew’s Sands, Fife, Scotland
St Andrews is one of Scotland’s most picturesque towns, with stunning institutions like its university and golf course playing host to students and tourists from around the world. The prestige of the place is there for all visitors to see, and with two fantastic beaches offering different qualities, St Andrews represents Scotland magnificently in this list of the best beaches in the UK.
The beach to the west of the town is the quieter sibling, a true oasis of crashing North Sea waves and wildlife in abundance. You’re likely to see kite fliers here, taking advantage of a wind speed that can really gather pace. The Eden Estuary Nature Reserve is a stone’s throw away, marking the point at which the river becomes the sea.
The east beach is undoubtedly the livelier of the two. South of the bustling harbour, the sand is golden and the beach accessible to the vibrant hub of the historic town. Lifeguards keep you safe during peak times and there are great cafés and restaurants to refresh at. You can do these two contrasting beaches in one day, with a relatively short walk along the coast proving you your route.
Whiterocks beach, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Whiterocks enters the UK’s best beaches as Northern Ireland’s sole representative. One of the northernmost points on the island of Ireland, the beach is the star attraction in the classic seaside town of Portrush. The beach is a magnet for surfers and bodyboarders, with the choppy North Atlantic a force to be reckoned with. Limestone Cliffs bring the awe-inspiring ocean picture to life and are a great way to stretch the legs after a few hours of relaxing on the sand.
Erosion in the area has also created a series of huge caves that can be accessed from the beach. These spectacular structures have been affectionately called Shelagh’s Head, the Wishing Arch, Elephant Rock and Lion’s Paw. Home to a variety of birds, they’ve formed over thousands of years and continue to be an epic sight for beachgoers. Whiterocks enters the UK’s best beaches with an enviable amount of amenities. Portrush is home to everything needed for a great day out at the seaside.