Where to go … great beaches in the UK

There is nothing better than a day out on the beach – paddling in the water, building a sand castle, catching crabs, collecting shells, having a picnic, eating ice creams, and then getting the sand out of your shoes!

gbg_clean_beach_more_funTo find a Good Beach near you, have a look at The Good Guide which is compiled by the  Marine Conservation Society (MCS) as part of their campaign for clean seas and beaches.   You can find the guide at goodbeachguide.co.uk

Before you go to any beach, look up the beach in the Good Beach Guide, which has plenty of information about lifeguarding provision, beach safety and general facilities.

When you get to the beach

  • Follow any advice from lifeguards and understand the system of safety flags.
  • Do not swim when the sea is rough, or where there are known currents or riptides.
  • Do not use inflatable beds or toys – currents can easily take you out of sight.
  • Swim parallel to the shore rather than out to sea.
  • Do not swim immediately after a meal.
  • If you’ve been ill after bathing report the illness to Surfers Against Sewage Tel: 0845 458 3001

Remember to take your rubbish home

  • Take rubbish home, especially nappies, or place in a bin – burying it is no solution.
  • Keep your dog from fouling the beach – comply with dog bans or clean up after your dog. Bag It and Bin It – Please don’t flush it.
  • Report canisters, drums or pollution to the Environment Agency / Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Hotline – 0800 807060). Do not touch.

And always remember

To take sun cream with you, and your swimming costume!


To find out more about the seas and seaside, also visit www.mcsuk.org/coolseas.  There’s lots of cool and amazing stuff about our seas, and the weird and wonderful creatures that live within them, such as :

  • Creatures that can pop their tummies out!
  • Shellfish that use drills to get to their food.
  • Jellyfish with 13m-long stinging tentacles – yikes!

Great beaches to visit:

Lamorna, Cornwall

Sheltered against western winds, Lamorna is reached via an unusually green lane, which tumbles down past the Lamorna Wink Inn to a tablecloth car park (£5 per day) and a tea-towel beach. Well, when I say beach, I really mean deluxe rock pool.

Lamorna is south off the B3315 Penzance-Land’s End road; turn left at Trewoofe.

Ringstead Bay, Dorset

Ringstead is a thoroughly British affair. Forget about powder-fine golden sand, we’re talking 700 yards of shingle. But be nice about those spiteful pebbles, they keep the grockles at bay. Only the locals come to gorgeous, simple Ringstead, so there’s plenty of room to stretch out and wallow in the fabulous views of wide open sea flanked by imperious chalk cliffs and topped with unspoilt farmland. Hunt for crabs, prawns and sea anemones in its rock pools, snorkel among the surprisingly colourful fish on its reef, or just keep your eyes peeled for fossils — this is the Jurassic coast, after all.

Five miles east of Weymouth, via a narrow lane off the A353 near Poxwell.

Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Sennen Cove is just a mile northeast of Land’s End, the westernmost point of mainland England. It’s an idyllic spot, with white sands backed by marram dunes, deep turquoise sea and spectacular sunsets over to the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles away.  The west-facing beach is popular with surfers, with bigger swell and winds often found at the Gwenver end. There’s a terraced beach restaurant with good views of the bay and the sunsets.

Information: 01736 362207

Green Bay and Rushy Bay, Bryher, Isles of Scilly

The smallest of the inhabited Isles of Scilly, Bryher is a mile long, half a mile wide — and a natural wilderness of incredible scenic contrasts. Walk along the sandy lanes to the eastern seaboard and you come to two tranquil beaches.  Green Bay has views over to the palm trees of Tresco’s Abbey Gardens, and a little further south is Rushy Bay, a beautiful beach facing the deserted island of Samson.  On Bryher, farm shops sell locally grown produce, and they trust you to leave the money in the pot.

Information: 01720 422536

The Bar and Cove Vean, St Agnes, Isles of Scillybeaches1

St Agnes is the wildest and least changed of the five inhabited isles. Take the small track down to the narrow sandbank called the Bar — at low tide you can walk across to the tiny isle of Gugh.  Back over the Bar, head a little south and down a leafy path to find Cove Vean, a wonderful sandy beach and deep-water cove, framed by rocky outcrops. If you’re lucky, you’ll see bass and, on land, the Scilly shrew — a rare long-nosed creature that forages in hedgerows and beaches on the island.

Information: 01720 422536

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

The white sands of Kynance Cove are just two miles from the Lizard, the southerly tip of mainland Britain.   At low tide, three small, sandy bays are accessible, and you can explore the Ladies’ Bathing Pool, the Parlour and the Drawing Room — fascinating caves cut deep into the rocks. Much of the area is looked after by the National Trust.

Information: 01326 561407

Petit Bôt Bay, Guernsey

A tiny beach, cut into rough-hewn ochre cliffs that shelter it from strong winds. And it’s glorious: two heavily wooded valleys, with a picturesque waterfall, run down to the beach.
When the seas retreat, a long expanse of fine, deep golden sand is revealed. In the woods behind, you can walk for hours, looking out for the many rare birds that summer here, including firecrests, great spotted woodpeckers, honey buzzards and golden orioles.

Information: 01481 822994

Corblets, Alderney

The imposing ramparts of 19th-century Fort Corblets overlook the eastern end of the sheltered, sandy bay. The beach has clear blue seas and golden sand, with rocky outcrops and a rich variety of marine life, making it an excellent spot for scouring rock pools.  It faces the English Channel, but is protected from easterly winds, and has the best surfing, windsurfing and bodyboarding on Alderney. Despite that, it’s often blissfully quiet and uncrowded.

Information: 01481 822994

Seagrove Bay, Isle of Wight

Seagrove Bay is tucked away, only accessible by foot through the pretty fishing village of Seaview.  Its secluded situation and the Edwardian villas just inland make it reminiscent of an England long gone. The views are spectacular, not only for the bright blue water of the Solent, but for the 19th-century St Helen’s Fort, which sits just offshore.

Information: 01983 813818

Botany Bay, Kent

Milky blue sea, golden sands and astonishing rock formations. It’s generally quiet, the swimming is safe, and the rock pools offer up crabs, cuttlefish and starfish.

Information: 0870 264 6111

Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire

Sheltered by the lofty crag of Lingrow Knowle, Runswick Bay is a tranquil spot, a welcome stretch of sand on what is otherwise a walker’s coast. While it comes to life during the summer months, in winter it is a peaceful spot for a bit of beachcombing, with rocky outcrops where you’ll find fossils aplenty.

Information: 01723 383636

Amble Links, Northumberland

The town of Amble spills around a harbour, originally built to export coal, but now host to occasional bird-watchers, coastal walkers and families, who enjoy pottering about the beaches’ rock pools. As well as the beautiful sands, which form part of Northumberland’s stunning heritage coast, the town has a marina and a fishing harbour.   The best beaches are just south of the harbour towards Hauxley, which offers a great view of Coquet Island and its working lighthouse.

Information: 01665 712313

Rhossili Bay, Swansea

There’s a steep path down to this long, crescent-shaped bay, with breathtaking vistas across the Atlantic swells. It’s a hard walk, which perhaps accounts for the fact that the beach is often quiet.  At the southern end, there’s the mile-long tidal island of Worm’s Head, which rises from the waters like a square-headed mythical beast. Appropriately enough, then, the skeletal wooden ribs of the Helvetia, destroyed in 1887, and the remains of the City of Bristol, which went down in 1840, are both visible at low tide near Burry Holms, at the beach’s northern tip.

01792 390707

Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

Perhaps it’s the combination of remoteness (there’s no car access) and the almost Mediterranean beauty of the turquoise waters and yellow sands that makes this beach so special.
If you fancy a walk, head south around Stackpole Head towards Broad Haven beach and the secluded Mere Pool valley. Then make your way back to the tiny harbour of Stackpole Quay for a well-deserved cream tea in the Boathouse Tearoom.

Information: 01437 776499

Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire

Marloes Sands, tucked away on one of Pembrokeshire’s most westerly peninsulas, is a beautiful, isolated treasure.  At the north end of the beach, the rocks curve out to sea to create a backbone-shaped island called Gateholm, which you can explore at low tide.

Information: 01437 763110

Porth Dafarch, Anglesey

Porth Dafarch is a secluded, quiet cove about 100yd wide, surrounded by cliffs whose formations have created interesting rock pools below. Experienced divers can also visit the wreck of the Missouri, a ship sunk in 1886, which lies half a mile offshore.

Information: 01248 713177

Downhill, Co Londonderry

This scenic stretch of golden sand is so named because it can only be reached… downhill. From the cliffs, the views are amazing: you can see three counties (Antrim, Londonderry and Donegal) and a fair way out to sea.  For a great day trip, take the ferry from Magilligan across Lough Foyle to Greencastle on Inishowen, in the Republic (it takes 15 minutes), for rugged scenery and great pebble and shell beaches at Malin Head.

Information: 028 7034 7034

Lettergesh Beach, Co Galway

Tucked in beneath the brooding hulk of Mweel Rea mountain, on Connemara’s Renvyle peninsula, lies Lettergesh beach — not one but three perfect scoops of silvery sand screened by natural walls of Irish granite just a little too far — about two miles — from Renvyle village for anyone to bother visiting.   Scramble to the top of the rocky spit at the southern end of the beach and you can see through 30ft of gin-clear water to the sea bed below.


Sango Bay, Sutherland

Not far from Cape Wrath, Scotland’s northwesternmost point, is secluded and sheltered Sango Bay. This remote spot can be reached only by a single-track road to the nearby village of Durness, the most northwestern settlement in Britain.

Information: 0845 225 5121

Sandwood Bay, Sutherland

Sandwood Bay is one of Scotland’s remotest beaches. You have to walk four miles from Blairmore along a rough inland track, with no sign of sea or sand, until you reach the top of a steep ridge — then the mile-long, dune-backed bay stretches before you.

Information: 01971 511259

Luskentyre, Western Isles

Sandy beaches don’t come any better than Luskentyre, which stretches for more than three miles from the enormous sand dunes of Luskentyre Banks to the long sand spit of Corran Seilebost in the south. When the sun sets behind Taransay, there’s no finer place to be.

Information: 01876 500321

Calgary Bay, Argyll and Bute

Calgary Bay is the best of Mull’s dramatic and rocky beaches. The shallow waters slope gently away and are safe for bathing. Basking sharks, dolphins, seals and porpoises are regularly sighted off the coast. There is also a wild camping site at the edge of the beach.

Information: 01689 812377