The UK is well known for its coastal holidays. But, when planning a trip, don’t think your only option is cheap ice cream and donkey rides down the sand. Our coasts are home to tropical paradises, world-class surf spots, invigorating hikes and amazing ancient architecture. So, if you’re on the lookout, here are 19 of the best coasts in the UK.
1. Portstewart Strand
Location: Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Best for: Fantastic photo opportunities.
Kept in pristine condition all year round by the National Trust, Portstewart Strand is two miles of golden sand, sweeping the edge of the northern coast. While it’s frothy shores and blue waters make it one of the most beautiful in the UK, on clear days, you’ll also get a stunning view of the Mussenden Temple, perched on top nearby cliffs.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M2 and merge onto the A26. From here follow signs to the coast.
How to get there by train: The closest train station is Coleraine, a 10-minute drive from the coast.
2. Sandwood Bay
Location: Sutherland, The Highlands
Best for: A wild and rugged look.
Wild and spectacular, Sandwood Bay is everything you’d hope for from a coast in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Facing straight into the North Atlantic, Sandwood receives lots of sea-breeze, foaming its waters and giving its cliffs a fierce and rugged look.
How to get there by car: Once in the Highlands, drive via the A9, before turning onto the A836.
How to get there by train: The closest train station is Laxford Bridge Junction, a twenty-minute drive from Sandwood Bay.
Where to stay: Remote and rustic, just as a holiday cottage in the Highlands should be, The Coach House is surrounded by hilly walks, fly fishing and sailing spots.
3. West Lulworth
Location: West Lulworth, Dorset
Best for: Discovering the definition of picturesque.
The West Lulworth Coast is home to one of the most celebrated spots in the UK; Durdle Door. With a place on every list of ‘Britain’s most picturesque landmarks’, and recognised as the most photographed location in England, this vast natural arc looks like a gateway to another world.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M25 and M3, before moving onto the A31 and then the A35. From here, follow signs to West Lulworth.
How to get there by train: The closest train station is Wareham, a 15-minute drive from the coast.
Location: Bamburgh, Northumberland
Best for: Possibly Britain’s best castle.
Nestled in the heart of Northumberland, Bamburgh is a seaside town best known for its incredible castle. Almost untouched from when it was first built over a millennia ago, Bamburgh Castle was once the capital of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A1(M), and continue onto the A1. From here, follow signs to Bamburgh.
How to get there by train: The closest station is Chathill but it’s only served by early morning and late evening trains. If you’re travelling in the middle of the day, head to either Berwick or Alnmouth station.
Where to stay: The Gearings is a hybrid holiday home, combining modern luxuries like underfloor heating with wood-beamed ceilings and a historic, tranquil location.
5. West Wittering
Location: Chicester, West Sussex
Best for: A clean stretch of sand.
Officially recognised as one of the cleanest beaches in the UK, West Wittering is an immaculate stretch of golden coast, overlooked by high and grassy sand dunes. Thanks to its pristine condition, this Blue Flag beach in West Sussex is brimming with wildlife, while also being a popular spot for kite-surfers.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M25, before moving onto the A27, following signs to West Wittering.
How to get there by train: The closest station is Chichester, a 15-minute drive from the coast.
Where to stay: Sleek yet homely, The Jays combines an array of modern funiture with traditional, cosy cottage comforts.
Location: Isles of Scilly, Cornwall
Best for: A tropical island getaway.
A tropical island just off the Cornish coast, Tresco is the UK’s answer to the Bahamas. While you’re strolling across Tresco’s soft white sands or unwinding in its exclusive Island Spa, it’s almost impossible to believe you’re still on English soil.
How to get there by car: Found off the Cornish coast, you’ll only be able to drive as far as Penzance before getting the ferry. To get this far, drive via the A303 and A30.
How to get there by train: Catch a ferry from Penzance and enjoy views of the coast along the way.
Location: Shanklin Town, Isle of Wight
Best for: A stay in a traditional village.
Shanklin Town is one of the most popular holiday destinations on the Isle of Wight. Home to thatched roofs and cobbled streets, it looks like it was stolen from an old English fairytale. The beach is long, wide and sandy, and is set against a backdrop of dramatic sandstone cliffs.
How to get there by car: Head towards the A3 if you’re coming from the North or East, or the A30 if you’re heading from the West.
How to get there by train: After getting the ferry to Ryde Pier Head, make for Shanklin train station.
Where to stay: The sleek, modern-style Dory Cottage sits right on the coast, enjoying views of both Osborne House and The Needles.
Location: Whistable, Kent
Best for: Award-winning seafood.
While not a sandy spot, Whitstable Beach deserves its title as one of the most popular family holiday destinations in the UK, let alone in Kent. As well as having warmer than average waters, what makes this stretch of coast so special is it’s array of seafood on sale. Get up early and watch the local fisherman reeling your breakfast, lunch and dinner in.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A2 and the M2. The Whitstable coast is well signposted from a good few miles away.
How to get there by train: Head to Whitstable Train Station, an easy 14-minute walk from the coast.
Where to stay: Teal Cottage is a few minutes from every key Whitstable attraction, with the beach, the high street and the fish market mere moments away.
9. Watergate Bay
Location: Newquay, Cornwall
Best for: A slice of paradise.
Watergate Bay is the definition of a picture-postcard coast. Two miles of opal blue waters lap against the soft and golden sand. Looking down from above are Cornwall’s famously craggy cliffs, home to fossils far older than the human race. What’s more, at the right time of the year, you’ll be joined by some of the rarest and most beautiful birds in the UK.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A303 and then merge onto the A30. From here, watch out for signs to Watergate Bay.
Where to stay: Surrounded by an array of independent shopping spots, and with the beach just a short stroll away, Seashore House is the perfect base for exploring the North coast.
How to get there by train: Head to Newquay Train Station, and from here, walk over to Great Western Hotel bus stop. Catch the A5 Atlantic Coaster to Trebelsue Turning bus stop, and the coast will be a 5-minute walk away.
10. Seven Sisters
Location: South Downs, East Sussex
Best for: A morning swim and an afternoon hike
Backed by iconic, chalk-white cliffs, Seven Sisters has one of the most recognisable coastlines in the UK. If you fancy a break from lounging on the sandy shore, why not slip on your walking boots and have a go at hiking the seven, undulating peaks that give the area its name.
How to get there by car: If you’re coming from the North or East, head towards the A267, if you’re coming from the West, drive via the A30.
How to get there by train: Head to Brighton Train Station and from here catch the 13X bus to Birling Gap NT. From here, the coast is barely 300 feet away.
Location: Southwold, Suffolk
Best for: A heart-warmingly wholesome experience.
Sitting on the shores of Walberswick Beach and watching the world go by is one of the most wholesome things you’ll ever experience. Picture it – the small beach leading from the village to the shore is crammed with children dangling crabbing lines into the water. The sand is strewn with buckets and spades, while the smell of fresh fish and chips wafts through the air.
How to get there by car: If you’re driving from the North, come via the A17. If you’re driving from the South, head towards the A12.
How to get there by train: The closest station is Halesworth, which will leave you a 19-minute drive from the coast.
Location: Romney Marsh, Kent
Best for: A unique photo opportunity.
Dungeness doesn’t seem like your usual postcard-ready coast, but in its own way, it’s truly stunning. Rough and wild, this rugged stretch of shoreline tells the story of an ongoing battle between nature and man, as abandoned railway tracks and power stations tower over a protected wildlife sanctuary.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M20, exiting at junction 10 toward Ashford and Brenzett. From here, follow signs to Dungeness.
How to get there by train: Travelling to Dungeness on public transport is slightly tricky. You’re best heading to Ashford International Station. From here, get the 11 bus to Camp Bus Stop and then The Wave 102 bus to The Pilot stop. From here, you’ll be a ten-minute drive or 30-minute walk from the coast.
Location: Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Best for: A soft and gentle sea breeze.
Think of the Yorkshire coast, and you probably picture wild winds blustering across craggy cliffs. Well, while this certainly is the case for many of the beaches a short way from Sandsend, this small, sandy stretch is a little slice of peace and quiet beside its much more rugged neighbours. At low tide, its many rock pools and hidden fossils make it the perfect place in North Yorkshire for treasure hunting.
How to get there by car: If you’re driving from the South, come via the A1. If you’re driving from the North, come via the A66.
How to get there by train: Head to Saltburn Train Station. From here, get the X4 Sapphire bus to Hotel & Garage stop and you’ll step off the bus and right onto the coast.
Where to stay: Overlooking the North Cliff golf course, Hillcrest Avenue is a spacious, family-size manor house which welcomes four-legged friends.
Location: Cornwall, near Land’s End
Best for: The UK’s worst-kept secret.
Despite being one of the most popular coastal spots and topping almost every list of the UK’s most stunning shores, Porthcurno gives off the air of a secret, unspoilt cove. Sat beneath the world-famous Minack Theatre, this funnel of sand has been snuck between two mighty granite cliffs; like a pre-made hiding spot for sunbathing tourists.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A303 and A30, following signs to Penzance and then Porthcurno.
How to get there by train: Head to Penzance Train Station. From there, catch the A1 Atlantic Coaster toward Lands End, getting off at Car Park bus stop. From here, you’ll be a 5-minute walk from the coast.
Where to stay: With panoramic views out across Mount’s Bay, from St Michael’s Mount to Newlyn, enjoying your meals on Lower Trenarthan’s balcony is the ultimate way to eat.
Location: Swansea, Wales
Best for: A stunning sunset.
A small village on the South West tip of the Gower Peninsula in Wales, Rhossili is home to one of the most photogenic coasts on the planet. Come as the sun is setting, and you’re in for a real treat. The shore takes on a soft pink glow, and the smell of heather fills the air. Add in the way that light sparkles across the top of water and it becomes one of the most magical spots in Britain.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M4, exiting at junction 42 towards Swansea and merging onto A483. From here, look out for signs to Rhossili.
How to get there by train: Head to Swansea Train Station. From here, walk to High Street Station bus stop, and catch the X6 Cymru Clipper to Bus Station Stand P. Walk to Bus Station Stand S and catch the 119 bus to Terminus.
Where to stay: Located right beside the seaside, Langland Bay Manor offers spacious, well-lit rooms close enough to smell the sea.
16. Talisker Bay
Location: Isle of Skye, Scotland
Best for: Instagram-worthy pictures.
While not one of the UK’s sunnier spots, this stretch of rocky coast is ideal for budding photographers. Exuding a mysterious and moody feel, at low tide, the sea here pulls back to reveal an army of round grey rocks. Towering around them are the high and rugged cliffs that symbolise the Isle of Skye, with a magnificent waterfall in the centre, crashing down onto the ground.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A82, before exiting onto the A87. Follow signs first for the Isle of Skye, and then Talisker Bay.
How to get there by train: Head to Fort William Train Station and the Bay will be a 10-minute walk away.
Where to stay: Ideal for fishing enthusiasts, Waterside Cottage offers both loch and sea fishing from the nearby rocks.
Best for: Britain’s best sand dunes
Home to what we think are the best dunes in the UK, Formby’s massive sandy mounds are so impressive, they’ve been classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This portion of the Lancashire coast is dog-friendly, so if your four-legged friend is a fan of bounding down sandy hills and splashing in shallow seas, we can’t think of a better place to bring them.
How to get there by car: Drive via the M6, heading first toward Liverpool, and then Formby.
How to get there by train: The closest station to Formby Beach is Freshfield, an easy 16-minute walk from the coast.
Where to stay: Close to the theatre, promenade and park, Promenade View is a cosy cottage that puts the whole town at your fingertips.
18. Lunan Bay
Location: Angus, Scotland
Best for: Seeing the sky match the sand.
Nestled between Dundee and Aberdeen, this pink-tinted stretch of sandy coast in Angus is watched over by the remains of a mighty 12th-century fortress. Visitors here often say that something about the lively waters, the dancing grass and the whistle of the sea breeze gives this beach a mystical air. Especially during the summer months, when the sky takes on the same pink hue as the sand.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A1(M), following signs first to Glasgow, then to Lunan Bay.
How to get there by train: Head to Montrose Train Station, and then catch the 30A bus to Chance Inn bus stop. From here, catch the 116 to Home Farm Road End, and Lunan Bay will be an easy 6-minute walk away.
Where to stay: One storey of a huge country mansion, The Courtyard Suite comes with five acres of landscaped grounds to explore.
19. Blackpool Sands
Location: Dartmouth, Devon
Best for: High temperatures and low rainfall
Like many parts of the Devon coast, Blackpool Sands tries its best to trick you into thinking you’re lounging on a tropical island. Home to above-average temperatures, below-average rainfall and sparkling azure waters, it’s easy to see why this is so often voted as one of the best beaches in the UK.
How to get there by car: Drive via the A30, before merging onto the M5 and following signs to Devon, and then Blackpool Sands.
How to get there by train: Make for Totnes Train Station and then walk to Rail Station Forecourt bus stop to catch the 164 to Kingsbridge. From here, walk across to Promenade bus stop and catch the 3 straight to Blackpool Sands.
Where to stay: Located on top of a hill in Dartmouth’s South Hams District, Riding Light boasts incredible views of the city and the gorgeous River Dart.