Top coastal beauty spots in Britain

Robin Hood's Bay seen from Ravenscar, North Yorkshire. Credit: Mike Kipling/NYMNP

Missing the sea? Here are Britain’s most beautiful corners of coastline

Many British people feel the pull of the seaside most strongly some time at the beginning of summer, as the temperature first topples into the 20s and the grey clouds flicker to bright white, or else disappear altogether. Luckily, with a massive 17,819km of coastline (which almost doubles to 31,368km when you include all of the islands) Great Britain has enough of it to go around.

Whether you’re into wild swimming in the sea, or prefer just to tuck into crispy fish and chips or splurge at a superb seafood restaurant, the British coast harbours some of our most cherished memories, and year on year gifts us with more. When travel restrictions allow, we can’t wait to hike along clifftops, discover a new water sport, birdwatch for puffins, and get up-close-and-personal seal-watching at one of Britain’s most scenic seaside wonders.

Staithes, North Yorkshire

Credit: Ebor Images

Staithes is one of the most picturesque villages on the North Yorkshire Coast and completely unspoilt by the modern world. The village has a unique charm with huddled cottages, winding streets and towering cliffs, home to small B&Bs and local fishermen’s cottages. Soaring, rugged cliffs and good access to coastal pathways make Staithes the perfect place for walking, exploring and birdwatching. The beauty of the village has always lent itself to art and has a long history of well-known painters, including a small group of artists known as the “Staithes Group” or the “Northern Impressionists”.

Blackhall Beach, Durham Coast

Blackhall Beach on the Durham Coast was once an industrial wasteland portrayed in the 1971 film Get Carter, but is now a thriving coastal nature reserve. You can enjoy a beautiful 5km hike along a stretch of coast starting at Castle Eden Dene, which takes in quiet beaches, craggy caves, denes and abundant wildlife including wading birds, roe deer and ancient oak and ash trees.

Bamburgh Castle Beach, Northumberland

Majestic Bamburgh Castle, once a Norman stronghold and with 2,000 years of history, towers over a wide expanse of pristine, sandy beach, backed by sand dunes. Bamburgh Castle Beach is the perfect place to go for long, wind-swept walks at any time of year, and is a great spot for surfing. It is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, as it is a Site of Special Scientific interest. Fun fact: The world’s first ever lifeboat was developed and tested at Bamburgh Beach.

Birling Gap & the Seven Sisters, Sussex

The South Downs National Park is ideal for active types. The undulating chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters are ideal for hiking and provide jaw-dropping coastal views across rolling farmland, ancient woodland and heaths, while the picturesque villages are perfect for a country pub lunch. Birling Gap is a beautiful and tranquil enclosed pebble beach set below the dramatic backdrop of the Seven Sisters cliffs. The unique geology of this part of the coast has created an amazing diversity of wildlife habitats.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs, Kent

Credit: Thanet District Council

One of the most attractive circular cycle and walking routes in Kent, the Viking Coastal Trail, loops around the Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate coast and countryside covering 32 miles (51.4km). Pass stunning chalk cliffs, golden sandy beaches and bays, sites of historic landings, architectural delights and rural villages. Make a pit stop at a seafront restaurant/cafe, grab an ice cream, refreshing drink or bring a picnic to sit taking in the views. Admire the landscape and vibrant seaside towns that inspired and enticed Charles Dickens, JMW Turner and Augustus Pugin to visit and live on the Isle of Thanet.

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire Coast. Credit: Fridge Productions Ltd NYMNPA

Robin Hood’s Bay represents Yorkshire’s coastline at its most raw and elemental. With its winding alleys and cobbled streets, red roofed former fishing cottages and unspoilt beach, it is a beautiful and peaceful place to explore. Be sure to explore its dark and exciting history of smugglers and look out for the network of subterranean passageways that made this possible.

 Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Full of unique character and charm, Leigh-on-Sea is a must-see when visiting Southend-on-Sea. With galleries and craft shops, a selection of pubs, excellent fish restaurants and its famous cockle sheds, this picturesque town is the perfect place for you to unwind and take in the fresh sea air.

Blakeney, North Norfolk

Within the Norfolk Coast AONB, Blakeney is a charming coastal village that was once a medieval port transporting spices and oriental cloths. The estuary today is an amazing landscape of marshes, sand hills and mud banks. At the heart is Blakeney Nature Reserve whose wide open spaces boast incredible wildlife such as seals and migratory birds.

Alum Bay, Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is now in an elite group, being only the sixth region in the UK to be designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Alum Bay, the beach overlooking the famous chalk stacks The Needles, is a picturesque shingle beach with crystal clear waters and wildflower-covered hillsides. The area was formed approximately 70 million years ago, when the sea bed rose, was eroded and then sank beneath the sea again. The new sea was shallow and it laid down a series of sands and clays. Some 10 million years later, movement in the bedrock caused these sediments to be pushed up vertically to form the multi-coloured cliffs that are visible today.

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