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12 of the best UK beach holidays for summer

Pop a parasol on Porthcurno’s white sands  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Pop a parasol on Porthcurno’s white sands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

In recent years British holidaymakers have found that their own nation has plenty to offer when it comes to staycations, from city breaks to coastal escapes.

Yes, it may not have the “guaranteed” sun of European hotspots such as GreecePortugal and southern Spain, but the UK has a range of beaches to rival the sandy swathes of warmer destinations.

From quiet, undisturbed coastlines in Wales to the rugged, sandy beaches of Cornwall, there is something for everyone if you’re willing to swap soaring temperatures for a milder domestic stay.

We’ve picked out some of the best beach holidays in the UK for anyone wanting to get an injection of seaside fun without the need to pack a passport.

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Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales

It’s well worth the hike to bathe on Barafundle Bay (Getty Images)
It’s well worth the hike to bathe on Barafundle Bay (Getty Images)

While not everyone wants a small hike (half a mile from Stackpole) to reach their relaxation destination, you won’t be disappointed after making the effort to get to this idyllic stretch of Welsh coastline. Picnics are welcome here but there’s also a cafe and other amenities if you need them in between taking a dip and sunbathing.

Where to stay

The Stackpole Inn is a mere five-minute walk from the beach and offers a selection of homely rooms plus both lunch and dinner service.

Whitby Sands, North Yorkshire

Whitby Sands offers a stellar Northern seaside getaway (Getty Images)
Whitby Sands offers a stellar Northern seaside getaway (Getty Images)

Less than a mile from the centre of one of the UK’s most famous seaside towns, Whitby Sands offers everything you’d want from a stereotypical UK beach. White sand and blue sea mix with the backdrop of green hills, multicoloured beach huts and the requisite fish and chip and ice cream shops to provide a stellar Northern seaside getaway.

Where to stay

Set within a magnificent townhouse on Whitby’s West Cliff, several rooms at La Rosa offer dramatic views across Whitby Harbour. Different rooms have different themes, ranging from the interior of an old caravan to the view of Whitby Abbey that is said to have inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula.

North Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales

North Shore Beach sparkles when the sun comes out (Getty Images)
North Shore Beach sparkles when the sun comes out (Getty Images)

With a pier, long stretches of sand and a town and location that is more accessible than many of its Pembrokeshire rivals – due to a well-served train station and close proximity to cities such as Manchester and Liverpool – this northern Welsh beach provides everything for a family or friends’ getaway in the largest seaside resort in the country. While the weather can be unreliable, the beach, and indeed the town, are a sight to behold when the sun shines.

Where to stay

The Quay Hotel & Spa is a 10-minute drive or train ride from the North Shore and provides a comfortable escape from the town in nearby Deganwy. Situated right on the harbour and with sea views, the hotel underwent a sophisticated renovation in 2020.

Luskentyre Sands, Scotland

The emerald waters of the beaches of Luskentyre (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The emerald waters of the beaches of Luskentyre (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Luskentyre is another one of those beaches that looks like it belongs far from the shores of the UK, with emerald waters and white sands more reminiscent of the Caribbean or Spain’s Atlantic coast. It is one of the largest beaches on the Isle of Harris, with miles of empty sands and grassy dunes that provide serene swimming opportunities and the chance for long walks, hikes and bike rides.

Where to stay

Luskentyre Beach Holidays offers both bed and breakfast and five-star self-catered cottage accommodation right on the shores of Luskentyre. Enjoy a B&B in the owners’ own home, or rent the ‘Atlantic Cottage’, which can house four people, for some blissful isolation with a large garden and outdoor decking area. From £880 per week for the Atlantic Cottage.

Tankerton Beach, Kent

A rainbow of beach huts fringe Tankerton Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
A rainbow of beach huts fringe Tankerton Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A similar close-to-town offering in England, Tankerton Beach sits just 20 minutes away from Whitstable and could be a good option for those living around the capital who fancy a day (or three) out on the coast. This long pebble beach is geologically different to many of the others on the list, but still a knock-out.

Where to stay

The Marine Hotel offers amazing sea (or town) views in classically decorated ‘English’ style rooms. The location right on Whitstable’s promenade offers an excellent base, whether for strolling the town or simply staring at the view from the hotel restaurant.

Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives, Cornwall

Stretch out on one of Cornwall’s best swathes (Getty Images)
Stretch out on one of Cornwall’s best swathes (Getty Images)

A major part of Porthmeor’s attraction is its proximity to St. Ives. The magnificent town has lost none of its charm despite increased tourism, while the beach itself offers excellent cafes and restaurants and activity hires – think surfing and paddle boarding. It’s also (probably) the only beach that you can step off and almost directly into a Tate gallery, if that’s your thing.

Where to stay

The St Ives Harbour Hotel is located around 15 minutes away and overlooks Porthminster beach, another of St Ives’ headliners. Stay at this dog-friendly hotel for the best of both beaches – via an excellent walk along the town’s sea front – as well as spacious rooms with an intelligent layout.

Brighton Beach, East Sussex

Pebbles, deckchairs and the Palace Pier bless Brighton Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Pebbles, deckchairs and the Palace Pier bless Brighton Beach (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Perhaps the quintessential UK seaside resort, Brighton provides all the charm and activity of the towns on this list but in urban size. The beaches are a mix of sand and pebble and are found next to marinas, the historic buildings of Kemp Town or the famous Palace Pier, but the real attraction here is the city itself. Here, a day on the beach can just as easily be the precursor to dinner at one of the excellent restaurants or a blow-out night out, or to wind down after a day’s shopping in the Lanes.

Where to stay

Brighton has a range of hotel offerings befitting of any city, but the Hotel du Vin stands out for its proximity to the seafront and city centre as well as its stylish room and bistro. The front of the hotel may look Shakespearean but the interiors are modern with a maritime twist.

Portstewart Strand, Derry, Northern Ireland

For a family friendly day on the sand visit Portstewart Strand (Getty Images)
For a family friendly day on the sand visit Portstewart Strand (Getty Images)

The only beach on this list that still welcomes cars onto its sands, the two-mile stretch is characterised by its numerous dunes and picnicking families. More isolated than other entries, this is the perfect place for day-tripping families.

Where to stay

A relaxed B&B just a short drive from the beach, Strand House is especially popular with golfers, as it sits next to two coastal golf courses.

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall

Pop a parasol on Porthcurno’s white sands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Pop a parasol on Porthcurno’s white sands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Despite being located in arguably the most blessed county in the UK – as far as beaches are concerned anyway – Porthcurno nevertheless manages to stand out from the competition. While the soft sand and clear water are akin to that of other local beaches, the combination of dramatic high cliffs (for wind protection) and a quiet, scenic location put this beach at the top of an enviable list.

Where to stay

Cornish Horizons offers rental cottages across the county for up to 12 guests. While prices will be dictated by when you go (and how far you book in advance), a deal for four people for four nights over a June weekend costs from £500.

Loch Morlich Beach, Glenmore

Loch Morlich is Scotland’s only award-winning freshwater beach, and the highest beach in the UK (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Loch Morlich is Scotland’s only award-winning freshwater beach, and the highest beach in the UK (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The shores of Loch Morlich look like they’ve been plucked straight from the Yukon and placed in the Cairngorms. Situated on a lake rather than the coastline, this beach has the rugged surroundings of mountains, including Ben Macdui, as well as verdant pine forest. The lake setting means you can enjoy freshwater rather than the salt of the sea, and the beach is well-equipped for water sports, walking and even camping.

Where to stay

While camping is a viable option on these shores, opt for slightly more comfortable accommodation at the Pine Marten Bar Glenmore Pods. These glamping pods offer indoor comfort and warmth just 200 metres from the shores of Loch Morlich, with an on-site bar that serves food and drinks with an extensive breakfast, lunch and evening menu.

Woolacombe Beach, North Devon

Paddle out on a surf board to enjoy Woolacombe’s waves (Getty Images)
Paddle out on a surf board to enjoy Woolacombe’s waves (Getty Images)

Located between the towns of Croyde and Ilfracombe, this two-mile stretch of sand is popular for surfers, kite-surfers, kayakers and families alike. Woolacombe stands out among a plethora of excellent beaches in Devon due to large untouched areas and the variety of potential activities on offer.

Where to stay

With spectacular sea views, a steamy spa and its own cinema, the Woolacombe Bay Hotel has everything needed to enjoy a stay whatever the weather. Every room is styled differently, but the decor will likely be the last thing on your mind here. Doubles from £160.

Weymouth Beach, Dorset

Wade into Weymouth’s waters during the next heatwave (Getty Images)
Wade into Weymouth’s waters during the next heatwave (Getty Images)

While crowds usually flock to the nearby beaches of Bournemouth – another of the UK’s most popular seaside destinations – Weymouth has all the charm without the cramped beach towels. All the elements for the classic UK beach getaway are included: think beach huts, ice cream parlours and a constant fear of seagulls stealing the salty fish and chips you just bought.

Where to stay

Beach-front townhouse, No.98 is a small boutique hotel that overlooks Weymouth Bay. Just two minutes away from the train station, the hotel is a good base for anyone wishing to sample Weymouth’s golden swathes.

Read more on the best beaches in Pembrokeshire