UK's 11 best beaches
July 17, 2020
Last Update: 2020-07-17 12:51:03
From sweeping Cornwall beaches to remote Scottish strands, visitors to the UK will never be short of epic coastlines to visit and cool off during the summer. Here are 11 of the best beaches across the United Kingdom to get you thinking about your next escape to the sea.
Kynance Cove, Cornwall
A mile north of Lizard Point in Cornwall, the National Trust–owned inlet of Kynance Cove is a showstopper, studded with craggy offshore islands rising out of searingly blue seas that seem almost tropical. The cliffs around the cove are rich in serpentine, a red-green rock popular with Victorian trinket-makers. It's an impossibly beautiful spot and, when the seas aren't too rough, an exhilarating place for a wild swim. Drinks and snacks are available at the nearby beach cafe.
Sandwood Bay with sea stack of Am Buachaille visible in background © Craig Easton / Lonely Planet
Sandwood Bay, Scotland
South of Cape Wrath, Sandwood Bay boasts one of Scotland’s best and most isolated beaches, guarded at one end by the spectacular rock pinnacle Am Buachaille. Sandwood House is a creepy ruin reputedly haunted by the ghost of a 16th-century shipwrecked sailor from the Spanish Armada.
Shell Beach, Herm, Guernsey
Herm's star beach wouldn't look out of place in the Caribbean, if it weren't for the severe-looking bare rocks offshore. Teal waters lap at the wide expanse of blindingly white sand at Shell Beach. Sea kayaking is popular in the summer season.
Godrevy lighthouse, said to be an inspiration to writer Virginia Woolfe © James Pearce / Shutterstock
Gwithian and Godrevy Towans, Cornwall
These wonderful side-by-side beaches join up at low tide to form one epic stretch of golden, flat sand. At the eastern end is the small cove of Godrevy, with its island lighthouse (said to have inspired Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse). To the west lies Gwithian, a great sandy arc that extends to the Hayle River. The grassy cliffs (known in Cornish as towans) are an important wildlife habitat, carpeted with wildflowers in summer, and provide nesting sites for seabirds.
Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Regularly voted one of Britain's most beautiful beaches, Barafundle Bay in Pembrokeshire is a scenic 10-minute walk south along the coast path from Stackpole Quay. It is a gorgeous spot but its reputation means that on summer weekends it can get pretty crowded despite its remote location. Visit during low season and you may have the whole place to yourself.
Luskentyre Beach on the Isle of Harris © Anyka / Alamy Stock Photo
Luskentyre, South Harris, Scotland
Luskentyre in South Harris is one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches in Scotland, famed for its acres of low-tide white sands and turquoise waters with a view of the mountains. Along the northern side of the bay is a minor road where you can walk west along the beach or through the grassy dunes with gorgeous views across the sea to the island of Taransay.
Wells Beach, Norfolk
Fringed by dense pine forests and undulating dunes, Wells' sandy shore in Norfolk stretches for miles to the west, with brightly colored beach huts clustering beside the water and wooden steps leading up into the woods. It's all tucked away at the end of a mile-long road; you can walk, drive or hop on a miniature train connecting the town, beach and Pinewoods holiday park.
Three Cliffs Bay, the Gower © Roy JAMES Shakespeare / Getty Images
Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales
Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula is named for the pyramid-like sea cliffs pierced by a natural arch that juts out into the water. It's considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Britain, and is particularly impressive when viewed from the impossibly picturesque ruins of 13th-century Pennard Castle. Glinting below, the Pennard Pill stream empties into the bay, creating dangerous currents for swimmers at high tide. The craggy headland is a popular rock-climbing site. The only way to reach the beach is on foot.
Portstewart Strand, on the Causeway Coast © www.deirdregregg.com / Getty Images
Portstewart Strand, Northern Ireland
The broad, 1.5 mile (2.5km) beach of Portstewart Strand is a pristine stretch of strand and an essential stop if you are driving the Causeway Coast. Parking is allowed on the firm sand, which can accommodate over 1000 cars, though you will need to pay for the privilege in high season.
Grand Grève, Sark, Channel Islands
When yachts pull into the bay at Sark, you can be forgiven for momentarily thinking that you're on a Greek island. With its wide sweep of white sand and clear cerulean waters, ideal for swimming in, Grand Grève is one of the loveliest beaches in the Channel Islands, accessible via a steep flight of steps built by volunteers.
Traigh Mor beach doubles as a runway © georgeclerk / Getty Images
Traigh Mor, Barra, Scotland
This vast expanse of firm golden sand (the name means ‘Big Strand’) serves as Barra’s airport (a mile across at low tide, and big enough for three ‘runways’), the only beach airport in the world that handles scheduled flights operated by Loganair. Watching the little Twin Otter aircraft come and go is a popular spectator sport. In between flights, locals gather cockles, a local seafood speciality, from the sands.