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British Beach Holidays: The Critics' Favourites

Written by Betheny Ellis on

The stunning beach at Rhossili Bay in Wales

There is something special about beach holidays that strikes to the very core of who we are as a nation. We all have our favourites, but what do the critics think?

The pride of the Welsh and the UK, Rhossili has been voted into TripAdvisor’s top ten beaches in the world for two years running, ranked alongside places such as Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico, and Rabbit Beach in Italy. This four mile stretch of golden sand protrudes into the mighty Atlantic, and is a great place for walkers, surfers and paragliders to take their beach holidays.

Sussex is a place blessed with many beaches and more sunshine than anywhere else in the UK, a soul-warming 1,570 hours every year. The beach that appears in more lists than any other is Camber Sands, a mix of flat sands and dunes that runs for seven miles, giving you plenty of space to play, explore, and relax.

View over the beach at Saunton Sands in Devon
Saunton Sands, Devon
Two children on Holkham Beach with bucket and spade
Holkham Beach, Norfolk

Holkham Beach has won many accolades from the public and travel journalists alike and it’s easy to see why. Access to the North Norfolk beach is along a narrow country road that gives no hint of the splendour to come, meaning that the four mile expanse of white sand comes as a complete surprise. Beyond the shoreline lies a natural semi-circular basin that forms a spectacular shallow lagoon after a very high tide. Its isolation means that the only sounds to reach your ears will be the cry of gulls and the gentle wash of waves onto the shore.

An oldie but a goodie, St Ives has been immortalised in rhyme and stories for centuries. Watched over by the steep hills that rise around it, the beach curves round cobalt blue waters, and is popular with children and adults alike for beach holidays. The town is quintessentially Cornish, with cobbled streets, amazing views and pubs that serve scrumpy so strong it can befuddle a man at ten paces.

The Devonshire coast is one of the most popular in the country for beach holidays, meaning it’s hard to get away from the crowds. Saunton Sands is one of those rare places where you can do so. The three and a half miles of golden sand are in the middle of the North Devon biosphere reserve, with Braunton Burrows in the background. It’s also a west facing beach on the Atlantic, giving it some of the best surf in the area.

Young girl doing a cart wheele on Botany Bay in Kent
Botany Bay, Kent
The view at Studland Bay on a glorious sunny day
Studland Bay, Dorset

The National Trust beach of Studland Bay in Dorset is comprised of golden sands and gently shelving waters, ideal for swimming. Just behind the beach is an area of sand dunes and woodland, perfect for nature explorers who can find plenty of native wildlife, including all six British reptiles.

Despite being regularly labelled a ‘hidden gem’, Botany Bay in Kent appears on most ‘Best Beaches’ lists. Contrary to what you might expect, this pretty curve of sand backed by white cliffs was actually named for its Australian counterpart. Fascinating chalk stacks stretch out into the calm sea, while the beach itself is unusually free of stones for a south coast beach. At low tide it’s possible to walk to Joss Bay, the place to surf in Kent.

Just two miles from Whitby lies Sandsend. Quieter than its more famous neighbour, this wide sweep of Yorkshire beach is a lovely place where children can play on the sands and hunt fossils when the tide is out, or poke about in the rockpools at the base of the cliffs. The beach is surrounded by rising green hills that are dotted with old fishing cottages, and Sandsend is on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors should you wish to explore away from the sea.

The stone and shingle coastline of Sandsend in Yorkshire
Sandsend, Yorkshire
View of the sea and pier at Southwold Beach in Suffolk
Southwold Beach, Suffolk

When a beach is called Whitesands, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect, and at this Welsh beach in Pembrokeshire you won’t be disappointed. With the craggy hill of Carn Llidi in the background and the Atlantic crashing against the breaks, this is one of the best surfing beaches in the UK.

Southwold is the place to enjoy beach holidays as they used to be. Children play on the sandy beach in front of brightly coloured beach huts, while tourists throng the pier, full of old fashioned attractions and the quirky ‘Under The Pier’ show. Nearby restaurants and pubs provide a great eating experience.

Betheny Ellis

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