Guide to Great Britain's best beaches

Beaches, Coastal, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Sam Thomas on 19th June 2023

Best British beaches

The coast of Great Britain meanders for over 11,000 miles around our beautiful isle. Tracing its way from the southernmost tip of Land’s End, Cornwall, it twists and turns as it heads north to zig-zag around the top of Scotland. Each cove, inlet, shore, beach and bay has its own character and charm and those coastal communities who cluster around where the land meets the sea feel a strong sense of connection to the water itself.

Therefore, it is no wonder that with fond childhood memories of seaside holidays, the lure of the beauty of the ocean and the desire to find idyllic spots within which to sink toes into plentiful grains of sand, our UK beaches are a strong force which keep us heading to the coast whenever we can.

With that in mind, take your time to explore with us some of the greatest beaches that the UK has to offer and feel inspired to find your perfect seaside escape. We've rounded up 10 of the very best beaches across the UK, as well as recommending which sandy shores to head to around some of the country's most popular coastal areas.

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The most beautiful beaches in the UK

Soft, white sand between your toes, azure water gently lapping the shore, cliffs daubed with bright sprays of coastal flowers…no, we’re not daydreaming of somewhere exotic! Stunning seaside idylls exist all along the coast of the UK, and we’ve picked out some of the most beautiful to share with you below.

If these sanctuaries of coastal bliss pique your interest, scroll on down to discover some beautiful beaches in each region.

Saunton Sands Beach

Saunton Sands, Devon

If you like your beaches big and your skies even bigger, Saunton Sands is the place to go! It’s no surprise that this impressive swathe of sand has been the inspiration for many a painting, not least the ethereal impressionistic works of local North Devon artist Amy Jobes.

With sun-kissed skin and salty hair after a day spent exploring the beach and the sprawling dunes behind it, head on up to Saunton Sands Hotel for a sundowner drink as you admire arguably one of the best views in the whole of Devon.

Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

With its rocky outcrops, turquoise water and tidal nature, Kynance Cove has an air of mystery about it reminiscent of the Famous Five’s tales of adventure. An exciting array of caves and islands are revealed at low tide – yours to explore, but keep an eye on the incoming sea.

Combine a visit with a walk along the coast path to Lizard Point and prepare to have your senses truly dazzled by the scenery, sea air and sounds of wildlife.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Lulworth Cove - an elegant, shell-shaped beach hugs a sheltered cove of serene, blue water. Never has it been more tempting to run across the sand and throw yourself into the refreshing embrace of the sea as it gently laps the shore, than in this idyllic location.

The area's fascinating geology is responsible for the appealing shape of this beach, with other local places of interest including the iconic rock arch of Durdle Door, and the folding sedimentary rocks which give some of the cliffs a stripy appearance.

Three Cliffs Gower

Three Cliffs Bay, Gower

The eponymous limestone cliffs at Three Cliffs Bay in Gower are an iconic landmark of this stunning dog-friendly beach. The photogenic location features golden sand, scenic dunes and a small river, Pennard Pill, meandering its way into the Bristol Channel.

Its beauty belies dangerous rip currents and strong tides, so swimming is not recommended, except when the seasonal lifeguards are on patrol.

Llanddwyn Beach

Llanddwyn Beach, Anglesey

Also known as Newborough, Llanddwyn Beach on Anglesey is a majestic curve of golden sand, backed by the dunes of Newborough National Nature Reserve. Sitting against a backdrop of distant mountains looming out of Snowdonia National Park, it is a spectacular stretch which is popular with families and wildlife lovers.

To the west end of the beach, Llandwyn Island juts out into the sea, offering the perfect vantage point for spotting seals, dolphins or even minke whales.

St Ninian's Isle

St Ninian’s Isle, Scotland

Stunning St. Ninian’s Isle is linked to the mainland of Shetland by a breathtaking swathe of white sand, known as a tombolo. The natural sand causeway offers walkers the chance to wander over to explore the gorgeous isle and its fascinating archaeology. A trove of Pictish treasure was discovered at the chapel on the isle, replicas of which can be seen in the Shetland Museum.

Take a 3.75-mile walk across the tombolo and around the island to really appreciate the stunning natural aesthetic of this, one of the most beautiful beaches in Scotland.

Luskentyre Sands

Luskentyre Sands, Scotland

With the mountains of North Harris providing an incredible backdrop, Luskentyre Sands wouldn’t look out of place as an exotic setting in a Bond movie. The fine, white sand of this 3-mile sweep on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides is lapped by crystal-clear azure water – a paradise for sea dippers and kayakers.

Well off the tourist trail, it’s likely you’ll have the place to yourself, that’s if you don’t count the dolphins, seals, otters, and eagles for whom Luskentyre Sands is also a paradise.

Filey Beach

Filey Beach, Yorkshire

Sprawling a generous 5 miles along the Yorkshire Coast, Filey Beach is a firm family favourite, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the North of England. The golden sand is backed by a delightful promenade, so even when it’s not bucket and spade weather, you can enjoy the fresh sea air and glorious views.

At the northern end of the beach by Filey Brigg, the rockpools are teeming with life waiting to be discovered by kids young and old.

Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach, Norfolk

If you’re looking for beautiful beaches to walk on with your dog, the unspoilt stretch of Holkham Beach is right up there amongst the best in the UK. Welcoming horses and their riders to revel in the wide-open space too, you’ll often see them galloping along the sands as you stroll along with your pup.

The beach is part of Holkham National Nature Reserve where wintering birds and all manner of wildlife occupy the shore edge and dune system.

Dunwich Heath Beach

Dunwich Heath Beach, Suffolk

This beautiful sweeping beach should be on your bucket list if you’re a wildlife lover. Take a stroll along the sand and keep an eye on the skies for the gliding coastal birds. Dunwich Heath, which backs the beach, displays a carpet of colour at different times of year, with pink and purple heather, and sunny yellow gorse.

The area is National Trust-owned, and there’s plenty to get involved in with children (and dogs!). Family trails, beach activities, den building, and wildlife walks are just some of the events that take place regularly. The beach itself is an expanse of shingle, where you’re sure to find peace in nature at any time of year.


Dungeness, Kent

Set at the end of the largest shingle bank in Europe, Dungeness is a unique and remote beach – a favourite amongst adventurers and peace seekers. We’ve included it as one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, but it’s really its rugged and romantic charm that earnt it its spot.

Reminiscent of the Wild West, it’s not beautiful in the traditional sense, but there’s a certain pleasing aesthetic in its weather worn cabins, rustic fishing boats and the looming hulk of Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. The area is also a habitat for all manner of wildlife, harbouring everything from bees to wintering wildfowl.

Cuckmere Haven

Cuckmere Haven Beach, Sussex

Cuckmere Haven is one of the UK’s best beaches for it’s dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery. Towering up over one end of the beach are the stunning White Sisters chalk cliffs, which on a sunny day, create a picture postcard image as they contrast with the azure water of the English Channel.

The beach is peaceful and pebbled, with the added attraction of the serene Cuckmere River, whose meandering path you can trace through the Seven Sisters Country Park on foot, by bike or canoe. It’s one of the best beaches near Eastbourne if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter, away from the crowds.

Freshwater Bay

Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight

Another chalk cliff-backed beach is delightful Freshwater Bay, close to the iconic Needles in the west of the Isle of Wight. The pebbly beach offers a bit of everything – impressive scenery, sand revealed at low tide, and an interesting rocky ledge to the east with rockpools aplenty.

The bay and its caves were once used by smugglers, but nowadays the most action the bay sees Is when the Freshwater Independent Lifeboat is launched to help those in trouble. A teashop and lifeboat charity shop are your best option for beachside refreshments.

Top beaches to visit in coastal regions across the UK

The South West

The South West is perhaps one of the regions most synonymous with a fabulous UK coastal holiday and it's hardly surprising when you consider the sheer choice of desirable seaside spots. Whilst Devon and Cornwall share an incredible 1,905 kilometres of coastline, when it comes to Dorset beaches, you’ll be astonished by their sheer beauty. From the iconic seashell-shaped bay of Lulworth Cove to the dramatic sandstone cliffs of West Bay, made more famous by ITV’s Broadchurch, you’ll want to experience the golden sands for yourself.

Lulworth Cove - Dorset

Discover more coastal days out at Somerset's wonderful beaches, which include those with their very own cascading waterfalls, those which form the best backdrop for a traditional bucket 'n' spade day out with piers stretching into the sea and a wealth of amusements, as well as those which provide the best locations for fossil hunters, sandcastle builders and stick chasers.

Woolacombe Beach

The best beaches in Devon

Both North and South Devon are graced with some of the most fabulous shores. Whilst some boast vast expanses of endless golden sands backed by sand dunes in which to adventure, other beaches in Devon have hidden treasure troves within rock pools to explore or epic walks along clifftops.

The best beaches in Devon

Kynance Cove

The best beaches in Cornwall

With stunning azure waters, secret coves and the silkiest of sands, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had been transported a whole world away when you experience some of the finest beaches that Cornwall has to offer. Stretch out and laze or take to the waters for a swim or surf.

The best beaches in Cornwall

The Welsh coast

Not just a land of striking mountains, lush green valleys and stunning national parks, Wales is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. With golden sweeps of sands, wild Atlantic swells for thrill-seekers and those looking for adventure, or shores with calmer waters perfect for paddling, there is no end to the coastal beauty of Wales. Be inspired by the Welsh coast.

Barafundle Bay

The best beaches in Wales

The coast of Scotland

If you think that you need to board a plane to explore spectacular white sands and crystal waters brimming with wildlife, then you have never experienced Scotland’s coast. With dramatic, mountainous backdrops, pristine sands and simply beautiful views, Scotland’s beaches are second to none. Discover hidden coves and secluded spots where you can sink your toes into the sand and take in the stunning scenery, or take to the ocean and discover the mysteries of marine life hidden beneath the waves.

Scotland beach
Scotland beach

The best beaches in Scotland

The North of England

Conjure images of the North of England and you may well summon pictures of stunning countryside in your mind's eye. Yorkshire, with mile upon mile of rolling hills and dales; Cumbria and the Lake District bring thoughts of mountainous peaks and glassy lakes whilst Northumberland is reminiscent of historical landmarks such as Hadrian's Wall and the magnificent Bamburgh Castle. But the North of England also has its fair share of beautiful coastline to boast about where you can watch mesmerising sunsets over the Irish Sea at Cumbria's beaches or enjoy the often quieter beauty of Northumberland's stretches of sand.

Bamburgh Castle - Northumberland


If it's inspiration for visiting the Yorkshire coast that you're after, then it's here in, ahem, spades. From hidden coves sheltered from the sea breeze to greater swathes of sand, ideal for sandcastle-building competitions and digging holes, then Yorkshire can offer you a surprising range of options. Saltburn, with its iconic cliff tramway and Victorian pier offers a traditional seaside experience, whilst you'll be captivated by the charm of Runswick Bay or the natural beauty of Cayton Bay.

The best beaches in Yorkshire

The East of England

The east side of our superb island is no less stunning than anywhere else when it comes to the coastline. Here, you can discover 117km of sand and shingle shores on which to wander and find your own pocket of seaside bliss. Whether you crave a beach which is a little on the wild side and peppered with driftwood shapes or you prefer wide expanses of unspoiled sands where you can run for miles, you'll uncover exactly what you're looking for on the east coast.

Heacham - Norfolk

The best beaches in Norfolk

Take a trip to the East of England and make the most of some truly remarkable beaches in Norfolk. Find serenity on endless swathes of sand or spot wildlife in remote stretches of beach; watch the sun set on the west-facing Hunstanton Beach or enjoy building sandcastles on family-friendly beaches.

The best beaches in Norfolk

Suffolk Beach

The best beaches in Suffolk

With the spectacular landscapes of the Suffolk Heritage Coast, this corner of the UK is the perfect place to experience the classic British seaside where you can stroll down the promenade at Lowestoft or use the fun of the brightly coloured beach huts as the best backdrop to a fun, family photo.

The best beaches in Suffolk

The South Coast

England's South Coast is the sunniest place in the UK. Fact. So where better to tip your toes in English waters than with the distinctive chalk cliffs as a backdrop? Despite being known as the Garden of England and there are some exceptional beaches in Kent. Visit Dungeness with its shingle bank, the traditional seaside resorts of Margate and Ramsgate or the wide sandy arc of Folkestone Bay – wherever you find the sea, you’ll find a great day out. Or try Sussex's beaches, where the pebbly coast provides rock pools bursting with fascinating marine life or the windsurfer's paradise that is Camber Sands.

Kent Beach
Camber Sands - Sussex

Isle of Wight

If you’re heading to the Isle of Wight, days out on the beach are a must and the island is home to some of the most diverse and beautiful beaches in the UK. Seek out secluded hidden coves, remote surf spots or wander the bustling esplanade in more popular seaside locations. As an island, you are never far from a sea view so it's the perfect place to feel the pull of the wild blue yonder and immerse yourself in everything a coastal holiday has to offer.

The best beaches on the Isle of Wight

Accessible beaches

The best accessible beaches

Let us never forget that beaches are there for everyone and that means those with impaired mobility too. Therefore, it’s important to remember that increased accessibility and certain amenities (or lack thereof) can make or break a day out at the beach for those in wheelchairs and those with reduced mobility. That’s why we’ve created our list of the top accessible beaches in the UK. You can plan your outing and have a classic day out at the seaside.

The best accessible beaches

Of course, the beach is an ever-changing environment, so make sure you read some top beach safety tips before you go, and stay safe by the coast. If you'd like to browse more inspirational coastal content then take the time to dive into the pages of our Great British Coast Guide and discover the most stunning coastal walks, our advice on some of the best surfing in the UK as well which water sports to try this year.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.