Saturday, July 13, 2024

The best UK seaside towns – as rated by The Sun’s team of travel experts

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WHEN the sun finally shines, there’s nowhere better than the British seaside for some good old-fashioned fun – and if you’re in need of some new staycation inspiration this summer, look no further.

As part of our Best Of British travel series, The Sun’s travel team have picked our favourite UK seaside towns, featuring everything from dolphin-spotting beaches to celeb-favourite fish and chip shops.

Longsands Beach is one of the finest stretches of coast you'll find anywhere in the UK


Longsands Beach is one of the finest stretches of coast you’ll find anywhere in the UKCredit: Alamy

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Tynemouth, North Tyneside – Ryan Gray, Travel Reporter

The North East is a much-overlooked part of the country for seaside towns, with Tynemouth standing out among the best of the ones on offer.

Longsands Beach is, in my opinion, the finest family beach in the UK with its mile-long expanse of shoreline blessed with perfect golden sands, a deep inky-blue sea home to both seals and dolphins, and fantastic child-friendly food and entertainment a stone’s throw away.

While some locals will be scattered across the sand, or out surfing in the fresh North Sea water, plenty will also be found in Crusoe’s, a wonderful little cafe right on the beach, serving everything from breakfast to booze, making it the perfect stop for seaside refreshments. 

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The beach is overlooked by the spectacular Tynemouth Priory and Castle, a 2,000-year-old Anglo-Saxon monastery, looked after by English Heritage.

Every summer, the atmospheric ruins of the priory host the Mouth of the Tyne music festival, with previous headliners including Sam Fender, Elbow, Billy Ocean and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.

Just a stone’s throw from the priory is the town centre, where quaint bars and restaurants are found alongside classic fish and chip shops, like Marshalls, rumoured to have been named after Jimi Hendrix, when the musician is said to have visited the chippy for a fish supper after performing in Newcastle back in the 1967. An unofficial blue plaque in the window of the fast food spot commemorates his visit.

Any visit to Tynemouth should be made at the weekend, in order to take in Tynemouth Market, hosted in the town’s Victorian Metro station every Saturday and Sunday. 

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Trinkets, street food and collectibles can be found laid out across a number of stalls within the ornate surroundings either side of the platforms. 

Folkestone (pictured) is a great mix of Whitstable and Margate


Folkestone (pictured) is a great mix of Whitstable and MargateCredit: Getty

Folkestone, Kent – Kara Godfrey, Deputy Travel Editor

Kent isn’t short of beautiful seaside towns, with the established Whitstable and up-and-coming Margate.

But my favourite is found further south, with Folkestone being a great mix of them all.

With views of France (on a very clear day), the main attraction is the Harbour Arm, sitting at the edge of the converted train tracks.

Full of local sellers offering hand-crafted goods, as well as food shacks selling everything from Korean and Japanese to fish and chips and pizza, the best time to go is in summer when you can catch live sports or films on the big screen.

The multicoloured high street with shops and restaurants can’t be missed, my favourites being Burrito Buoy for some amazing margaritas and The Folkestone Bookshop for some novels.

Make sure to tack on a trip to F51, the world’s first multi-storey skatepark, as well as the Lower Leas Coastal Path with sea-view playgrounds.

You’ll need to pack your beach shoes as it has a stony beach over a sandy beach – but after a few drinks at the much loved pilot bar, you’ll hardly care.

The village of Mousehole, on the far southern tip of Cornwall, has somehow retained its chocolate box charm


The village of Mousehole, on the far southern tip of Cornwall, has somehow retained its chocolate box charmCredit: Alamy

Mousehole, Cornwall – Sophie Swietochowski, Assistant Travel Editor

Cornwall is saturated with unspoilt coastlines, but, unlike many of the overcrowded spots, the village of Mousehole, on the far southern tip (just below Penzance), has somehow retained its chocolate box charm.

The small sandy bay is crammed with weathered fishing boats and backed by pokey cafes and airy art galleries where seaside-inspired works hang from the walls.

For impeccable views of a wild sea and homemade grub, head to Rock Pool Cafe which sits atop a craggy cliff.

Order a hot chocolate which is somewhat of a DIY experience, delivered to you on a board with a mug of piping hot milk and a tub of shaved chocolate shards in white, milk or dark to melt into the milk.

There are some impressive coastal walks – but be warned it can be hilly.

Known as Scotland's spiritual home, St Andrews has award-winning beaches and fabulous food


Known as Scotland’s spiritual home, St Andrews has award-winning beaches and fabulous foodCredit: Alamy

St Andrews, Scotland – Heather Lowrie, Travel Editor

Scotland is blessed with thousands of miles of glorious coastline and hundreds of picture perfect seaside villages and towns that are great for day trips or staycations.

But my favourite   has to be stunning St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast.

It’s within easy reach of most of the country, just over an hour and a half  drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow and 30 minutes from Dundee. There’s also great rail connections if you’d rather the train take the strain.

Known as Scotland’s spiritual home, it’s a great all-rounder, with award-winning beaches, fabulous food offerings from  cafes to  fine dining restaurants,   a wide choice of  places to stay, amazing independent shops for browsing, a whole host of history to indulge in and, of course, golf!

After a walk along the world-famous fairway, pop into the Jigger Inn. It boasts golfing memorabilia, crackling open-hearth fires, home-cooked food and selection of the finest Scottish beers.

If beer’s your thing, there’s a choice of breweries nearby you can visit, including the St Andrew’s Brewing Company in the town. But if gin and whisky are more your tipple of choice, then Eden Mill is in the nearby Guard Bridge and well worth a trip.

When it comes to beaches St Andrew’s is blessed with more than one,  including the award-winning West Sands – famous for the opening scenes of the film Chariots of Fire. Disabled visitors can book a free beach wheelchair on certain days.

Extending for two miles of uninterrupted powder-soft sands, backed by dunes and the golf course, this Blue Flag stunner has plenty of room for everyone.

When hunger strikes  there’s an amazing choice of places to eat, including Dune St Andrews, run by Dean Banks, who trained under Rick Stein and uses locally sourced fish and seafood.

For a brilliant brunch try Forgan’s, set in an old golf factory just off Market Street. They also host ceilidh’s in the evening

Despite being something of a cliché, I always recommend visiting Barry Island


Despite being something of a cliché, I always recommend visiting Barry IslandCredit: Getty

Barry Island, Wales – Hope Brotherton, Travel Reporter

Years ago, I was lucky enough to live in Cardiff, which meant I spent weekends exploring everything the Welsh capital had to offer, including the neighbouring coastal towns.

One place that I always recommend visiting, despite being something of a cliché, is Barry Island.

Arguably made famous by top BBC show Gavin and Stacey, Barry Island has already garnered the love of the Great British public.

Day-trippers should make a beeline for Whitmore Bay — a huge crescent of golden sand that’s backed by a promenade of busy cafés, and fish and chip shops.

Get your pulse racing at the Barry Island Pleasure Park, it has a rollercoaster, log flume, dodgems and a waltzer.

And a trip to Barry Island isn’t complete with a trip to Nessa’s slots where you’ll be sure to have a tidy afternoon spending your pennies.

This quirky little community art project is made up of driftwood, flags and mementoes


This quirky little community art project is made up of driftwood, flags and mementoesCredit: Facebook

Cleethorpes, North East Lincolnshire – Lisa Minot, Head of Travel

One of my favourite beach finds has to be the Buck Beck Beach Bench near Cleethorpes.

Accessible on a spit of sand when the tide is out, this quirky little community art project is made up of driftwood, flags and mementoes from those who have visited to admire the huge swathes of golden sands and sparkling waters.

Sadly the original was destroyed in a fire in 2023 but an enthusiastic band of local volunteers are slowly re-building the landmark.

Definitely one to try to check out if you are staying near Cleethorpes this summer.

The small holiday town is the perfect place to spend a day out by the seaside


The small holiday town is the perfect place to spend a day out by the seasideCredit: Alamy

Seahouses, Northumberland – Ryan Gray, Travel Reporter

Whenever anyone asks me for recommendations for things to do in Northumberland, a trip to Seahouses is always top of my list.

The small holiday town is the perfect place to spend a day out by the seaside and to explore the wonderful natural surroundings of the North East.

Local company Serenity Boat Tours claimed the Experience of the Year award for its seal and puffin watching tours at this year’s Visit England awards, which comes as absolutely no surprise to me as it’s one of the best ways to spend a couple of hours.

The knowledgeable tour guides sail guests out throughout the summer months to the Farne Islands, where they can find the adorable creatures making their homes upon the rocks, where they raise little pufflings every year. 

Back on land, there’s plenty to explore as well, including a lot of classic seaside holiday fun, like arcades full of loud, brightly flashing machines and games and some wonderful old pubs

The pick of the bunch is arguably The Olde Ship Inn, which overlooks the town’s harbour and is decked out with maritime paraphernalia.

Of course, no trip to seahouses would be complete without a chippy tea and Lewis’s Fish Restaurant is definitely the place to go. Golden fish portions the size of whales are served atop fluffy golden chips, all for a modest price, making it the perfect spot to round off a day at the beach.

The quaint fishing village has the charm of Padstow and St Ives, but hardly any crowds


The quaint fishing village has the charm of Padstow and St Ives, but hardly any crowdsCredit: Alamy

St Mawes, Cornwall – Caroline McGuire, Head of Travel -Digital

On Cornwall’s south coast, the quaint fishing village of St Mawes has the charm of Padstow and St Ives, but hardly any crowds. 

It does, however, have everything you need for a wholesome, Enid Blyton-style holiday without barely having to leave the confines of the village for a whole week. 

It’s quiet enough that the kids can pop down to the Fudge & More shop for an ice cream without us worrying about their safety, but buzzy enough that there is plenty to do of an evening. 

After you’ve jumped off the harbour wall of course… the daily ritual of scores of children (and quite a few adults), who make their way to the harbour wall and throw themselves off at high tide. 

For a relaxing pint in the afternoon, my favourite spot is the Rising Sun in the centre of town as the terrace out front is a great sun trap, and it’s a stone’s throw from the Watch House, which serves great fish and chips out of a hatch for enjoying on the beach. 

In the evening, switch that up for a drink at the St Mawes Hotel – a pub-restaurant-hotel right on the seafront that does fantastic pizzas and hosts movie nights for kids several evenings a week, so parents can enjoy a glass of wine in peace. 

For a fancy lunch, try the Hotel Tresanton with its fabulous sun trap of terrace overlooking the seafront, or for a very fancy evening meal there’s the Idle Rocks with its Michelin-style food and incredible harbour-front location.

If you’re looking for something simpler, pick up a Cornish pasty and a saffron bun from the 100-year-old St Mawes Bakery right on the quay,then hop on the half-hourly boat service to Place Creek and walk along the South West Coast Path to the stunning (and nearly always empty) Little & Great Molunan beaches. 

For a traditional day at the seaside head to Brighton Palace Pier


For a traditional day at the seaside head to Brighton Palace PierCredit: Alamy

Brighton – Hope Brotherton, Travel Reporter

I’m lucky enough to have family and friends who live in Brighton, which means I visit the trendy seaside city regularly.

Any first-time visitors should make a beeline for Brighton Pavilion — a former royal residence that’s been likened to the Taj Mahal.

Meanwhile, even the most reluctant of shoppers will want to visit Brighton’s famous lanes.

Nestled between the North Laine and the seafront, the lanes are a quirky labyrinth of narrow alleyways, hidden squares, exciting shops and legendary jewellers, make sure to bring some spending money.

Holidaymakers looking for a traditional day at the seaside should head to Brighton Palace Pier.

Earlier this year, Brighton Palace Pier announced a £1 admission fee.

There’s not much you can get for a quid in 2024 — and it’s certainly worth the entry fee for those views over Brighton Beach.

The beach stretches on for miles, which means there’s never a shortage of space for beach-goers to set up camp.

Pub-wise head to the French Horn, which my fellow travel reporter Ryan Gray recently raved about after visiting Brighton — think local boozer with a tasty range of cheeses.

Gorleston Beach is a little gem thanks to its crescent of lovely golden sand


Gorleston Beach is a little gem thanks to its crescent of lovely golden sandCredit: Getty

Gorleston Beach, Norfolk – Lisa Minot, Head of Travel

For Norfolk, I would say Gorleston Beach is a little gem.

It’s close to all the traditional seaside fun of Great Yarmouth but is much more relaxed than its busy neighbour.

There’s a crescent of lovely golden sand backed by grassy cliffs. 

Up on those cliffs there’s a children’s playground if the sands are not quite enough and there’s a bowling green and tennis court giving a really chilled vibe.

Overlooking the beach on the promenade is Jay Jay’s Cafe – great for a cuppa and cake while after a walk on the sands.

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Barry Island

Tynemouth, North Tyneside

Seahouses, Northumberland


St Mawes in Cornwall

Mousehole in Cornwall

St Andrews

Gorleston Beach

Worbarrow Bay in Dorset is also rather secluded, being a 20 minute journey you can only make by foot.

And here’s a hidden cove in Dartmouth that only locals know about.

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