You can pull the paddling pool up close to the sand pit, you can even buy a tub of mint-choc-chip ice cream and make your own cones, but nothing really compares to a family day out at the beach. Sure dad can help build a little sand castle, but what he really wants is to show he’s the best castle builder in town, and for that his castle needs a moat with sea water. To make sure that your trips to the beach are filled with memorable experiences we’ve put together a list of the top five beaches in the UK.
Down in Cornwall, just before we get to Land’s End we find the coastal town of Porthcurno. The coastline around the town has been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty and is considered to be one of the most spectacular bays in the UK. The beach itself is a golden funnel of sand between two cliff faces and at low tide you can walk across to other beaches. Be warned however, as one of these beach is a nudist beach, so tell grandma to pack her sunglasses.
Taking the steep footpath up the west coast you can find the open-air Minack Theatre, which from June to September hosts theatre productions ranging from the works of The Bard to children’s plays. Keep going west and you’ll come to Pedn-men-an-Mere, and looking down you’ll find the secluded beach Porth Chapel named after the remains of the medieval chapel.
Porthcurno is a family friendly beach just a short walk from the bus stop, with easy parking and ice-cream facilities nearby. Probably not the UK’s best surfing beach, it does have lifeguards all through the summer, so it’s definitely one of the safest.
On the south coast of Wales, Tenby was once called Little England beyond Wales, and it is one of the UK’s most fabulous beach destinations. A trip to Tenby can be like visiting four beaches in one day, as the peninsula jutting out in the sea is divided into four, each with their own characteristics and attractions.
North and South beach are both beautiful stretches of sandy shoreline, but whereas North is probably more exciting with its rock pools, shops and cafes, South is a little more relaxed with its marvellous views out over Caldey Island. Visit Harbour Beach to take a boat ride out to the island, and see the monks in their Monastery, or spend the day on Castle Beach and walk out to St. Catherine's island at low tide, just be sure to time your visit so you don’t get stranded.
Tenby has won numerous awards for its beaches, including the Blue Flag, so you can be sure that the beaches are clean. But that’s not the only attraction, the surrounding town of Tenby itself is also a wonderful place to visit, with its medieval walls and Tudor Houses to explore.
A great beach for the whole family, Woolacombe in North Devon is three miles of sandy shoreline. Every year, it hosts the UK National Sandcastle Competition, so dad’s can show off their prowess with a bucket and spade as they try to construct the most magnificent and inventive structure under the pretence of “just giving the kids a hand”.
Woolacombe is of course, famous for its surfing, and people come from all over the country to catch a few waves here. Don’t worry if you haven’t earned your water wings yet, there are plenty of places where you can hire boards and wetsuits and even get professional lessons.
Just a few miles off the coast to the east, Lundy Island offers three miles of peace and tranquillity. Depending on the depth of your pockets you can travel by boat or by helicopter, once there you can take a walk to see the wildlife and seabirds or even check out the underwater life with a snorkelling safari.
Sandwood Bay, Scotland
This could very well be Britain’s most beautiful beach, but visiting it comes at a price. Hidden in the highlands of Scotland, you’ll have to trek along the four-mile path leading from the car park. Remember to pack your sandwiches, as once you’re here you won’t want to leave, there’s over a mile of pink sand complete with dunes and the occasional rock pool to explore.
With cliffs on both sides, Sandwood Bay looks out on to the Atlantic, and it’s kind of daunting to think that from here the next land mass you’d come across is Canada. Spectacular as the beach may be, it’s never as busy as it could be, this is probably due to its remoteness. The travelling distance means that it’s not really a child-friendly beach, but slightly older kids will love it.
There’re great adventures to be had exploring Sandwood Cottage, which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of an ancient mariner who knocks on the windows on stormy nights. Keep a look out but you’ll probably have more luck spotting the dolphins as they leap from the water just off the coast.
Portrush Whiterocks, Northern Ireland
Nestled on the coast of Northern Ireland, this three-mile stretch of sandy beach is very popular with surfers due to its powerful waves. The seaside town of Portrush has three beaches of which Whiterocks has to be the most beautiful, partly due to its pure white limestone cliffs, but also because of its wonderful clear waters.
But it’s not just beauty here, this is also an exciting beach, and a great place to investigate. The arches and caves under the road are intriguing places, and at low tide you can unleash the Indiana Jones in you and explore, just make sure you have enough time to get out again. Then, if you’re still in the mood for adventure, you can take to the waves and try sea canoeing, everything you need can be hired nearby at not-too-high a price.
This wonderful beach may be slightly better suited to slightly older families, and the grassy knolls make excellent places to stop off for family picnics. On your way there be sure to stop off and take in the magnificent views towards the Giants Causeway.
There are hundreds of beaches in the UK, but sadly we can’t visit all of them, so this is just our pick of the best five. If you think we’ve missed one, or you think that your Top Five is better than ours, please let us know.